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The Best “Time-Out” Happens with “Time-In”

great-jobIn our “A.T.I.P.” model of discipline (i.e., Avoiding, Teaching, Ignoring, or Punishing), by definition “Time-Out” falls into the “Punish” category, because it is simply a technique intended to stop negative behavior.  But remember, the “A.T.I.P.” model of discipline is highly adaptable and fluid, as you may choose to use different responses based on situations, your mood, your personality, and many other influences.  You may also use multiple approaches (e.g., you could choose to use the punishment technique of “time-out” followed by teaching with your words of wisdom and modeling/rehearsing positive behavior).

This brings us to one of the most important aspects of effective “Time-Out,” which is “Time-In.”  In “Treatments that work with children: Empirically supported strategies for managing childhood problems,” authors Edward Christophersen and Susan Mortweet define “Time-In” as “frequent and consistent physical contact with the child when he or she is not engaged in inappropriate behavior.”  Use of the exact term “Time-In” makes a strong point.

Specifically, “Time-In” has an important, close relationship with the concept of “Time-out.”  Given that children usually seek social contact (both positive or negative), the more you use “Time-In” with your child, the greater the effectiveness of “Time-out”.  When your child is not engaged in inappropriate behavior you can use “Time-In” as follows:

  • Physical Proximity: Without being “over-bearing,” stay near your child (or have your child stay near you), while still allowing him to explore and play independently.
  • Physical Contact: Have frequent physical contact with your child (pat, touch, hug, rub, give high-fives, etc.)
  • Verbal Contact: Notice and comment on the good things that you see your child doing (e.g., good listening, thank you for waiting patiently, nice try, etc.).
  • Social Contact: Frequently make eye contact, smile, and gesture (e.g., give a “thumbs-up”) to acknowledge your child’s presence and his appropriate behavior.