A few months ago, I was given a ridiculously useful parenting tool by my sister (who happens to have a PHD in school psychology). It’s called the TIME TIMER(pictured left) and it’s something she uses very successfully with the kids at her school.
If we shut the television or take away the iPad, she freaks out, no matter how many verbal warnings we give (“after this video”, “five more minutes”, etc.).
If it’s time to take a bath or go to bed or eat dinner, there is usually a chase around the house that ends with a healthy dose of flailing and crying.
My sister told us that the TIME TIMER can help us with a lot of our issues. And after using it for just a few days, we quickly found out she was right.
Basically, the Time Timer is a large clock timer with a simple visual reference to show time elapsing (the red section gets smaller and smaller as time passes). Saying “five more minutes” to a two-year-old means nothing, but seeing “five minutes” slowly deplete itself visually will eventually begin to make sense.
She recommended using it in the following way:
Introduce and explain the clock
Use it as much as possible throughout the day so that your child gets used to the concept quicker
Start by using it for positive things like “ten more minutes until we go to the playground” so your child doesn’t only associate it with negative activities (going to bed) or ending positive activities (putting away the iPad)
Give warnings as time passes (“five more minutes until we go to the playground…, two more minutes until we go to the playground”) by pointing at the clock so she can visually see the difference
When time is up (an optional bell will ding), blame the clock for the switch in activity. Like this:
“Ok, time is up! Time to put on your PJs!”
“But I want to watch one more video!!!”
“Sorry, babe. There is no more time!”
Point to clock.
Sounds pretty easy, right?
After one week of using the Time Timer with my two-year-old, this is what happened:
1. Mazzy became very interested in understanding the clock.
2. My husband and I were finally on the same page because we could both use the timer for reference. He didn’t have to remember what limit I set for Mazzy because it was right there in front of him. And we were both less likely to go against the other’s wishes by allowing Mazzy additional time.
In other words— the timer not only made setting limits easier, it made us more apt to stick to them.
3. Mazzy began to put up less of a fuss when we stuck to the timer.
CASE IN POINT: A few nights after implementing the Time Timer, I told Mazzy it was time to brush her teeth and she countered with, “No, I’m reading!”
So I said, “Okay, five more minutes of reading and then you have to brush your teeth.”
To which Mazzy responded, “Show clock!”
We’ve now been using the timer for a few months and it’s effectiveness has not dissipated. Mazzy asks to use the clock whenever I want her to switch from one activity to another (i.e. playing with her toys switching to eating at the dinner table).
Just giving her five minutes on the clock usually does the trick. I also have come to realize that it’s totally reasonable for her to ask for a few more minutes because if someone forced you to stop what you were doing without warning and immediately plopped you somewhere else, you would not be happy either.
Sometimes Mazzy will try to negotiate for longer than five minutes (“Give me ten!”), which is interesting because in addition to helping her behavior, the Time Timer is also effectively teaching her the concept of time.
In conclusion, the Time Timer has been a complete lifesaver. It’s helped control Mazzy’s outbursts and helped my husband and me be better parents who are more apt to enforce the rules.
No one is paying me to say any of these things. But I reached out to Time Timer to see if they would give away a clock to my readers so that someone else could experience the change. They agreed.
TO ENTER: Just leave a comment in the comment section below. For a second entry tweet about the contest and then leave a second comment. For example…
Just entered to win a life-saving parenting tool from @ToddlerTimes #giveaway #TimeTimer http://bit.ly/RrDYlu
Winner will be chosen at random and announced on Friday, August 17th at 11am.
UPDATE: Congratulations to Candace Portman, who won the Time Timer. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your prize!