Let's Talk Timers
Timers are some of the easiest most effective tools to utilize. They can be a great visual tool to help your child stay on task, transition from a preferred activity to a non-preferred activity, or warn your child when it’s time to give up or share a preferred item. Timers can really be a lifechanging tool to implement into your household, well, depending on if you use them correctly!
How to use a timer
Verbally telling your child how much time is left to complete a task or transitioning to a different task, are both great uses for a visual timer. For example, set a timer for 30 minutes to eat dinner. Remind your child by letting them know that they have 30 minutes to eat dinner. Periodically remind your child how much time is left “You have 20 minutes left, 10 minutes left, 5 minutes left, 30 seconds, all done.” It's helpful to have the visual timer displayed and within eyesight, so your child can not only hear the warning prompts but also visually see them as well. Now you are presenting information through 2 different senses (seeing and hearing) helping your child get a better grasp of the situation. Since every child reacts differently to visual displays and verbal prompts, don’t be afraid to experiment on how to use a timer. Figure out what works best for your child.
Honoring More Time
Is there enough time to honor more time? Is the next activity or task going to be easy or hard for your child? Will honoring more time disrupt others? How many times do you allow more time? These are some questions that can guide you on whether you should allow more time for your child to continue playing. Consider if honoring more time with an activity or item will impede on the next task or event. If it is appropriate and feasible, allow an extra minute or two with an activity or item. Honoring more time can be very effective in decreasing arguments and fights. They can also be used as valuable bargaining chips for later situations, "I will give you 2 more minutes with your legos if you promise to finish cleaning up your room".
After you allow your child to have more time with an activity or item, make sure to follow through with ending the activity. Following through sets boundaries and what is expected of your child. As a parent, you do not want to be pushed around by your child and taken advantage of, but you also want to avoid fights where everyone seems to lose. Find a healthy balance between honoring more time and following through when it is time.
Picking Your Battles
Have you ever heard your child tell you “NO!” when it is time to turn the tv off? All they want to do is keep watching and you are standing there thinking “Oh boy, here comes an argument.” It is painful to go through and it usually ends in tears. Pick your battles. Use your priming tools, timers, and follow through to set those boundaries. How can you manipulate the environment in which the battles you pick do not become detrimental to growth and understanding? For example, your timer goes off to get ready for bed. At this point you set the timer, honored more time, and you are ready to follow through. It’s a battle you have to pick. How can you reduce the effort in getting ready for bed? Maybe bring the clothes to your child. Motivate your child to engage in getting ready. When you pick your battles, ease the pain for both the parent and the child. This will not only help in the short term by avoiding fights but also build habits that you can adjust to your liking after they are built.
Important to Note
Utilize a visual timer. Provide prompts while the timer is counting down. Honor more time if time allows. Follow through after you honor more time. Choose your battles wisely and reduce the effort to complete tasks. These are some tips I have on how to use timers in your household.
Alexandra Hakeem Is a Denver based BCBA. In her free time, Alexandra enjoys snowboarding, volunteer work, and hanging out with her nieces and nephews.
Editor's note: This information is not meant to diagnose or treat and should not take the place of personal consultation, as needed, with a qualified healthcare provider and/or BCBA.