No more Time Out!

Is there an alternative to Time Out?

Every time I run a course, the issue of Time Out comes up. I find that for many parents  Time Out does not work – and I ask them to imagine that they are 3 or 4 years old, and how would they feel if Mom or Dad was upset and voices raised – ‘now, you’re on the step for 3 minutes!!!’

Every time I ask parents how they would feel; their response is “I’d feel confused, bad, rejected, unloved” etc etc.

Alternative to Time Out with your child

Time in is taking the time to sit with your child after some difficult behaviour;  to talk together about why she is behaving this way.

Time In acknowledges her feeling and takes the opportunity, to talk together about why she is behaving this way. Time in is not giving attention to bad behaviour, it is giving attention to the feelings that underlie the bad behaviour, so that these can be resolved. Time In acknowledges that much challenging behaviour results from a child having  feelings which she/he is not able to manage or to tell you. Talk to you child about how she feels. “Sounds like you feel../ I am guessing you feel../ you seem upset..”.


This is about standing in your child’s shoes and attempting to feel how they feel, this empathy gives your child a sense of being understood, that their feelings are valid and it creates the safety for them to tell you more about what is going on for them.

Time Out

Time out may be effective in stopping the behaviour; but that simply means it goes underground and the child supresses how they feel as it is unsafe to express. In fact we are in danger of withdrawing from a child at the very moment they need us most. You will find that as you use Time In with your child, their behaviour will change from angry, aggressive, attention seeking to being more reflective and easier to manage.

Time in – instead of Time Out

One on One moments with your child should improve your relationship as much negative behaviour comes from a child having poor feelings about themselves. Think about if your parent had carved out some 1:1 time with you how it would have made you feel? Loved, valued and secure, the foundations of self esteem.

Sibling Rivalry

If a child feels jealous of another sibling, his/her behaviour can become very negative. Most parents respond negatively to this difficult behaviour, with criticism and punishment, ‘losing it’ and withdrawing love. All of this however, reinforces the child’s feelings of not being ‘good enough’ or loved. Remember, when a child behaves badly, they deserve your love even more. Therefore, by separating their behaviour from their person, they can say “I love you; but I will not accept this behaviour”, they show love is always present, and negative behaviour is seen as a cry for help and responded to with kindness/compassion.

The key to understanding Sibling Rivalry is to imagine your partner bringing a 3rd partner into your marraige – and telling you that you will actually love this person! That how if feels like to a child; so tell them when they feel they are getting no attention to come to you and tell you and you will make time for them. A brief cuddle may be all thats required and a reminder to the parent to spend more time. The more attention you give; they less they will demand, and you should find, if they feel loved, they will be kind to their younger sibling.

Resolving Sibling Rivalry:

“You can never treat each child equally; however you can treat them uniquely”; ensure each child has a sense of being ‘seen’ for themselves, not for what they do; but who they are

Many psychologists believe that a lack of compassion in a parent can result from a person not receiving enough compassion for their painful feelings of childhood. In other words, if you respond to your child with empathy, she won’t need to cut off emotionally and bury her feelings that otherwise she may not feel she has no right to express.