No Time-Out???

Many foster children are removed from their families for physical abuse. Not simply spankings, but beatings! Bruises, marks, and scars!

These darling children come to live in our foster home after this abuse. They are perfect little angels, and you wonder how did this happen.

For a little while. And then: DEMANDS, FITS, HITTING, WHINING – the behaviors that would challenge the Dalai Lama…


These children NEED structure, boundaries, discipline…

As a foster parent, you CANNOT spank!

1-2-3-TIME OUT!!! Yes! That’s it! The perfect method to discipline a child.

I’m going out on a limb to say “NO”!


As readers of this website may know, our 3-year-old son adopted through foster care, Stinkpot, is the master of fit-throwing. (Yesterday, as I was driving down the road, he was throwing Easter eggs at me from the back seat. I threw them out the window as he threw them at me. Observers probably thought the Easter bunny was driving by.)

We institute the 1-2-3 time-out as discipline for misbehavior. However, this week, I did something different.

time in disciplineNO! You are not getting candy for supper! Stop hitting me and go sit in your father’s lap right now and tell him what you did was wrong!

Would you believe it calmed him down sooner, and he behaved the rest of the evening?

A TIME-IN! Time-In Discipline?

Last year, we had a 12-year-old foster child, Big Helper, whose mother had voluntarily given up her children instead of divorcing her incarcerated husband. (I don’t get it either)

Big Helper was dealing with intense feelings of the ultimate rejection.  I began to notice that her most intense breakdowns occurred after she got in trouble. At one point, she even ran away one evening while I was out-of-town on business. Apparently, the time-out form of discipline was another rejection to her, and she simply was emotionally overwhelmed.

I didn’t know anything of a time-in until just before she left us.

You can read more about time-in versus time-out discipline in this book.

Have any of you given a “Time-In”?  How did it work?

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  1. Caren says

    We followed the same approach with our son and it worked really well. He was able to self-regulate really early and learned quickly that tantrums are not the best way to get mom or dad’s attention.

  2. mommadawn says

    For the foster parents, if time in or another technique works for your child. Please explain it to your child’s Sunday school teachers or other adults that work with them.
    We have a few foster children that come to our classes at church, most just need a little extra love and attention, but one needs lots and lots of love and attention. He tests us and throws fits, clearly time out for him is too much like the neglect that he has suffered. Time out or chill out time works for the child that understands that adults come back or that you can separate for short times and still be loving.
    I am really glad to find this info about time in.

  3. Jeanna says

    We have had a developmentally delayed 6 year old for the past 2 years. Six months ago she was diagnosed as having RAD. Her therapist has been great in recommending different discipline strategies. The first thing she recommended was “Time-in.” We thought it sounded totally crazy (like rewarding for misbehavior), but we were willing to try anything. Wow, what a difference it has made! I recommend trying it!

  4. Nanner says

    I recently read a book about using “time-in” as an alternative method for foster parenting. I tried it with our 3 year old and it works! I hold him firmly, and talk in a calm voice and tell him how to behave. When he stops his tantrum, and relaxes, I let him down. It works wonders! I have the 10 year old do chores with me relaxing , and watching. Still trying to figure out what to do with the 6 year old who is delayed. Suggestions welcome!

  5. says

    My kiddos are only one so too young for time out – but I’m going to read more about time in as I think it sounds like a much better way of steering their behaviour in a positive direction.

  6. Kasey says

    This is a very interesting concept, and I’m not trying to be critical at all (I’m a big fan of the do-what-works-for-you philosophy) but my only concern would be that this would teach my child to throw a fit whenever they wanted some close one-on-one time with mom or dad. It just seems like it’s rewarding the negative behavior with positive attention. What are your thoughts on this?

  7. deemail says

    Our time-outs were a bit different in that my children are old enough that we called it ‘being put in a corner’….but the important part was to say, “You need to stand/sit in the corner till you are ready to behave.” This puts the timing in the hands of the child. When they would tell me, “I’m ready to behave,” they had to come and talk about the infraction for just a minute…no long lectures, they’ve already paid the price so it’s not fair to do double punishment for one problem, just a simple statement reminding them of why they needed a break. I think that the actual statement, “I’m ready to behave,” serves as a ‘deal’……..if they say it, they’re ready to control themselves. The timing was very fluid, 2 minutes, 10 or even 20…whatever they felt they needed.

