Time IN vs Time OUT


You’ve probably heard of Time Out, but are you familiar with the term Time In?

We posted a piece that gave some background information about the way the brain works. If you’d like to read that before you learn about Time In click here.

Time out – To send a child who is “out of control” to an isolated spot to cool down. In time out a child spends time alone without other people or toys. When it was started, time out was a good alternative to spanking. Time out is often prefaced with a request for a child to go to their room and “think about what they did wrong”.


  • There is some peace and quiet for the parent because of separation from a screaming, thrashing or whining child.
  • It can separate two (or more) feuding children
  • It offers a child some time to settle down.                                                                    

 Disadvantage –

  • It does not change behavior.
  • It does not teach the child any new strategies to learn to self-regulate
  • They don’t always have the mental tools to figure out “what they did wrong”
  • Before age 7 -8 children do not think concretely. They cannot reason with themselves and think,  “I was sent to time out because I threw a small metal car at my brother and it hit him in the head. Now he might have to go to the hospital and get stitches, which could be painful for him and expensive for my parents” OR “If my sister is standing by the window and I throw a toy at her and it misses her, it could break the window”. They can’t come up with these ideas on their own. But if these types of ideas are explained to them, they can remember and use the information when the situation happens again.  By explaining situations and reasoning with your child, they begin to learn to how to handle situations appropriately, by themselves.

Mom w_ 3 year old Brad

(Do you love this picture as much as I do?!  This is my momma experimenting with ‘time in’ back in the 80s with my older brother.)

Time in -To take a child to a quiet spot and stay there with them until they settle down enough to help them work through their anger or negative feelings. It also involves holding the child physically (after they have stopped thrashing around, of course) and emotionally while talking with them to help them identify and label their feeling. Talking about what just happened that caused the discomfort.  As this process is repeated, over time, children learn to regulate themselves with less and less help.

How to know when your child is moving from brain stem (where they cannot be reasoned with) to cortex (where they are able to listen and reason):

What are some ways to help a child move from brainstem to the reasoning part of their brain?

  • Focus on breathing. You might say, “let’s take a deep breath” then show them how- Breathe in slowly, close your eyes and hold it for a second then let it out slowly. I use to think that taking a deep breath, or counting to three before answering were silly ideas. But now I believe they are physical actions that help us begin to re-set our emotional state.
  • Be present. Physically being with a child creates a sense of safety for them.
  • Don’t try to start a conversation. Just give simple commands, if necessary.

What are some indicators that a child is moving from the brainstem to the reasoning part of the brain?

  • In brainstem kids are usually nonverbal, and are kicking screaming and yelling (when they have moved out of the brain stem mode they will begin to be able to listen and interact with you reasonably).
  • They start sounding needy and whiney; that means they are ready to start listening.
  • They start using language such as “I want my toy”. When they begin to use their words, they are in a position to have a conversation

I found a few articles I liked about Tantrums. So I think I’ll turn this part into a parents digest (a periodical consisting of condensed versions of pieces of writing or news published elsewhere).

http://www.parenting.com/article/toddler-temper-tantrums?page=0,0                           Why Toddlers Throw Temper Tantrums

http://www.education.com/magazine/article/science-of-tantrums/                                   The Science of Tantrums

http://www.education.com/magazine/article/tantrum-prevention-101/                            How to Stop Tantrums Before They Start

Self Regulation and the Brain


I raised seven children THEN I learned about self-regulation – something I wish I’d know years earlier. So if you’re a mom with young children, I’m writing about self-regulation for you, so you can know this good parenting information before you are grandmother age, like me.

Children are born with a marvelous brain, with many parts. The brain stem is highly developed at birth and controls the instinctive functions the body needs to stay alive, such as; breathing, heart beat, recognizing hunger, danger etc. It is sometimes referred to as the “flight or fight” part of the brain because when a body encounters a stimulus or situation that is uncomfortable or threatening this part of the brain tells the body to protect itself: run away, or fight to survive.

Another part of the brain you need to know about to understand self-regulation is the cortex. This part of the brain is not fully developed at birth In fact, by 4 years old it has just begun to mature. It is the part of the brain that deals with more complex processes like perception, planning, attention, voluntary movements and emotion regulation. This part of the brain is easily shaped by experiences.

Okay, by now you’re probably thinking, “What is self-regulation and what does it have to do with the brain?”

Self- regulation is a child’s ability to calm or soothe him or herself. Put simply this is their ability to control their emotions and how those emotions are displayed outwardly.  It is linked to why they have tantrums.  It contributes to the ability to stop one thing they are doing, that they want to keep doing, and do something else that they don’t want to do. It’s the ability to think about what’s happening and make a rational choice as to how to respond.  This is the type of thinking that happens in the brain’s Cortex.

Children are not born knowing how to self-regulate (much to a parents dismay). They learn self-regulation by watching the actions of their parents, or caregivers. At a very young age – in a healthy relationship – a baby learns that when they cry someone will come to help them feel physically or emotionally comfortable by offering food, love or what ever they need.  For the baby, these are actions that only require the use of the brain stem. As children grow from infancy to toddlers and preschoolers they begin to encounter feelings they don’t know how to manage: how to take turns, how to share, how to not resort to hitting or biting to get what they want. When their basic needs are not met they know how to instinctively lash out (remember the brain stem is still working to tell them to “fight or flee” or to do what it takes to make them comfortable) but this is the time they need to start using the cortex area of their brain to regulate their emotions and control their social behavior.  When an adult models appropriate behavior, gives a child words to label their feelings, or dialogs to use with peers, the child stores this information as an inner resource to draw on next time they are in the same situation. By consistently providing these tools and examples a child is able to move from co-regulation to self-regulation.

So, in theory this all sounds pretty good, right?  But often the link between knowing and doing is the challenge.  But we’ll be back next week with some idea on how to teach your child self-regulation, such as using some everyday activities and “Time In” rather than “Time Out”.

Want to learn more about self-regulation? This is an article I found that I like (be patient, it might take a several seconds to load). It’s written for teachers and day care providers but I think the in formation is just as beneficial for parents.