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The timer is a wonderful tool for you to use with your children from babyhood on up through childhood. Here are some examples of how you can use the timer in your home:
When you are working to have independent playtime with your child, the timer can be a great help. Set the timer for whatever length of time you are aiming for. Keep in mind that if your child is resistant to independent play, you probably want to keep this length less than 5 minutes at first.
Leave the timer in the room with your child. Tell your child to have fun and play and you will be back once the timer goes off. Your child will soon learn that the timer, not her crying, is what decides when independent playtime is over.
As your child can play happily for five minutes, increase the time slowly. This is very effective. I have often suggested this to moms and they come back with positive reports.
This is the same concept. Setting a timer lets your child realize that a certain amount of time needs to pass before he can move on to the next task. In this case, your child knows that he must sit in time out until the timer goes off. Him whining and crying will not get him out; the timer going off decides.
I do have a word of caution here. You don’t want your child to think that all he has to do is go sit in a room by himself for a few minutes and then he can go on his way. If your child starts to view time out as something that is no big deal, try to find another method of punishment that will be effective for him. The timer can act as your minimum, but you don’t want your child to perceive that the timer rules you. Mom always decides.
You can use the timer for training purposes. You might be wanting to train your child to sit still. You can set the timer and have him sit quietly until the timer goes off. Reset the timer each time he moves or speaks.
This is the category that got my mind thinking for this post. Brayden has always been very good about saying thank you, even from a young age. “Thank You” was one of his first words. I, however, did not do well with training him to say please. I realized this folly somewhere around 18 months old, which proved to be late enough that the word “please,” and all that it implies, is something we revisit over and over again. Incidentally, I did not repeat this mistake with Kaitlyn and she is quite good about asking nicely.
Brayden has gotten to be good about saying please. At some point, I increased my expectations. I didn’t just want the phrase, “More milk please” tossed my way. I instructed Brayden to say, “Mommy, may I please have some more milk.” I taught him to use a kind and patient tone.
This works well, but every so often, we find ourselves in need of retraining. At first, I would remind Brayden to ask nicely. I would ask him how he should ask nicely. As he turned four, I decided we needed to fix this problem. For that, I turned to my trusted timer.
Whenever Brayden asked for something without saying it in a nice way, I would set the timer and tell him when the timer went off, he could try asking again. Before, he had no real motivation to ask nicely. He asked. I reminded. He asked nicely. He received.
But with the timer thrown in there, there was a definite downside to not asking nicely. He asked. I set the timer. It ticked down. It went off. He asked nicely. He received.
There was a delay in his reward. I only had to set the timer two times before he started consistently asking nicely. I am sure we will have to revisit this in the future, but I am also sure that it won’t take more than one time for him to remember that asking nicely is the preferable way to go.
The timer can help you out in so many ways. Use your imagination to see if you can apply it to any challenge your are encountering with your child. You will find it an invaluable resource.
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