Toddler discipline: Time-ins are more effective than time-outs

Toddler discipline: Time-ins are more effective than time-outs

"Time-ins give me an opportunity to let them know that I understand how they feel and I love them, but I don't love their behavior. Sometimes, that's all they need."

Time-outs are a staple of the parenting arsenal. They're often the go-to for parents when they need to lay down the law within the household. There's certainly nothing wrong with enforcing a rule/guideline, or reprimanding your kids in a way that you see fit. However, there is a school of thought that suggests that time-outs aren't particularly useful when applied to a toddler.

We're not suggesting that you allow your toddler to do whatever they please, whenever they please without fear of ever being disciplined. We're simply suggesting a different approach. Instead of enforcing the well known time-out, try implementing what's called a time-in.

Meredith Mortensen, a mother of three, says that it helps to think about "how hard it is being 2 and knowing what you want, but sometimes not having the language to get it out."

time in insert

Good point. Toddlers are old enough to express their emotions, however, they've yet to truly develop the skills to do so effectively. Often, this leads to kids lashing out for seemingly no reason. It's up to parents to address their unacceptable behavior, often by punishing the toddler. And, the urge to reprimand your child is a fair and natural reaction to misconduct, but maybe there's a better way to address their attitude.

"Sometimes these littles just want to be validated," says Mortensen. "Time-ins give me an opportunity to let them know that I understand how they feel and I love them, but I don't love their behavior. Sometimes, that's all they need."


Learn more about time-ins and how you can implement them in your household! Click next for more!

Instead of isolating your toddler and punishing them for their misbehavior and poor conduct, try to help them emote properly. Get to the root cause of the issue at hand and figure out why their lashing out. Mortensen offers an anecdote that can help elaborate this strategy:

[Mortensen's toddler] has an affinity for sticking her feet in my face, which is so gross. I noticed she was doing this while I was playing cars with [Mortensen's youngest]. So, instead of immediately sending her to time-out, I asked her a question: "[Her toddler], why are you putting your feet in my face?"

"I dunno, Mom. I just want you to play with me," she responded.

"Come here, [her toddler]," I said

I pulled her toward me, gave her a hug, and said, "I love you so much. You're so special to me. I love spending time with you. I love having time just you and me. But I don't love what you're doing. I don't ever want your feet in my face. That's really gross and inappropriate."

I continued, "Let's all play cars with [her youngest] until he goes to sleep. Then you and I can do anything you'd like for 10 minutes before you go to sleep. Deal?"

"Deal," she replied.

Clearly the source of the problem is the toddler's inability to express what's bothering her. The result was a fit of frustration and misbehavior. However, instead of isolating the toddler by assessing a time-out, Mortensen solved the problem by assessing a time-in.

READ: 6 Tricks to control your temper with a stubborn child

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