P is for Parenting: 5 Ways Using a Timer Makes Me a Better Mother
What comes to mind when you see a timer? Cooking or baking? The dreaded time out chair? A race? I find myself using a timer for all of these things plus some. Sometimes it is the timer on the microwave and sometimes it is the timer on my phone. It doesn’t really matter as long as it get the job done. Although this technique seems so simple and perhaps even a bit cliché, using a timer in our daily life really works well for me and my kiddos. Here are 5 ways using a timer makes me a better mother and helps our days to run more smoothly.
It can be difficult for my little ones to move from one task to another. I got very tired of nagging and arguing about everything from cleaning up, to getting ready to go somewhere to heading upstairs for nap time. I first started setting a timer as a countdown to nap and couldn’t believe the difference it made in the process. We discuss how much time to put on the timer (usually about 10 minutes) and agree that when the timer goes off, it is time to get ready for nap with no arguing. I love that it takes the pressure off of me to keep track of the time and it gives my preschooler some control of how much time gets put on the clock. She almost always follows through with our agreement without much arguing or negotiating. And, believe me, she drives a tough bargain sometimes! Once this strategy was working for nap time, I also implemented it for other transitions – 10 minutes until it is time to get ready to leave, come to the table for dinner, pick up toys and so on.
I do use a timer for traditional time outs as well. We start by giving warnings by counting. If we get to “3”, it is a time-out on the steps. The exception to this rule is if someone is hitting or hurting others or breaking something – that is an automatic time-out. We set the timer for one minute for each year of their age. For example, my 3-year-old typically gets a 3 minute time out, but can be adjusted based on your own child’s temperament and needs. The timer will be restarted if she is not able to calm down or moves from the time out spot. Consistency is key (something I’m not always great at) and it can be a bit of a power struggle at first to get this technique to work, but once they learn that you are not going to back down, it can be quite effective. I started using these kinds of time-outs around the age of two as kids much younger than that don’t quite understand the concept yet. The age to begin time-outs certainly depends on your individual child’s readiness.
Sharing and taking turns can be a real challenge with my girls. The little one is just starting to get the concept of sharing, but often there are tug-o-wars and tantrums about sharing toys and activities. I have been working with my preschooler to help her see that her baby sister usually loses interest pretty quickly in whatever they are fighting over. If she can wait it out, the toy or activity is hers to play with again fairly quickly. When this does not work, setting the timer so that they each get equal time with the desired toy is helpful. I can see this strategy working even better as they get a little older.
I use the timer most often to help myself accomplish a task I have been avoiding. For example, there is always a basket (or five) of laundry to be put away. I hate this task and procrastinate like crazy. To get through it, I will work on it in small doses. I will set the timer for 10 or 15 minutes and challenge myself to put away as much laundry as I can before the timer goes off. You can do anything for 10 minutes, right? It always amazes me how much I get done in such a short amount of time! I have used this strategy to tackle organizational projects, to pack and unpack boxes when we moved or to do anything that I catch myself avoiding. This technique also works well with my toddler. We can make a game out of cleaning up, eating, or getting dressed by racing against the timer.
I find myself feeling overwhelmed by the many task I have on my plate at all times. Balancing the demands of household tasks, work, parenting, maintaining relationships and taking care of myself is always a challenge. I have found that my own personal time is always the first thing I let go of and that is not good. I have started using a timer to give myself a break as well. I will set the timer for 20 minutes and allow myself to read, browse Pinterest, work on my blog, paint my toenails or something else I find relaxing and enjoyable. When the timer goes off, I can go back to whatever needs my attention. Laundry, dishes, packing lunches, cleaning and all the rest can wait for 20-30 minutes. This is a nice way to find a little balance and accomplish both tasks and me time. Obviously, I can’t just check out for 20 minutes when caring for young children so I do this mostly during nap time or after bedtime. This strategy really does help me feel less overwhelmed and allows me to focus on my self a little more.
So, what do you think? Are you already using some of these ideas? Are you inspired to try anything different? Are there other ways you use a timer in your day to day life? Let me know! I am always open to adding new tricks to my arsenal. I hope that you can implement some of these techniques into your routine to help your days go a little more smoothly too.
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