Make time for Time In
A few weeks ago, I wrote this about Time Out and why it isn’t the most helpful or effective form of discipline. I talked about the idea of taking Time In instead of giving Time Out, and have since had some messages asking for some more specific ideas of how to do Time In.
So, here are two really simple ideas for how you can take Time In. One idea is for how to do Time In ‘in the moment’, and the other is for Time In when things have settled down.
1) Stay with the feelings
This is one to consider when something has happened and your child is experiencing big feelings that seem to be really overwhelming for them. You’ll know when this is happening – you can’t talk to or reason with them; they just seem out of control.
Now, we know why this is happening – the part of the brain that is essentially responsible for keeping them safe – the amygdala – has been triggered because of something they’ve perceived as a threat, and they’re basically in ‘fight or flight’ mode. In this moment, not only are they not capable of problem solving and finding a more appropriate way to express themselves, but they’re not able to take on board your attempts to try and problem solve with them either, or to hear you telling them what you want them to do instead.
The best approach you can use right now is to stay with them. You’ll have to use your judgement here and decide whether you can get close to them physically, or whether you just need to stay close by, letting them know you’re still there. Here are four steps you can take to do this:
- Stay calm yourself, but take control of the situation. Not in an authoritarian way – just in a way that lets your child know you are there to help them.
- Communicate to them that you get it. That you understand how they feel. If you think they can cope with you talking to them, you might want to say something like: “I can see you’re feeling really angry / upset / frustrated right now…you really want to go to the park…you wish you could have that toy…your feelings are really hurt.
- Use physical touch (holding, rocking, stroking) along with a soothing voice if they will let you; if not just stay close by.
- Reassure them that this feeling will pass and that you are there to help them feel better.
2) Have a ‘meeting on the couch’
I love this idea, but credit for it goes to Lawrence Cohen, author of Playful Parenting. He says that a meeting can be called whenever there is a problem and that the meeting can be called by you or your child. The rule is that when a meeting is called, everybody must show up for it. Now this meeting doesn’t always have to be a serious one; the main aim is for you and your child to reconnect. Your child may be more open about what they are feeling, you might vent your frustrations about what has happened, or simply re-iterate basic house rules. In my view, one of the best things about this approach is that it allows for a completely different dynamic – the comfort of the couch relieves any tension that has built up, and you might actually just end up being really silly together (let the play fight with the cushions begin!)
If you try either of these for the first time they may not be an immediate success, but stick with it! Repeated use of either or both ideas will eventually become the norm for your child…and you will find that in time, as your child gradually learns to manage their emotions and problem solve on their own, you’ll be using them less and less.