Time-ins and Time-outs

Diana Lang

photo of a woman kneeling down looking at a young girl
Figure 1. A parent talking to their child. (Photo Source: piqsels, CC0)

Time-ins are a positive child guidance strategy in which the caregiver stays with the child until they are both calm and can communicate about the issue at hand.  When using a time-in the caregiver should stay with the child, and listen to the child and what they are feeling. Once the child has calmed down then the caregiver and child can discuss the child’s behavior and what needs to be changed. Time-ins allow for children to not feel threatened and learn in a positive way. The caregiver and child are able to connect reducing power struggles since everyone’s feelings and needs are considered. [1]

A more common and somewhat opposite approach is the use of time-outs.  Time-outs are a less positive approach and can be less effective compared to time-ins.  Time-outs are where a child is left to sit alone somewhere away from the caregiver for a set amount of time.  To learn about time-outs, such as how and when to use them, visit the cdc’s parent essentials site.


Watch this video from the CDC to learn about using time-outs.

Both time-ins and time-outs are used to:

  • stop undesirable behavior,
  • help children learn better coping skills, and
  • give parents and children a chance to calm down.

Key Takeaways

  • Threats and punishments (e.g., time-outs) are often less effective than positive parenting strategies (e.g., time-ins) for changing behaviors.
  • Not all children respond well to time-outs.
  • Time-ins can reduce power struggles and calm brains.

  1. Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2016). No-drama discipline: the whole-brain way to calm the chaos and nurture your child’s developing mind. New York: Bantam Books.


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