Why Time-In? Because They Deserve It.

Logan and I rode the wave of a beautiful tantrum this afternoon.  The tantrum itself wasn’t beautiful, of course, but the experience was.

It started because she was pillow fighting and refused to stop (she was the only one playing).  I asked her if she wanted to put the pillow back onto the bed herself or if I should help her by taking the pillow and putting it back.  In the end I had to remove it from her.  She lost it.  At the start of it I recognized she was tired, but I felt some deeper frustrations as well.

This has been a period of rapid development for Logan.  She is awaiting her fourth birthday in June and has begun to question more deeply.  “Why does the sun come up?  Why does it ‘no (snow)?  Don’t a baby ‘ave tew eat when nay in a mommy’s belly?”  She finds me during the day and demands to be taught the correct pronunciation of words she struggles with.  She wants to cut in a straight line, she wants to measure flour out correctly, she wants to reach the high shelf.  Logan expects so much of herself.

Her latest quest is to master the art of tying a bow.  We have gotten as far as the initial knot, but she gets lost after that, naturally.  It’s confusing and her fingers are small and sometimes uncontrollable.  She is ready to do these things in her heart and mind, but her body does not agree with her.  How frustrating that must be.

When I took the pillow Logan began to grunt and hit the wall with her hand.  She hopped over to me on the bed, crying, and I asked if she wanted help calming down.  She asked if we could go to her room to breathe.  We left my room holding hands, Logan screaming as we walked.  She stood on her bed so that we could see eye to eye better.  I asked if she wanted to hold hands and she did.  I took both her hands in mine and we went slowly in…and out.  In…and out.  In…and out.  She looked into my eyes.  Opened her mouth.  SCREAMED in my face.

She turned to the window and started to hit the blinds.  This is where it got beautiful, for me.

I felt the familiar tug of anger at having lost control over the situation.  I looked at a child smacking the blinds and screaming, and I was consciously aware that my first inclination was to think: unruly. disrespectful. wild.  I had already asked Logan if she wanted me to help her and she’d kept smacking the blinds, so I told myself to just shut up for a minute and watch her.  I didn’t attempt to stifle the feeling I was experiencing, instead I went with it.  I held onto those words and let it aggravate me.  I owned and allowed my feelings.  Then, I dropped anything else I was thinking about: how loud the screaming was, how she “knows better”, what would happen to the blinds, what needed to get done around the house.  I let go of all of it.

And you know what?  The anger dissipated.  When I allowed myself to feel only that feeling, and didn’t compound it with any other pressures or concerns at that moment, I was able to view the tantrum more objectively.  And I wasn’t upset anymore.

And I heard my voice in my head: what can I learn from this?

I realized immediately that I wasn’t looking for an answer from myself.  I was reminding myself of what my goal is – why do you use time-in instead of timeout?  For one thing, Logan isn’t a child who prefers to be left alone with her big emotions; at least for now.  But ultimately I love time-in because it allows me to watch Logan at what can be considered, for a toddler, a “low point.”

When I was married and my husband or I were having a hard time, we seldom left each other alone.  When we did start to walk away from one another during our times of distress, it signaled the end of our friendship and our relationship.  Standing by my husband’s side and listening to him express what was bothering him always brought us closer.  It helped me to view the events of our lives from his perspective; and to appreciate that a shared experience can in fact present very different obstacles, for different people.  The same goes for when I would talk to my mom, or my sisters, or my co-workers.  The same can go for our little people.

What can I learn from this?  I saw Logan hitting the blinds and screaming and I remembered what a little perfectionist she is.  I thought, “She doesn’t like losing control.  It is my job to step in and to show her that she can do this.”  I said, “Lo we don’t hit objects, please.  Can you stop or do you need help to move away?”  I’m actually not sure what I was going to do if she’d said she needed help :), but usually when I ask her these questions she accepts the help.  This time was no different.

She turned to me and stopped hitting but kept screaming.  I stood by and watched as she expressed the range of her emotions.  I walked away from the bed and sat down on the floor.  She came to sit, still screaming, her back turned to me.  She put her head into her lap.

“I don’t LIKE mysuwf!”  She shouted.

“Why not?”  I asked.

