Tuesday Tips for Parenting – Using the Timer

Be creative in the use of a timer. It can be a stop watch, a hand held kitchen timer or even the timer on the oven or microwave. The clock is unbiased and dispassionate. It doesn’t care what day it is or who started the fight or who had more cookies, it is just there to keep track of time and count down the minutes. This is an invaluable tool for today’s moms and dads.

We use timers in our house for all sorts of things. We clock our computer game playing in 30 minute intervals. Rachel brings the timer into the living room with her, to keep track of her piano practicing time. When there is trouble and one child needs some time alone, we set the timer and send them to their room. This can either be as a part of punishment or just a well-needed rest.

joshua and daniel

These two look like they could use a time out.

When the babies/toddlers stopped napping but Mama hadn’t, we would have “quiet time” each day. The children were required to go into their rooms and play quietly. They could read or listen to music. They didn’t have to go to sleep but they did have to be quiet. This is the perfect opportunity for a timer. The children know they have to stay in their rooms until the timer rings. There is a finite beginning and ending. The timer could even be placed in view so the child can keep track of the time themselves (as long as it’s not close enough to alter – we don’t want to lose a single precious minute of Mama’s Nap Time).

building forts

Building a fort would NOT be tranquil enough for our official “Quiet Time” but it’s awfully fun and these three LOOK quiet.

During our All House Pick Up’s I will often set the timer. The children like to know the disagreeable tasks have a definite end. The phrase, “We need to clean up the house now!” is overwhelming and discouraging. The children don’t like it either. Knowing they are only required to tidy for 15 or 20 minutes somehow makes the whole process more bearable. My struggle is to be faithful to the timer and not sneak in additional minutes or make them work beyond the time allotted.

mom and rachel

I’m sure these two don’t worry about cleaning the house or tidying up, they are much too busy being pretty and enjoying the outdoors.

Yesterday I stole an idea from a magazine (or another blog or a friend, I can’t remember at this point) about using the timer to help get out of the house in a timely manner. The boys were away on their camping trip and the girls and I were getting ready for church (scandalously skipping Sunday School and going straight to the second service). Sarah wanted to show her friends at church her new flip flops (yes, fancy flip flops from Old Navy, all the rage among 5 year olds) and kept asking me when we were leaving. I told her 30 minutes, 29 minutes, 28 minutes and so on. We were both feeling a bit frustrated. Finally I told her I was going to set the timer on the stove and she could keep track of our expected departure herself.

This was a fantastic idea! Not only did it help her feel empowered and aware of the situation, it was a huge source of entertainment. Sarah pulled up a stool and watched the clock count down for over 10 minutes. As an added bonus we were actually on time for church.

When the children were arguing over the swing chair in the garage last week, I suggested they set the timer and trade places during the course of the movie. Voila, a fair and equitable solution. Everyone was satisfied, they worked things out among themselves and I was OUT of the situation.

elise and sarah

Sarah and her friend Elise don’t worry about taking turns at the park, they climb right in the swing together.

Any other innovative ways to use the timer in parenting? I’m always looking for more ideas.


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13 thoughts on “Tuesday Tips for Parenting – Using the Timer”

  1. I always loved the ways the father in the book Cheaper By the Dozen did things. He had the kids play a record in the bathroom while bathing and when it ended their time was up.LOL

  2. Kathy,
    We also use the timer for the activities you mentioned above – cleaning, sharing something, and MY NAP – we still use it for that one almost everyday… it’s only 15-20 minutes, but I sure do need it. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who hasn’t outgrown naptime. I actually think I’ve grown INTO nap time. I don’t remember needing so many naps in my 30′s (LOL). I can’t think of anything else we use the timer for right off the top of my head (other than cooking, of course, but I suppose that’s an obvious one – lol), but if I do I’ll head right back over here and leave you another note VBG!

  3. Very very creative. I esp. like the fact that the timer isn’t prejudiced in favor one way or another. Impartial.

    You’re a good mom, Miss Katherine!!

    Happy Day to you. Aunt Kate

  4. As Kathy points out, the success of the timer is closely tied to the its dispassionate and finite nature. An unpleasant situation with no end in sight can be very frustrating (just ask anyone stuck in a traffic jam) and the timer handily removes and quantifies the unknown as a source of frustration.

    As the scripture teaches:

    “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4).

    Sometimes our correction or punishment, exercised arbitrarily and without visible end, can be an unnecessary and considerable source of exasperation to our children. It can also be a good way to ensure that you don’t forget a child who has been sent to sit in isolation on the stairs (as I have done several times).

  5. Katherine,
    I am going to show this blog to Janet. I can see how helpful it would be regarding Sam’s computer and PS2 game time. Wonderful. What a great tool.

  6. Great ideas! We’ve used it for our “uncooperative” corner, but not a lot of other things. I’m going to put on my thinking cap and think of ways that it might help us in this busy household.


  7. Lisa – me too, I have always envied the energy and creativity of the father in Cheaper by the Dozen. I wish I could inspire that sort of learning in my children. I read a blog about having the kids listen to scripture in their MP3 players. They earned computer time by the number of minutes they listened to the Bible. I thought that was a great idea but I have yet to implement it. Maybe I could have it playing in the bathroom. :)

  8. During our reading time my kids have been known to run off to get me a blanket at the first sign of a drooped lid. They know they can enjoy some free time if I settle if for a little nap. Those power naps on the couch are wonderful. Sometimes it’s a true battle to stay awake during our read alouds. Ha!

  9. Malta – I think the use of timers for computer game playing has dramatically changed our family. It has brought everyone into accountability regarding their computer usage. I strongly recommend applying something like this. It’s so freeing to know there is a limit to the computer game time. The children work hard to manage their own time (setting the timers and keeping track) and are MOSTLY honest and consistent.

    Debbie – I HATE constantly being called in to judge and evaluate situations. I like to outsource it when possible. Having a timer around to mediate between the children and keep them on track is a huge relief.

  10. Hey nice job with the PhotoShop Elements retouch on that last photo. It is the first one I’ve noticed since you got your new program. It is definitely an improvement over the original, which was pretty dark.

    I like the way you took the landscape photo and cropped it to portrait dimensions. I do that all the time and it really makes some nice portraits. It got rid of all the extra background which was unncessary. Then, lightening up with the Shadows/Highlights feature really brought out the girls’ faces. You may have used just a touch too much Unsharp Mask though, noticeable in the bright highlights like the wood chips, the rock, and the sun shining on Elise’s hair. Overall, I really like the results. I look forward to more like this.

  11. I love using a timer to around the house. It even surprises me how much I get done in 15 minutes using the timer!

    I love how your whole family works and plays together!

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