Blog / The evolution of the “Time Out”  to a “Time In”

April 11 2023,

The evolution of the “Time Out”  to a “Time In”

Time outs have been a go-to technique for managing children’s behaviour for decades. But how effective was it truly, and does it do more harm than good?

An article published in Time magazine explained that “In most cases, the primary experience a time out offers a child is isolation. Even when presented in a patient and loving manner, time outs teach them that when they make a mistake, or when they are having a hard time, they will be forced to be by themselves — a lesson that is often experienced, particularly by young children, as rejection.” (Siegel, D. and Bryson, T. 2014).

“Time Out.” “The Thinking Chair.” “Naughty Corner.” It has many names, but it generally works the same way. The child breaks a rule. The parent or educator sends him/her to a special chair or bench to “think about it,” for a period of time before being welcomed back to their previous activities.

While many parents and professionals maintain that timeout provides a child with the opportunity to “think about their behaviour”, one has to consider how realistic this expectation is. Will a child, while sitting in time out, truly reflect on their behaviour and consider how to adjust their behaviour in the future?

Research shows that while timeouts may successfully teach children that certain behaviours are not ok, the method is a form of fear and shame-based punishment. As one author noted: “Time-outs serve only to punish, not provide children with the tools they need to express themselves in better ways”. According to Larissa Dann (2016), a child essentially becomes ‘invisible’ when in time-out. She adds that when children are sent to time out, they lose the opportunity to develop their problem-solving skills and take into account other people's needs. They do not learn to empathise or to consider others, and do not further develop relationship skills. 

So what about a ‘Time in’ instead?

Critics of “time outs” encourage parents to implement “time ins” as a more suitable alternative. Simply put, time-ins are inclusionary timeouts. In this way, caregivers and educators  are able to support children to regulate their emotions and consider alternative behaviours together. Instead of sending the child to be alone with their feelings of anger, guilt, or shame over what has happened, carers model a calm state and support the child to process and work through their feelings together. (Community Services, 2021 & Martinelli, 2021).

Remember, most behaviours are shaped through “praising positive behaviour as it occurs” rather than focussing on addressing negative behaviour. Attempting to have a conversation or “time in” with your child in the moment when they are acting out may lead to increased arguing and frustration. It is, therefore, best to wait till they have calmed down. 

It is also important to check our own emotions. An emotionally heightened adult cannot support a child to regulate their own emotions. Set clear expectations, and let children know when they are doing the right thing. Ultimately, it is crucial to model the behaviour that you would like to see in your children; it is unrealistic to expect them to regulate their own emotions if you don’t demonstrate appropriate stress management strategies yourself.

Much love  from the Team at Turtletot Childcare in Bexley


Community Services, ACT. (2021).

Dann, L. (2016).

Martinelli, K. (2021).

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