We've talked before about how helpful a timer can be in all sorts of parenting situations. I really liked the way Katy (author of Adventures in Parenting) expanded on the examples, so I thought it would be a great time to revisit the topic. We find the homework routine hard to resume after the holiday break, and our timer has been ticking nonstop.
"Go to your room!"
"Do your homework!"
"Clean your room!"
To a child, these commands seem like life sentences. Because children do not have an accurate perception of elapsed time, they think the tasks will take forever. They do not understand that 15 minutes is not a lot of time.
Enter the timer – the old-fashioned wind up ticking kind, not the digital type.
The timer has become a vital part of my family routine. It helps my children to organize their time, to get their work done, and to learn the value of time. The best of all: it has *replaced my yelling.*
As a work tool
I set the timer for 15 minutes for my children to clean their rooms. If I see them cleaning their rooms diligently for the entire 15 minutes, then they can have their free time. I am there cleaning alongside them to do the harder work that they cannot do, such as wiping the blinds. This method gets me motivated to do some necessary cleaning, too.
When they see and hear the timer ticking and they know there is a definite start and end time, and they are motivated to get going on their chore. If they lose focus and begin to play, I increase the time by 1 minute.
If they whine, "Can I stop now?" I do not yell. I merely point to the ticking Timer.
As a play tool
I set the timer for 30 minutes of computer time. The children can gauge how much time to spend on their favorite sites so they don't get caught half-way into a game or something. When the Timer goes off – DING! – it's time to get off the computer. If the children continue playing, those minutes will be taken off their computer time during their next free time.
If they ask, "How much more time do I have?" I do not have to yell. I merely point to the timer.
(Just as a side note, I do not limit my children's computer time if they are using it for schoolwork or other learning functions. And I use this method for myself so I don't end up on computer all day either!)
As a behavior tool
When my children begin to fight, I do not yell at them nor do I listen to their accusations about who started it. I merely set the timer for 5 minutes time-out. Each child goes to a different room in the house and they stay away from each other for 5 minutes. When the timer goes off – DING! – they can go back to what they were doing before.
If they scream, "Can I come out now?" I do not yell. I merely point to the timer.
If the quarrel was something serious, they've cooled off enough in 5 minutes so we can discuss the issue calmy. If it is just the usual bickering, 5 minutes is enough to halt the battle, and it usually doesn't resume.
You can use the timer for just about anything – time your stay at the toy store to play with the toys, time the amount of time doing their homework before taking a break, time the amount of time to soak in the bathtub, etc.
I go everywhere with my timer. This tool has saved me a lot of aggravation.
Amen. We use the time as a turn-taking tool, as a reminder to get out of the shower, as video/TV/computer time monitor, and as a tool for teaching our kids about how the passage of time feels. My 8 YO son still has a hard time knowing the difference between 5 and 20 and 60 minutes, so it helps to give him some sort of scale by which to measure in his mind.
How do you use your timer?