Parents Corner

“Time In Versus Time Out”


Most of us would have heard of giving kids a ‘time out’ when they’ve done something wrong. You may have experienced sitting alone as a child, in some boring and bare corner of the room, waiting for a parent or teacher to allow you back. ‘Time out’ has been a staple of the child behaviour management tool kit for decades, but many are now asking- is there a better way?

The logic behind ‘time out’ is that most kids hate it, so they will behave ‘well’ in order to avoid it. However, what we now know from decades of research into child development, is kids don’t usually set out to be ‘bad’.

Often, kids do bad things when they are stressed out. This may be because they are tired or hungry, or they can’t solve an important problem. Recent advances in brain imaging have shown us that a spike in stress reduces functioning in key areas of the brain involved in thinking ahead and considering consequences. These same areas of the brain are already under development in children and teens. So, add a little too much stress, and you have a recipe for disaster!

Kids are hard-wired to connect with the important big people in their life so they can survive until they are old enough to take care of themselves. When kids see us paying attention to them, and giving them care, they know they are safe. Safety creates calm, and calm brains can solve problems without hurting anyone or breaking anything.

‘Time in’ is a strategy that uses your relationship with your child to help them settle and think through the situation.

What it looks like is taking your child somewhere safe, sitting down and chatting about what went wrong. It’s not about free passes for bad behaviour. It’s about understanding why the behaviour happened, and what can be learned- how can they manage this problem better in the future? It can also involve discussing ways to right the wrong, such as apologising to a hurt sibling or replacing something that was broken.


Article Written + Submitted by

Monica Purcell | Family Facilitator

Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services


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