Are time-outs a thing of the past?

WASHINGTON — While time-outs are not as controversial as spankings, some parents still feel uncomfortable issuing them to their kids. So they’re opting for a new form of punishment: time-ins.

“Time-outs are actually designed to remove the child from our attention, and that’s why it works,” says clinical psychologist and parenting coach Laura Markham. “When children feel abandoned, immediately they will give up all bad behavior and they will do whatever is necessary to please you.”

And while children might be quick to correct their behavior after a time-out, Markham says time-outs don’t teach a lesson.

“You can’t explain to them, during a meltdown, why it was wrong to throw their cup across the room or hit their little brother,” she says.

On the other hand, time-ins are being hailed as a positive parenting tool. The method rejects the notion of removing your misbehaving child to face a wall or sit in a “naughty chair” for a length of time or until he calms down.

Instead, a parent keeps the child near and calmly interacts with him, asking what is wrong and discussing different ways to work out a solution.

Some parents think the calm, soothing time-in method rewards bad behavior, since there is no punishment. But Markham says emotions are not bad behavior.

“Children move in the direction of bad behavior because they are feeling bad inside and often they just need to cry,” Markham says. “When children can understand their reaction and emotional response to a situation, they can then integrate them and talk about them.”

Essentially, time-ins help children learn right from wrong. The alternative approach is also thought to broker a better connection and bond between a parent and a child, since it gives a child the respect to be heard and help work out a solution.

“We are starting to realize that time-ins are a great alternative,” Markham says.

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