No form of discipline should ever be used just because children are crying or angry as long as they are getting their feelings out in a way that does not hurt themselves or anyone else. Discipline should be reserved only for teaching safer and more appropriate ways to behave when actions are out of control, such as being aggressive or refusing to do what is asked. So, here comes the reassuring part! Parents can set clear limits on unacceptable behavior and discipline their toddlers in a way that quickly changes that behavior without harming their children or their relationships with their children. The goal of Mindful Parenting is not to cause suffering, but to teach children that they have the ability to change their behavior, similar to how it is done in peaceful cultures, thereby gaining parents’ approval, which in an attached relationship is their greatest motivator.
Time-Ins are used to help a child “listen inside” to monitor his behavior. They can be initiated as soon as a toddler begins to understand cause and effect, sometime around eighteen months of age. During Time-Ins, the child determines how long it takes to get “ready” to do what has been asked of him. Time-Ins keep the focus of behavior change inside the child teaching self-control, instead of Time-Outs in which it is externally imposed, with a parent or a clock determining how long the penalty will last. Another major difference is the child is never banished to another room, the parent always stays with him patiently waiting, never chastising, but merely inquiring whether he is ready to do as was asked. This eliminates shame and feelings of abandonment which lead to big melt-downs rather than simple changes in behavior.
When and How to Use Time-Ins
When your toddler does something unacceptable, such as throwing a banana on the floor, clearly state what you want her to do. “Pick that banana up off of the floor.” If she refuses to do it, firmly tell her that she needs to sit down wherever she is (or a previously designated spot in that room such as a chair or pillow) until she is “ready” to pick up the banana. Then, just calmly wait with her until she is ready to do that. (This approach should only be initiated when there is enough time to allow the child to become “ready,” not when you need to be racing out the door.) You may ask, “Are you ready to pick up the banana?” If she isn’t ready, then tell her to stay seated until she is ready. If your child should test you by saying she is ready, but then refusing to do as she was asked…just calmly, respond, “Whoops, you made a mistake. You thought you were ready, but you aren’t quite ready, yet. Go back and sit down until you are really ready.” Continue to have the child sit back down until she picks up the banana.
As soon as children realize that it’s up to them to change their behavior, they learn quite quickly to be self-controlling. Within a short time, when you tell your toddler she will need to take a Time-In until ready to do what was asked, the child will most likely say, “Okay, I’m ready,” without even needing to sit on the “ready seat.” If this type of discipline is initiated with an older youngster, it may take up to two weeks (rarely longer) of consistently using Time-Ins until the child clearly understands and accepts that she can and must change her behavior.