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.
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 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.
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.
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.