Janae B. Weinhold, Ph.D.
When children show signs of emotional upset, they really need the help of caring adults to calm and quiet themselves. Common symptoms of emotional upset in young children include hitting, crying, throwing, withdrawing, bullying and oppositional behaviors. The most important thing to remember in these situations is that emotionally upset children have some problem that they are not able to resolve within themselves. They need adults to both help them identify the problem and to help them fix it. In this context, the idea of discipline is not a useful or helpful place from which to begin. A more effective approach begins with an attitude of what does this child need and how can I help meet this need.
The first step in helping a young child return to calm, harmonious behavior is supporting them both emotionally and energetically. Adults who are bonded to a child are the most effective in doing this, as children will attune only to adult caregivers who they trust will meet their needs. The most effective tool for reestablishing this connection is known as time-in. This involves placing children physically on or near to an adult for a period of time and providing calming words and sounds, empathetic facial signals, touch and firm but loving limits.
To download a four-page PDF file describing age-appropriate Time-In techniques to use with children, click here.