“Mom, I’m feeling really frustrated, I think I need to go take a time-in.”
Gives blank stare.
Closes eyes and pinches self.
Opens eyes and realizes sweet (but apparently frustrated) little 2-year-old son is still standing there anxiously awaiting a reply to his request.
Clouds part, sunlight beams in through the windows, and angels start singing….
Okay, so that was a little dramatic.
A TWO-YEAR-OLD is telling me that he needs to go take a time in to calm himself down as opposed to throwing himself into a giant tantrum?!
A TWO-YEAR-OLD remembered and demonstrated the skills I’d been teaching him the last few weeks?!
A TWO-YEAR-OLD just used the word “frustrated” to describe how he was feeling?!
My mommy-mind was blown!
Why Not a Time-Out?
Here’s the thing friends… a time-out (as it is typically defined and used: a solitary confinement sentence handed down by the parent) is not as effective as you may think.
Yes, your child may comply after an epic battle-of-wills and sit in their time-out spot for 3 minutes….with you physically holding him there.
Yes, your child may cry and apologize afterward making you think that he “learned his lesson.”
Yes, your child may even stop doing that behavior for good giving you the confidence that “it worked!”
But the scary reality is revealed when we look at WHY it worked…
Alfie Kohn, author of Unconditional Parenting, discussed the difference between power-based discipline and love-based discipline. Many people think they are implementing love-based discipline by doing time-outs since it doesn’t involve physical punishment (e.g. spanking).
But get this…
Love-withdrawal techniques such as time-outs have been found to have more of negative long-term effects than seemingly harsher punishments.
Even though a time-out poses no threat to the child physically, it is more emotionally devastating because it poses the ultimate threat of abandonment.
While we as parents know that the withdrawal of love will only be temporary, a child does not. He simply doesn’t have the experience or understanding of time to recognize the temporary nature of a time-out.
Young children are completely dependent on their parents. Threatening love withdrawal shakes the very foundation of secure and trusting parent-child relationship.
The majority of parents may not even get to the feeling of “it worked” because they find themselves dealing with the exact same problem behaviors day after day regardless of how many timeouts they give.
In all cases, kids are being deprived of the most important core needs, love and security, and missing an extremely critical piece of the puzzle…
Let’s back up and look at where the word time-out came from…
The word time-out is an abbreviation for time out from positive reinforcement and was first used by popular psychologist and behaviorist B.F. Skinner as a means of controlling animal behavior.
Uhhhh so we’re using a technique to manipulate our CHILDREN’S behavior that was originally intended for birds and rodents?!
We’re saying that the way ANIMALS think, learn, and connect is the exact same way that HUMANS think, learn, and connect?! So we can just apply the same principles and get the same results?
No. Just no.
And let’s look at the word behavior. Should we be focusing only on behavior?
Like all punishments and rewards, time-outs are surface level. They were created with the intent to make an organism act or stop acting in a particular way. They don’t address the WHY. They don’t go past the surface and address the root cause of the behavior in order to permanently change a behavior.
Then we have the most important question…
Do we want to raise our kids based on a model of control?
Should we be using our love for them as a means to control their behavior? If they don’t behave a certain way or demonstrate immediate obedience, then we threaten to take away our love until they do?
Sounds kind of harsh.
And the research agrees…
Those who feared love withdrawal from their parents or caregivers as children were more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem as adults.
“A child has a lot of care needs, but one of the most vital is emotional attachment — the very thing parents sacrifice when they place their kids in timeouts.” -Vanessa LaPointe, Discipline Without Damage
None of us want that or would ever take part in parenting techniques that could possibly cause those terrible things if we knew that would be the outcome.
We are all doing the very best we can with the knowledge we have.
LEARNING: The Missing Piece of the Puzzle
You’re a smart mama who just processed all of that time-out information and are now ready to change your ways and make a concentrated effort to help your child improve their emotional intelligence, security, and self-esteem.
First of all, I’m proud of you.
It’s so easy to be close-minded to new ideas, especially about parenting. Something you always thought would be intuitive and natural.
Nope, not at all.
Parenting (effectively) is something you have to LEARN and PRACTICE just like any job!
Just think if doctors continued treating patients the same way they did 75 years ago. How many diseases would go undetected? Illnesses untreated? Deaths unwarranted?
Science and research is there for us to improve in any discipline we choose. It’s there so we can become knowledgeable about topics that matter most to us and help us make critical decisions that affect the people we love.
“Studies show that children who are punished are less able to internalize moral lessons. Internalizing is what allows kids to act morally when no one is looking. The kids fear getting in trouble, but instead of acting in a different way, they try not to get caught. It hurts your relationship with your child. And when they’re teens, that relationship is your main, maybe only, source of influence.” -Tracy Cutchlow, Zero to Five
In order to change a behavior permanently, we need to TEACH our kids the skills necessary to handle their big emotions.
We can do that through a time-IN.
A time-in is a process in which necessary skills for emotional self-regulation are explicitly taught and practiced in a safe and secure environment with the support of an adult.
The adult acts as the model and teacher who guides the child through the sequence of steps in an engaging and powerful way. Research says that modeling is the most effective teaching practice of them all!
The first step in helping kids to calm down and learn about self-regulation strategies is setting up a Calming Corner. This is the safe space that kids can go when their feeling overwhelmed, upset, or anxious.
A Calming Corner contains visuals for kids to navigate the process successfully, furniture/accessories to make the area relaxing and comfortable, and items needed to execute the calm-down strategies such as books, puzzles, and various sensory toys.
