In Praise of the Timer

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timer - Boston Moms

“Just two more minutes!!!”

How many times a day do I hear this? And how many times a day do I hear, “Just two more minutes!” after I have already given two more minutes. It’s frustrating. It’s exhausting.

And I figured out a great little way to make it that much easier.

I may be late to the game, but I recently discovered the joys of THE TIMER — a simple digital timer with start, stop, and reset buttons. This small tool has made my life that much happier.

By giving my daughter the timer, she now has a heightened sense of accountability, autonomy, and self-determination. She is proud of herself for being able to set the timer, and when the alarm goes off she is so proud of being able to come out and show how she can be on task. And I can take a step back.

Now don’t get me wrong — it’s not a foolproof system. Just the other morning, my daughter forgot to press the start button on her timer, so it totally did not work. And sometimes, she is so involved in an activity that when the timer goes off, she is simply not ready to transition. But things are way better than they were.

And this got me wondering what other moms are doing — wondering how I might up my timer game. So I did what we all do nowadays — I polled my Facebook audience.

Moms told me they agreed that digital timers, whether on their phones, Alexa, or as a standalone product, were helpful for transitions like the ones we struggled with. The timer — a being separate from mom — is there beeping at the kids to tell them it’s time to put their shoes on. It also is helpful when siblings are attempting to share a toy or take turns in other ways. One mom used the timer for her daughter who dragged her feet when it came to chores. Using her daughter’s competitive nature to her advantage, she would set the timer and challenge her daughter to beat the clock. 

Many moms talked about visual timers — using an analog clock — which can let kids see how much time has actually elapsed and how much time is left. This can help younger kids learn to conceptualize time and can also be helpful for schoolwork or brushing teeth, if it’s a battle to stay on task. And guess what? There’s even a timer that was seemingly designed for the era of COVID — a handwashing timer

Not to be left out is the buzzer-less hourglass sand timer. One friend noted that this timer serves as a visual aid and has the added bonus of not buzzing at completion. Why is no buzz helpful? Well, let’s say your kid doesn’t like reading, and you finally got him to sit down and do 20 minutes of reading. What if the 20 minutes has passed and your kid is engrossed in a story? Do you really want a timer to go off telling him he is done? Nope — keep on reading, kid! And congrats, mom, on getting in that bonus time!

After hearing all these great tips I can’t believe I’ve only just learned to love the timer. It’s amazing how something so external can take some of the burden off the parent. Yes, you still have to parent, and yes, the timer will not turn your kids into magically obeisant creatures, but it’s definitely an aid I plan to experiment with more to see how it can help my family.

Kids want to do the right thing and be “good,” and these little devices put more power and control in their hands and more predictability and responsibility in their lives.

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