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Time In vs. Time Out

Updated: Nov 17, 2019

Just before the Summer holidays my 6 year old son decided one morning he wasn’t having any more of it. 

He climbed on top of the kitchen table (when it was time to leave the house) and shouted out: "I am not going to school".  

Not only am I in a panic most mornings because I order myself about that I have to leave for work… , this particular morning at 8.30 am, the window cleaner was witnessing the entire spectacle! 

In these moments of utter parenting helplessness, I am so grateful when after a while awareness kicks in and I snap out of it. Not always - we are all human ;-).

I remembered the tool: “Time In vs Time Out”

(as Dan Siegel likes to call it and Jane Nelsen describes in Positive Discipline).

Here is how this can work

Proactively, at a completely different time when everyone is calm such as a Family Meeting or other content moment:

- Each family member picks their own place in the house, flat, holiday home etc.

- Here you may go to when you need to retreat; so you won’t hurt others (adults included)

- It can be as simple as a cushion on the floor in a spare room.

- Give this special spot a name if you like

(In the picture below is my son’s favourite soft-toy Butch in his cool-off place “Butch’s Den”)

In the heat of the moment (once your awareness kicks in) ask your child:

1. Would it help you to go to … (Butch’s Den) ?

If the answer is No, ask:

2. Would you like me to go with you to … (Butch’s Den)?

If the answer is No, say:

3. I need time so I can be loving (Annett) again, I will go to my ….

Role model going to your own cool-off area.

At first this sounds so much longer and time consuming than just loosing the rag, punishing, sending kids to time out and whatever else alienates them.

I guarantee you this works, is respectful and teaches our children this relationship elixir that is so invaluable:


The old system where one has power over another is dying. 

So we need a different approach.

I feel it is us - the parents - who have the ability, strength and are the example to bring about the needed change in this current system.

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