Time In: Guiding children's behaviour


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Government of SA - Time In: Guiding Children's Behaviour

A ‘time in’ approach to guiding children’s behaviour involves staying close to your child when they are overwhelmed with strong feelings. Staying connected helps them feel safe and secure, and to calm down. Children gradually learn to manage their own feelings and behaviour.Photo of a father and a girl

A ‘time in’ approach

Using a ‘time in’ approach means staying with your child when they have ‘big’ feelings and are having trouble managing their behaviour. It does not mean giving in to what they want or rewarding the behaviour you don’t want. It is about staying connected with your child and letting them know you understand how they feel.

‘Time in’ creates the best situation for a child to gradually learn that strong feelings are OK and they can be managed. It is also a chance, once the emotional storm has passed, to talk about what happened and how to deal with things next time.

Staying with your child during ‘time in’ helps them:

Staying with your child when they have strong feelings or difficult behaviour sends the message that you love them no matter what.

What to do during ‘time in’

When your child is out-of-control

When your child has calmed down

Help them learn the words they need to ask for what they want. Be careful not to shame your child by making fun of them or telling them they are silly or naughty. This can hurt them and have ongoing impact.

Be patient — young children need lots of practice to learn what is expected.

Create a calm space in your home

It can help to create a ‘calm space’ in your home where children and adults can go to feel calm and relaxed.

Don’t call it ‘time in’ because your child may see it as where you go when you are ‘bad’.

Ask what they would like to have there to help them feel calm, e.g. soft toys, books, bean bags, blankets.

When you see your child getting upset, help prevent a melt-down by getting in early. You might say ‘I can see you’re upset because you want to play outside. Let’s go to the calm space and work out what you can do until the rain stops’.

What about ‘time out’?

‘Time out’ is when an upset child is removed from the situation and sent or taken to a ‘time out’ place. They are left alone to calm down and think about what they’ve done wrong, and to change their behaviour.

‘Time out’:

Getting help

When upsets happen, the most important thing is to make sure your child is safe.

If you feel angry, you might need to take some deep breaths or step away for a moment until you are calm.

If their behaviour ‘pushes your buttons’ a lot you may need to talk with your doctor or a counsellor.

Looking for more information?

ParentLink - for other parenting guides, online parenting information:

Child and Family Centres - for parenting information and support

Raising Children’s Network - covering topics for parenting newborns to teens


This guide’s content was produced by Parenting SA.

© Department of Education and Child Development, Government of South Australia. Reproduced with permission and adapted by the ACT Government to reflect Australian Capital Territory laws (11/17).

Important: This information is not intended to replace advice from a qualified practitioner.


Published by ParentLink, Community Services Directorate
GPO Box 158, Canberra ACT 2601, telephone 13 34 27, email parentlink@act.gov.au

ACT Government Publication No. 16/1363 (December 2016)

The text for this topic is copyright Department of Health, Government of South Australia.