Updated: Jan 20
We all know what a time out is. It’s recommended all over the place. Isolate a child when they have done something wrong. Make them feel bad in hopes that they never do that again. Train that bad behavior clear out of them.
I’m here to push for a Time In to keep us moving closer to our children instead of creating distance. Children who are making big loud noises, whether literally or figuratively through their behaviors, actually need more love. They are asking for our attention. I know there are a whole host of people and theories in the world who think we should ignore this so it goes away. But if someone needs more love and you don’t give them the love they need all you are doing is creating distance, which leads to an even emptier love tank potentially building up steam for the next cry for attention. If your gas tank is empty and you decide to ignore that red glaring light on the dash and just keep driving, things aren’t about to get better for you. Think of a child’s love tank in the same way. The behavior in front of us is like that blinking light on the dash; a reminder to fill something up not to keep draining it.
Creating space for a Time In flips things around. We can hold a hand, create a space or simply sit in witness of what is unfolding. Put on our detective hat and consider what might be the best possible way to add more love and connection to the child in distress in front of us. The solutions will be as unique as the child displaying them. When we have the intent of preserving the relationship between us and our child there is room for those solutions to arise. There is space for the feelings to be released and there is opportunity to fill up that love tank.
Sometimes all we can do is sit outside a locked bedroom door and say “I’m here if you need me” and hold the space. Other times, we can hold a hand, sit silently side by side, or create a distraction to move things in a new direction. I have been known to apply humor liberally in an attempt to shift an energy. Each time requires tuning into the child, turning off the noise around us and finding a way to bring in love and connection to help us both manage the overwhelm that has tossed things off course. It is noticing the child having trouble coping with the world and instead of withdrawing love, giving it.
Next time the storm starts a brewing and those messages of withdrawing affection surge and “go to your room” dances on the tip of your tongue, maybe, just maybe, take an extra long deep breath. Ask is there a way to turn this into a time in? I suspect it will feel awkward from time to time, as changing any behavior can, I also suspect you will create a connection, build a strong fuller love tank and find greater ease over time.
Shannon Loucks author of Love More, 50+ ways to add joy to childhood, mom to two amazing teens, married to a passion seeking husband. A transplant from British Columbia navigating the Bay Area with pen, paper and camera in hand.