  8. says

    It warms my heart to read all the comments here about time-in! I’ve been recommending this approach to behavior management for many years, particularly in my presentations to childcare professionals and early childhood educators. This is the first time that I’ve been able to hear how it works for people.

    I’m convinced that time-in can help unlock the “door locked from the inside” in children who’ve had a lot of bonding breaks. They so want and contact AND structure and yet are so afraid of it.

    Time-in also provides “heart-time” between caregivers and children in ways that are both authentically caring and give needed “tough love.” Such a fine line to walk.

    I salute you all in the important and courageous work that you do!

    Janae Weinhold

  9. says

    One of my mommy friends tells her 2 toddler sons ” you need to take a minute to calm your body down ” and has him just sit on the couch and relax for a minute and then she will ask him if he is ready to play again. Sometimes he will say no, he still needs a minute, and others he is ready to go play! I thought that was a neat approach and it seemed to be working for her.

    • Penelope says

      I totally understand, Krystle! Our Stinkpot is so strong-willed and utterly defiant. Hope time-in works for you!

    • Penelope says

      Thanks, Katy! Foster kids definitely adds a bit of flare to my experience as a mother. I had to “grow up” quickly after just one placement call.

  10. says

    I had never heard of a time-in but this totally makes sense. My husband and I go back and forth about what we’ll do when our kids don’t respond to tiemouts (we don’t have any yet). So glad to know there’s another option.

    Stopping by from SITS. Just want to let you know you are such a hero for being a foster mom.
    Check out what Ms. Adams recently posted..5 Things I Learned From Bloggy Boot Camp Philapdelphia

    • Penelope says

      Thanks, Ms. Adams. What works one time, may not work another. We change things around sometimes, just to keep Stinkpot on his toes…

    • Penelope says

      Thanks for visiting, Tara! Time-in works sometimes; however, sometimes it’s Mommy that needs the time out!!! :)

    • Penelope says

      Thanks, Jennifer! Just yesterday, Stinkpot was throwing a fit, and I went to him without speaking, picked him up and started rocking him. He calmed so quickly! But sometimes it’s tough because, honestly, it’s Mommy that needs the time out! :)

    • Penelope says

      Thanks, Missy! My Stinkpot demands attention all the time, but I try and let him know that throwing a fit only gets him in trouble. He’s very slowly learning that as he gets older.

    • Penelope says

      Thanks for stopping by Erin. I’m learning that this approach is called positive parenting – who knew? I didn’t…

  11. says

    We do not spank or use time outs- we don’t believe they are effective methods of teaching, which is what discipline is meant to be. I’ve never heard if a time in, but I will check out your links and read up on it. Thank you for sharing alternative methods of discipline!
    Check out what Tiffany recently posted..Wait, we aren’t over that TIME photo yet?

    • Penelope says

      Thanks for your comment, Tiffany! If I were honest, time out is sometimes just for me to calm down. :)

  12. says

    Your son is a great age to implement a positive-behavior system. Everyone needs time to “chill” once in a while, and it is a good time to step away for a few minutes. Then let him know that when he is done crying, he can rejoin the activities.

    Found you on SITS!
    Check out what Raquel recently posted..Another School Year Ending

    • Penelope says

      Thanks, Raquel. I have been surprised to suddenly hear so much of positive discipline. Did I just have my head in a rock??? :)

  13. says

    I have a strong willed little girl and she tends to get very emotional very quickly… while not all tantrums in a time-in I think some do. And I am definitely going to try it more. Thanks for sharing!
    Check out what Sarah recently posted..Push

    • Penelope says

      Hi Sarah! Our strong-willed little toots will one day be strong, independent adults. It’s raising them that’s tough. Thanks for visiting.

    • Penelope says

      I only heard about a time-in only after our tween foster girl left. Sadly, she would have tremendous meltdowns if she were sent to her room. Wish I’d known about time-in sooner.

    • Penelope says

      Thanks, Louise! I will try just about any parenting tip or trick to see if it works! Something that works great once, may not work again. That’s probably the case for most parents of bright strong willed children. :)

  14. says

    Penelope, I am visiting for SITS day. I love being a SITS day visitor because it brings me into worlds that I am unfamiliar with. Thank you for sharing your discipline methods in the article. I admire your love, your patience and your commitment to children who need alternative homes. You are incredible. xo
    Check out what Ilene recently posted..Love

    • Penelope says

      Thanks, Ilene, for your sweet words. I wish I could say I’m a foster parent just because. But if I were honest, I would sadly have to admit we began our foster care journey after a diagnosis of infertility. Thanks again.