“Because I do sumpin WONG!’

“What did you do wrong, Lo?”

“She looked up at me and cried, “I wiss it could be my buwfday now!”  She came to sit on my lap and put her head to my chest and cried.  I rubbed her back and stayed quiet.

“Sometimes it’s not easy to be three, is it Logan?”  She picked her head up.

“No,” she answered.

“I understand Logan.  I was three before, too.  There is so much you want to do and sometimes it’s hard.”

“I can’t diiiiiiie a booooooow!”  She cried.

“But Logan, think of all the things you can do!”  We sat and ticked off what she’s learned, and she started to look more proud of herself.  She was tired and spent.  It had only been about fifteen minutes but she’d worn herself out.  I hugged her close and kissed her soft, round cheek.

We sat quietly on the floor.  I told her I was going into the living room to sit with Ry.  She waited a few minutes and joined us.  Sat down and started to color.  All was well again.

You won’t read a personal blog written by a three-year-old.  There is no Facebook page or website run by an actual toddler, highlighting the daily challenges they face.  The books are written by adults – doctors, teachers, psychologists, scientists.  What about the babes themselves?

I like to offer Logan a forum to air her troubles.  Toddlerhood is a carefree, happy time – but toddlers face challenges that are very real to them.  Taking time-in with Logan, even when her behavior challenges my patience (but everything challenges my patience), gives me a greater appreciation for issues I may not consider enough in the moment.  It has taught me that when Lo comes to me and asks to learn a skill, and she finds she can’t master it immediately, she doesn’t just forget it.  She thinks about it when she’s quiet.  She tries to understand why she can emulate the exact motions of a task in her mind’s eye – but she can’t seem to carry it out in reality.

Just as when I fall short and I feel I can do better, it heavies my heart.  I sometimes carry it with me.  And fortunately I get to write this blog and tell others about my trials, and I have the privilege of receiving feedback and support.  Toddlers don’t network.  They count on us to listen to them and offer advice and feedback.  That is tough to do when we’re using time-out.

There are exceptions to every rule, I know and understand.  Generally though I feel it’s we should try to find ways to help our toddlers calm themselves without the use of time-out.  It is educational for us and affirming for them.  It reminds them, pointedly, that someone (or some people) is always there for them, always supports the, no matter what they do.  Toddlers put enough pressure onto themselves, we shouldn’t add to it.

What can I learn?  As has increasingly been the case, I’ve learned that many of the tactics I apply in my relationships with my adult loved ones work every bit as well with my children.  Our children deserve the same consideration (more in my opinion), that we give anyone else.  They are people just like us, only smaller, so we tailor what we do to fit them.  Let everyone have their chance to be heard.

All love.

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Categories: Gentle Parenting


I'm Kimberley, work-at-home single momma to two girls, Ryleigh, 9, and Logan, 3. The Single Crunch is the story of our journey from a lifestyle saturated in mainstream ideals to an organic existence, and learning to love each other, ourselves, and any living thing, unconditionally. I'm passionate about breastfeeding, unschooling, single parenting, writing, grief, childhood abuse, childism, and natural living. I write about all this and whatever else moves me, which is a lot, and I throw in some funny on the regular. I'm humbled and grateful to have you reading, thank you. I hope something here will help you in any way.

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12 Comments on “Why Time-In? Because They Deserve It.”

  1. Sandy McG-B (NZ)
    February 16, 2013 at 2:10 am #

    Thank you, this is so inspiring, I hope to make this my bench mark for when my baby turns toddler and needs this kind of support, respect and understanding.

    • February 17, 2013 at 11:08 pm #

      Thank you Sandy. You’ve got a head start, preparation is so helpful in raising toddlers. That’s probably why it’s so messy…because we never have time to prepare lol. :) Thank you for reading. – Kimberley

  2. February 17, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    Wthank you for sharing that beautiful experience! I have an eighteen month old and when he had his first tantrum I held him and empathized with hi. Since then he seems to handle his emotions really well and he hasn’t had a full blown tantrum again, but I know as he grows we’ll encounter challenging situations and it helps to see how others handle similar scenarios. Everything changes when we see things from their perspectives.

