This is the ninth part of a series we have titled “Concepts and Skills of Parenting.” It is adapted from the book Healing Parents: Helping Wounded Children Learn to Trust and Love. To read Part 1 — which provides a look at secure attachment at the start of life — click here. Part 2 explores the core concepts of child development. Part 3 examines the importance of trust and reciprocity in the formation of secure attachment. Part 4 provides an overview of the developing brain. Part 5 explains the importance of parenting with a mindset focused on opportunity, not crisis. Part 6 explains why it’s important to be a calm parent. Part 7 provides parents guidance about how much structure and freedom to give their children. Part 8 explains why children need chores — and accountability. 

We call it Think-It-Over Time. This is a very constructive, imposed consequence. It is similar to “time out” in that parent and child take a break, which can de-escalate a tense situation. However, Think-It-Over Time specifically aims to help a child learn, communicate and achieve positive change. There are three steps:

  1. Tell your child to sit for a brief time to think about her behaviors and choices. One or two minutes for each year of age is adequate. Don’t overdo it; this is not meant to be punitive. The think-it-over spot should be quiet, but not isolating for your child.
  2. When you are ready, not when your child demands, go to your child. Ask her the following questions: What did you do? It is important that she takes responsibility for her actions and tells the truth. What were you thinking and feeling then? This helps to understand and communicate her perceptions and emotions. What’s a better choice next time? Help her find better solutions for the future.
  3. If your child responds appropriately — with honesty and without blaming others — give praise and a big hug. Smile, and tell her all is forgiven. If your child does not respond appropriately, say, “I guess you need more time to think about it; I’ll be back soon.” Some children refuse to comply. Either they won’t sit to think it over, or they keep getting up and annoying others. It is best to give choices calmly: “Honey, you can choose to listen to me, and think it over, and everything will go well, or you can choose not to listen, and you will have a consequence. What is your choice?” Let the chips fall where they may.

Securing compliance with Think-It-Over Time

  • Three-and-a-half-year-old Tommy refuses to sit and think it over. Mom says, “I’ll be happy to give you your Legos when you think it over and we talk; let me know when you are ready.”
  • Tina, age 8, keeps getting up from the think-it-over spot and engages family members in conversation. Dad says, “You can sit five minutes my way or 10 minutes your way. Either way is fine with me.” Dad is calm and steadfast no matter what Tina decides.
  • Julie, age 11, flatly refuses to think it over. Mom says, “Bad choice, honey.” The parent does not engage in a power struggle with Julie but withdraws all privileges until the task is completed. “Take your time; just get it done before you ask me for anything,” Mom tells Julie.

Not sure how to deliver a consequence? Read more about that here.