“But I don’t have time to figure all of this out myself and create all this stuff…,” you say.
Girl, I got you.
Done-For-You Toolkit for Quick and Easy Setup
You have just learned about why time-ins are more effective than time-outs, but not how to create the actual calming space or how to begin implementing the new approach.
Well, the Time-In Toolkit is the answer to your mama-prayers!
The Time-In Toolkit contains an arsenal of tools to help you put together your very own Calming Corner and successfully guide your toddler through a time-in process as opposed to a time-out punishment.
Each kit comes with:
- Creating A Calming Corner & Using Time-Ins: 50 pages of instructions (PDF)
- PeaceMakers Mindfulness Card Game: 42 Cards plus instructions
- 35 Resealable Animal Stickers
- Meet the PeaceMakers Poster: 20″ x 30″
- My Calming Strategies Poster: 20″ x 30″
- 32 Feeling Faces Poster: 12″ x 18″
- PeaceMakers Feel Many Feelings Poster: 12″ x 18″
- Calming Corner Poster: 8.5″ x 11″
- Calming Steps Poster: 8.5” x 11”
- Calming Corner Activity Mat: 8.5” x11”
- 32 sticky tabs to hang posters to the wall if you decide not to frame them
- 8-page full color printed Mini-Manual.
- Bonus Printables (PDF): This 40 page set of printables comes at the end of your Digital Manual to help you take Time-In’s more powerfully into your home, school and/or therapy practice. Because these sheets are PDF’s, they can be used with multiple children at no extra cost to you.
Here are the steps that the toolkit will guide you through:
(from Generation Mindful.com)
Set up a cozy, inviting space and establish your personal Calming Corner guidelines. The ToolKit comes with the “Creating a Calming Corner” manual devoted to holding your hand through this process. Hang your posters using the sticky tabs provided or frame them before hanging.
The many playful games, tools, and strategies that make up the Time-In ToolKit make thinking, talking and learning about emotions fun! Help children learn to recognize when they would benefit from visiting their Calming Corner by teaching them to notice and name their emotions.
With practice, children will quickly begin to recognize the four different mood groups we all feel in the average day.
The first step to emotional regulation is awareness. This is the case for big kids too (that’s you and me), as it is our own self-awareness that allows us to respond instead of react to children, even if they are acting out.
By practicing self-awareness, we cultivate patience and self-control in ourselves and the children we are leading and guiding.
Use your Calming Corner on a regular basis! There will no longer be a need to put children in forced isolation or to send them away to their room, the steps, a chair, the principal’s office, etc. Children (and adults!) can take a Time-In instead.
You don’t need to wait until children are upset or acting out to visit your Calming Corner. The Manual that comes with every Time-In ToolKit will guide you through this process.
Connection builds compliance. The behaviors we are looking for from children are easier to learn when they are feeling safe and connected to another human being, ideally the adult in the room.
The Calming Corner is an inviting “get-to” place kids go to feel better and to learn. Time-Ins are not a punishment.
The many posters, games, and tools included in the Time-In ToolKit help you practice talking about emotions with kids on a regular basis.
Does it Really Work?
Before I share some reviews from other toolkit-lovin’ mamas, I want to tell you about my personal experience with it.
The toolkit has honestly been a game-changer for us. Not only does my 2-year-old consistently demonstrate self-regulation strategies when he becomes upset but I personally feel more confident as a parent. I know that I’m using a method that will improve my child’s emotional resilience and I feel proactive in contributing to his overall well-being.
One of the hardest parts about parenting is not knowing if you’re handling things the right way. The unknown is scary. We only get one shot at this parenting thing and we don’t want to mess it up!
The Time-In Toolkit gave me the tools I needed to effectively model the very things I wanted to see my son demonstrate as well as guide him through a process that would give him essential skills for lifelong success and stability.
Now here are some reviews from the Generation Mindful website:
My five and a half-year-old daughter has always had a hard time managing the intensity of her emotions. This helps us continue the conversation about what she is feeling and what strategies she can employ to be in control of what she is feeling- and understand what she is feeling better- while at our house and it not just be something a teacher’s trying to do with our child. She is very much into it and learning more about her emotions! We put her Calming Corner on our stair landing so that it is indeed, corner that she feels safe going to and where she is empowered to use the posters to talk with us. Thank you for this tool!
Just wanted to say the “Time In” toolkit is working tremendously well. I have a strong-willed, very opinionated 4.5-year-old girl. We have been working the Peacemakers cards for awhile but adding the chart is a whole new element. Since adding the other tools we have managed to help her understand her emotions & that it is okay to have bad days.
Setting Up Your Calming Corner
Here is a list of items that we found really helpful in our Calming Corner aside from the awesome posters included in the kit!
- Comfy chair
- Visual timer
- Squishy ball
- Thinking putty
- Coloring book
- Yoga cards
- Stuffed animals
Bonus Tips for Assured Success
It will take some time and experimentation to really get your time-in process to run efficiently but here are two helpful tips to get you started on the right track:
- As you may have seen listed in the section above, a visual timer is a must-have for your calming space! We use a visual timer for MANY things throughout our day and this is no exception. It allows our time-in process to run efficiently as my toddler knows exactly how much time we’ll be spending in the space. Without the timer, you may find it difficult to transition out of the time-in most likely because your toddler will be enjoying the activities too much and not want to leave!
- Before you officially start the time-in, go through the sequence of steps poster that’s included in the kit. The terms must be established and revealed in advance in order for it to run smoothly.
You’ll know you did it right when you hear…
“Mom, you’re feeling mad, go take a time-in.”