  3. February 17, 2013 at 10:37 pm #

    I have a 6yo who is going through a somewhat new tantrum phase and it has been difficult. It’s almost like he’s 3 again. I don’t always handle the situation correctly, but I do know that I’m doing a better job now than when he was 3. I was in a tough spot when he was 3, and in my heart, I know that he knew how stressed and sad I was all the time. I’m sure that’s why he was always so angry. Now that he’s older and doing the same things again, I am not going to let myself make the same mistakes.
    Some of his “tantrums” are time-in moments for us. I’ll go and sit with him while he rages. There are some times though, when he is asked to go to his room and calm down by himself, but this is usually when his “tantrum” is about something he has repeatedly given us trouble with.
    It’s hard sometimes, but I can honestly say that I feel like I am doing my best. When he was younger, I know I could have done better. There’s always time for change.
    Thanks for sharing you stories with us!

    • February 17, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

      Karin, once on the page we were having a discussion about timeout, and at the time I wasn’t really sure of what I wanted the page to represent. We were all going on about the downsides of timeout and you spoke up about your son it made me think, and you were so right. I can’t know the dynamic between you and your children, and I take that into account when I write, or I try to. I’m learning to more and more, the more parents I speak with and listen to.

      I, too, know when it’s best for me to not follow Logan into her room, or at least not immediately. When she wants my help I go to her, or if she needs it – like if she starts throwing toys – I go to her. I should probably write about one of those times… Anyway I’m sure you know better when your child needs time in or when they need space. I never mean to sound like I just think all parents should do all this to all children all the time. :)

      We all are doing our best, I know. Parenting is cray lol. Seriously. I love all of your comments on the page and I so appreciate how you stood up for yourself, and did it respectfully so the lesson stuck. Blah blah I’m a sap, but I haven’t really gotten to “talk” to you on the page because you tend to comment on the posts with lots of comments. :) Thank you for finding TSC. Love.


      • February 18, 2013 at 11:22 am #

        This is one of the reasons I love social media and blogging so much. I love the little community and friendships we form here. I was so excited when I read your audition for Blogger Idol. I can honestly say that you immediately became one of my favorites, and I was hella disappointed when you were eliminated.

        I love the commenting and conversation on fb threads. Being a SAHM doesn’t allow me much conversation with other women much, and I always appreciate other POVs and opinions, as long as they’re expressed respectfully.

        It’s funny. I don’t remember this particular thread that you’re referring to, but I love that you do. It tells me a lot about your character and what your readers mean to you. Thanks for thanking me. LOL It is my pleasure to follow your blog and fb page. I admire you for being the kind of parent you are. It’s difficult enough to parent with a partner, but doing it alone is way harder, Good on ya! Love and light to you, lady! xoxo

  4. Audrey
    March 2, 2013 at 6:31 am #

    That was beautiful. I cried. I’ve had similar experiences with my three year old. Especially since her father left for another woman (she think he’s ‘at school’ which is what he told us through the long affair). Sometimes I don’t handle it well, if I’m not in the right place myself, but lately I’ve been doing just what you said and feeling my feelings right now, without judgment, and seeing her feelings in a new light. Being three is hard.

  5. Amber
    January 11, 2014 at 11:15 am #

    Wow. I aspire to be that zen-like when dealing with my own toddler’s tantrums!

  6. libby
    January 11, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing this experience! Your insights are so compassionate and honest. I’ve always wondered how truly effective time outs are… the daycare centers around here DO NOT allow them anymore. A “time in” seems so much more appropriate and helpful to little ones full of big emotions. Thank you for your detailed description.

  7. January 11, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

    Great piece of writing. You should write a book for adults or even children. You are a great mother and a great person (it sounds like). Very inspiring. Best wishes for your success!

  8. Rebecca
    January 11, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

    Wow. Thank you.
    My children are human too, I wouldn’t tell a friend to go sit in the laundry if they were upset. Such great insight you have. Thank you!

  9. August 31, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

    i totally agree..sometimes, I feel alone and want someone to talk to. Sending my child to time-out shows them that they need to work out their feelings on their own. At 26, I can’t always work out my problems on my own. How am I to expect my children to do so. I want to talk, I want to feel comforted in times of stress. How are my children not to want the same thing?

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