The concept of a time-in was a game changer for me.
If you have young(ish) kids and have never heard of a time-in, then please—keep reading. And if you don’t—also keep reading. (You never know when this might come in useful!)
Several years ago when I was knee deep in cloth diapers and homemade baby food (yes, our first child got all the good stuff. Don’t even ask about the second and third.) I was an avid consumer of parenting books. Most had great nuggets of wisdom I attempted to tuck away into my sleep-deprived brain for another day.
Truth be told, most of those nuggets got lost in the chaos that is my brain. Never to be seen again amidst lost card game instructions, movie plots, and to-do lists.
However, one parenting tip that stuck with me was the idea of a time-in. In case it’s a new idea for you, a time-in is basically the opposite of a time-out, but it works for kids of any age; not just the youngest ones.
I’m pretty sure every parent in America is familiar with the concept of the time-out: you know, wait until child misbehaves, then banish them to a small area where they miss out on the fun that’s going on around them while they reconsider their bad choices and plan for how to make better choices in the future. Uh-huh. Because that’s totally how it goes, right?
In reality (well, my reality anyway) time-outs have looked more like this: pick up screaming child, place them in a certain area away from all the fun, explain the wrongdoings and consequences, plug ears while child continues screaming and doesn’t hear a word you say. Child screams until you either retrieve them or they fall into a sniffley sleep. Does that sound more familiar to anyone else?
The magic of the time-in is that it nips most major meltdowns in the bud. What happens is that you deliberately spend time with your child periodically throughout the day. (It doesn’t have to be lots of time, it can be as little as just ten minutes every few hours, depending on the child.)
By paying deliberate attention to your child, by getting into their world and really focusing on them, you are ensuring that they feel valued, loved, and cared for.
And when a child feels valued, loved, and cared for at the start of a day, they are way less likely to pitch fits throughout the day.
Obviously, it’s not a magic bullet. Tantrums and fits definitely still happen. But I’m here to tell you that time-ins have worked well for us.
When my youngest was a toddler and I was homeschooling my two bigger kids, time-ins were a crucial part of our morning routine. I knew that if I spent just ten minutes playing with and loving on my toddler, she would be way more inclined to toddle around happily while I turned my attention to the big kids for school.
And if I forgot or skipped our time-ins before school? My precious, easy-going toddler would turn super whiney. She would get into everything she knew she wasn’t supposed to be in.
Why? I imagine it’s because she didn’t receive my positive attention to begin with and so resorted to getting my attention however she could.
Now my kids are ages 6,8, and 10 and time-ins are still a necessary part of our days. My kids don’t generally throw tantrums these days (hooray!), but I can still see a difference when they’ve had a little quality time with me or their dad.
They get along with each other better, they complain less, and they’re happy to entertain themselves for quite a while afterward. And then I can pull out my trusty to-do list and get to work!
Pretty powerful results for a pretty simple concept.
Yes, all parents are busy. All parents have a billion and a half things running through their minds at any given moment.
But really—ten minutes. Three times per day.
If you have kids and you haven’t spent ten focused, screen-free minutes with them lately, I challenge you to give it a try. If you have more than ten minutes, by all means spend more focused time with them. I’m challenging myself, too, by the way. In no way do I have this all figured out.
Catch them in the morning before things start to go wrong. Connect with them first and then observe the positive differences in how they deal with their day.
See how drastically time-outs are reduced when time-ins become a part of your daily routine.
And when time-ins and time-outs fail you (as they sometimes will), remind yourself of Psalm 127, 3-4:
“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.”
No matter our moods and attitudes or our children’s moods and attitudes, our children are gifts from God. They are valuable. Precious. Small reflections of Jesus in our very homes. Let’s do our best to treat them as such.
Have you used time-ins with the kids in your life or is this a new idea for you? Leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts! Also, take a sec and head over (or down) to the subscribe button and sign up so you can receive new blog posts straight to your email!
One more thing—I had endeavored not to blog about kids /parenting /homeschooling since there are a bazillion other blogs out there focused on these things. But since it’s all such a part of who I am, those topics will probably start coming up more often. And that’s okay. 🙂 Thanks for reading and have a happy weekend!