Guest Author - Megan Faulkner
Many parents are aware of the parenting technique known as Time Out. However, a lesser known approach, Time In, is an excellent way to encourage the child to change their behavior without isolating them. Why is this important? To a young child, being isolated is very frightening. When a parent puts them into a room and tells them they need to stay there by themselves, it is not uncommon for children to panic. Younger children may mistakenly believe that they are being sent away because they are intrinsically bad, which makes it especially hard for them to not be able to seek comfort from their parents in that moment. You can scare a child into compliance, but that will not help that child learn how to make better decisions in the future.
Time In can look different for different situations and different children. Time In might include taking the child somewhere where the two of you can sit and connect. Often when children are very upset or seemingly out of control, they will not be able to talk about it at that moment. These big emotions can hijack little people and, even if they donít show it well, it can be scary for the child to feel so out of control. Sometimes all the child needs is a change in scenery, a deep breath, and the knowledge that someone cares enough to listen if they feel like talking about it. After they have calmed down, the parent can explain what led up to their taking a break and what they would hope the child would do next time the situation occurs. Older children can come up with these solutions themselves, with parental guidance as needed.
Time In can also be viewed as a form of redirection towards another activity. If the child is making poor decisions concerning their behaviors, ask them to help you work on something. Make some muffins. Fold some laundry. It doesnít really matter what you are doing, odds are good there is a creative way in which your child could help you. You can also redirect the child towards a calming activity that they can focus on, which will help them settle down and allow them to rein in their emotions.
There are all sorts of different calming activities. One example of a calming activity is a Calm Down Jar. It is a jar full of water and glitter glue that acts much like a snow globe. The child can shake it all up, which can be a great way to release those pent up emotions, and then set it down and watch the swirls until the activity in the jar stops. This helps the child to switch their focus to a calmer activity and allows time to cool down.
Depending on the age of the child, meditation may be another option. My son is very high energy, always moving and always talking. I was very surprised to learn that he loves to meditate! I wish I could take credit for that, but I have actually never mediated and I am not sure it is something that I would find helpful.
That is one of the many benefits to applying positive discipline strategies: they are flexible and you can be creative with them. Try out an approach and if it does not help your child, you can try something new. In the process, you can learn a lot about your child and everyone can keep their dignity, and sanity, intact.