  15. says

    I don’t think it will work every time, nor is it always beneficial. But sometimes loving a child through a tantrum is the way to go. What a wonderful thing you discovered. It’s so important to know what works for each child and what is most beneficial. You are navigating like a pro!
    Check out what misssrobin recently posted..Gay Marriage and My Heart

  16. says

    Great great great advice!! It may not work for everyone one but it doesn’t hurt to try! I’m gonna get started with this today with my 4 year old…I think she’d benefit from it!!

    • Penelope says

      Time-in helps Stinkpot calm down quicker. I was also advised to have a calm-down cave or tent in the room. Let us know how time-in works for you.

  17. says

    Oooh, this is a great idea! My six-year-old has been very difficult lately, and we have never been able to use time-out with him because he just will not stay there–we’d only be able to enforce it if we put a lock on the outside of his door, and we’re not willing to do that. This sounds very feasible. Thanks!
    Check out what ‘Becca recently posted..A Half-Fast Lent

  18. says

    I like this idea. My little one isn’t 2 yet and won’t stay put long enough to even try time out. She’s very busy. However, I think the extra attention is probably why she acts out in the first place. This is something to think about…

  19. Shawna says

    Our foster agency actually teaches the time-in method. I didn’t really understand it at the beginning sometimes that time-out is needed for us as much as the child acting to get our emotions back in check. However after thinking about typically foster children have been put into some form of time out the majority of their life. They have not experienced the love of an adult and adult that truely is there for the long haul no matter what. We as foster parents have to remember these children act out to get our attention because they don’t know how to get it any other way. Time in can be as simple as sitting them with you while during dishes or cooking. Thanks for getting time-in out there for people to see.

  20. says

    I love this idea and when I first read it I thought it sounded pretty revolutionary. But as I continued to read, I realized that I sometimes do something similar with my own kids. If my kids have a tantrum, sometimes I scoop them up, remove them from the situation, take them to their room, sit them on the bed in my lap and have a heart to heart about what just happened. This doesn’t work all the time but sometimes I see them just melt and I quickly realize they just need a little attention and bonding time to get them through a rough emotional moment. I like what you said, “go sit in daddy’s lap and tell him what you did was wrong.” This form of discipline gives them a chance to process the situation along with some guidance and help.

    • says

      The last principal at the school I am assigned to (not the one that is there now) used to use time-ins with the upper grade boys that were known to be the “behavior problems”.

      It worked tremendously with them and they felt like they were needed.

      Unfortunately the school is a mess now with our current principal but sigh isn’t that the way it sometimes goes.
      Check out what Dannie recently posted..Tuesday Truisms- Mr Murphy was right!

  21. says

    We had a three year old foster child “K” who had been made to sit on beds and in chairs for hours at a time. Time out was not a good resource for her. Instead we went through discussions and encouraged her to talk. She felt very uncomfortable with talking because she had often been told to “shut up.”

    We asked her questions and would wait on the answer. During this time she would have to sit in our lap. This was often extremely time consuming. I learned to go to the bathroom first!

    “Why are you mad?”
    “Why did you throw the toy?”
    “What should you have done if you were upset?”

    These are all things you would normally do following a time-out, but for “K” time out was another reminder of her previous home-life.

    Through this we taught her that talking was a better choice than shouting. We taught her is was okay to be upset, but what behaviors were not acceptable to display while she was upset.

    Unfortunately, as many foster children are, she was released into her family’s custody. Into the same environment where she used those behaviors to cope and survive. A place where she had learned new coping behaviors, but her family had not. Pitiful.
    Check out what Joy recently posted..The Bunny Stops Here- but not on Easter!

  22. says

    in the ‘chill out space’ post I wrote for your blog hop, it’s more of a hybrid between a time out and a time in.

    If Tigger needs to “chill out” and get her frustration out, she can do what needs to be done in the chill out space, but I am not out of the room, I’m in close proximity.

    If Tigger’s outburst needs a breather and rockign/cuddling versus a “have at it” on the beanbag, we stop and rock/cuddle until it passes…

    The time out where they are sent away and I’m in another room or whatever doesn’t work really well….the chill out space is like a time out, but being in close proximity makes it not as traditional either. I find I need both methods and can’t just use one…unfortunately one size fits all doesn’t work in my house lol.
    Check out what Dannie recently posted..Tuesday Truisms- Mr Murphy was right!


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