Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Works for me Wednesday: A Timer

Does it ever feel like your kids are moving in slow motion? Do you have trouble enforcing the time limit in a time-out? How about sharing? Ever have trouble getting one kid to let his siblings have a turn with a particularly popular toy?

Enter the timer. Parents, it is your friend!

Here are the ways we use it to work for us:

1. When our oldest is in the shower he would be in there for 20 minutes if it were up to him, but considering this is longer than I even get in the shower, we needed to reign it in. Also, he is sometimes slow about getting in the shower. So we'll start the shower and then start the timer, say for 6 or 7 minutes. He must be showered and get out when the timer goes off or there is a consequence (either loss of a bedtime story or loss of a level on the privilege chart -- see this post for explaination).

2. For our kids younger than around 4 years old we don't use the privilege chart for consequences, but rather time-out. When the child is in the time-out spot, the timer is set for 3 minutes if the child is 3 years old, 2 minutes if they are 2 years old, etc. The child cannot come out until the timer goes off. The timer is more accurate than a distracted parent may be enforcing the time limit. Also, the child cannot argue or plead with the timer to come out sooner, but they can try that with the parent.

3. My kids have some toys that are their own that live in their rooms and that they can choose to share or not share. Of course they are encouraged to share, especially if they ever want to get to play with a toy from their sibling's room. But, the majority are community toys that are housed in the playroom. These are to be shared. It never fails that there will be times that even in a room full of toys they will want to play with the same one toy at the same time. They are not allowed to grab a toy away from someone, and must wait their turn. The problem with this comes in when one child is hogging the toy. That is where the timer comes in. I will ask that child how much longer before they will be ready to share the toy. If they answer something longer than 5 minutes then I will have them try again, because that is not really the spirit of sharing at this young age. If they do not agree on a reasonable time then they will loose the toy. But if a time is agreed on then the timer is set for those minutes and when it goes off the child must pass the toy on to the other child who wanted it. If they refuse to share at that time, then they will either loose a privilege or have a time out.

One more thing about the timer, our firstborn is THAT child who will test the limits. So, he has tried his hand at resetting the timer for longer or shorter depending on which situation it was used in and which way benefited him. There are big consequences for this! That is not tolerated and is sneaky behavior on par with lying.

Do you use a timer in your home? Have you found any other uses for it in managing kid behavior?

My Previous Works for Me Wednesday posts:

A Privilege Chart
The Capture Monster
Music to Get Kids to Sleep
Before They Leave Home
Ways to Save Money
Great Children's Books
One-On-One Time With Kids

Find more Works for me Wednesday tips at We are THAT Family. And be sure to welcome Kristen as our new Works for me Wednesday hostess!


  1. I use the timer on the microwave a lot for time outs. Upstairs I set a clock alarm for TV time, etc. It's a good reminder for myself too:-) Sometimes I set the timer for 10 minutes and see what all I can get cleaned in the kitchen in that time. Makes me do it fast!

  2. I've got four little girls who have NO concept of time. This would really help out when I tell them they need to be patient for something, such as their turn on the computer. Thanks for the tip!

    Amy ~ The Salty Momma

  3. LOVE this idea! You always have great ones!
    When sharing toys, do they ever get tired of it before the timer runs out? Mine must be ADD because they are over that toy they just screamed for about 5 seconds later!
    I am going to have to get a timer! That's great!

  4. We use timers with our three little people as well. And I use them for myself to make sure I don't spend too much time online!

  5. I've been meaning to get a timer forever! Your suggestions make me want one even more - need to add it to the shopping list!

  6. I just love your blog! You are so funny, practical, and thoughtful in dealing with the "chaos"! Great writing! Looking forward to reading more.

    Thanks for visiting!

  7. oh yes! We would die without our timer! Our dd wants a timer for everything (I guess it's to keep us honest!)

  8. I use a timer for breakfast in the morning. My son has 15 minutes to eat his breakfast. We call it Man vs. Food, he loves it.

  9. We had to set a timer because if our kids spoke during their time outs we would set the timer all the way back to the beginning. So since they couldn't ask if their timeout was over we were worried we would forget about it so we set the timer to remind us! That way they didn't stay in timeout any longer than they were supposed to.

  10. I agree, love the timer! MY husband laughs at me because ours is always going off. I have also used it for time out and sharing toys. Never to put a time limit on a shower! Maybe when mine are a little older...I also use it for cleaning. Sometimes I use it to stay focused myself, other times I challenge them to see how fast we can clean up a room. They like to yell, "On your mark, get set, go!" and then I start the timer...it really helps motivate them!!

  11. I love my timer. I also use it when they break a table rule (like chewing with their mouth open or dropping food all over their lap). I will have them push their chair away from the table for a certain period of time (usually one minute) and start the timer. When it goes off they can push back to the table and go about eating as if nothing has happened. It works great! They remember that much better than Mom saying, "Lean over your plate" 50 times. Lisa~


I'd love to hear what you think!