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What Every Parent Needs To Know About ‘Time-Ins’

Team StoryWeavers|February 4, 2021|

Child Discipline TIme In

Earlier, we have looked into the concept of ‘time-out’ where a child spends some time, usually a minute to five, away from rewarding stimuli and parental attention, as a consequence of misbehaviour. There are times when ‘time-outs’ do not work or are not appropriate. This is where  another behaviour management strategy called ‘time-in’ comes into play. 

In this article, we will cover the concept of ‘time-in’ as a disciplinary tool. 

What is ‘Time-In’?

The book, Time-in: When Time-out Doesn’t Work, states that children need to take ownership of their behaviour for their own sake, and not to please parents or others around them. ‘Time-Ins’, when implemented correctly, enhances the parent-child bond by building the child’s trust in parents and by making them feel supported. It has the potential to prevent future problems because it teaches children to solve their problems on their own. 

How To Implement ‘Time-In’?

An article, Time In Is In: When Time Out Does Not Work Try This Amazingly Effective New Discipline Technique, authored by parent educator Jean Illsley Clarke and published by Working Mother Media, helps parents understand the four-step process of ‘Time-In’, which consists of four tasks — ask, act, attend, and amend. 


Asking a question probes the child to think. Parents need to figure out the lesson to be taught from the situation before asking the question. 

Here are a few ways of discipling children by the act of asking:

  • Ask questions that allow the child to explain what happened instead of asking them why they did what they did. 
    • Yes: What happened here? /Can you tell me what just happened?
    • No: Why did you do that? 
  • Avoid questions that sound like a trick, or questions for which you already know the answer.
  • Ensure that you have the child’s attention before asking the question.
    • Are you ready to listen to me now?
  • Encourage the child to think empathetically and take responsibility for their actions.
    • My job is to protect you. Can I protect you when I cannot see you?
  • Ask the child about a family rule that is in play or the one they broke. Ask questions to help them navigate negotiable rules by asking questions when they say that they do not know. 


When talking about their misbehaviour has little effect or when children are unwilling to pay attention, performing an action may help get their attention. This is most likely to work with toddlers. 

Here are a few ways of discipling children by acting:

  • Act to prevent an accident such as using a sharp knife for buttering the toast.
  • Act to interrupt a behaviour or redirect an activity by setting ground rules. 
  • Act to get the attention of the child, when asking questions does not work.
  • Act to help children process their feelings, such as holding the child.
  • Act to reinforce rules and emphasise positive behaviour.


Attending something means to pay close attention to what is happening right now. It requires children to attend to the consequences of their actions. For parents, it means figuring out what needs to be done in a way that encourages children to face the consequences of their actions. 

Here are a few ways of discipling children by attending:

  • Pay more attention to the broken object or a hurt child than the one who caused it.
  • Attend to the rule that has been consistently broken by discussing the matter with the child.
  • Ensure that parental expectations are in line with the child’s developmental stage and needs. 
  • Pay attention to the positive behaviour. Every time the child behaves positively, praise them through verbal or non-verbal gestures. Do not overly rely on material rewards. 


Amending helps children right a wrong. It corrects their misbehaviour and helps children become better people. It goes one step further than teaching children to apologise correctly. For this step to work, parents must make amends with their children when they wrong them.  

Here is the criteria for making amends:

  • Children must put in effort for making amends. 
  • Amends should be aligned with family values. 
  • Amends should not be random, they have to be related to the problem.
  • Amends must be accepted by the person who has been wronged. 

This is how parents can use ‘Time-In’ to discipline their children. Staying connected with children is at the heart of the concept of ‘Time-In.’ There is no set way of using this approach. You should figure out what works best for your children and act accordingly. 

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About the Author

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Mekhala Joshi

“Me-kha-la!” That happens at least once when she introduces herself to new people. She’s the only ‘Mekhala’ she knows, and she takes a bit of pride in that. She is a quintessential introvert. Mekhala loves tea but cannot make a good cup of tea and often ends up having coffee. She claims that she takes all adjectives as complements unless specified otherwise. Mekhala is an organizational psychologist and psychometrician. She was a class teacher of 36 adorable girls for two years, grade 2 & 3, as a part of Teach For India Fellowship. And has worked as an independent consultant for a couple of years.

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