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Yesterday, frustrated beyond belief with Joy still taking two hours to eat half a meal, despite the fact that she was on the mend from The Plague, I grabbed the kitchen timer and told her she had to be done by the time it beeped or there would be consequences. She perked up, and finished in half the time I set.

Intrigued by this, I started setting the timer for other things, sometimes with consequences attached (if it was serious), sometimes with just a “hey, let’s see if we can get it done before the timer beeps, OK?”. And to my surprise and utter delight, the kids are not looking at this as extra pressure, but absolutely loving it.

Convincing them to drink all their water is almost always the worst part of meals, even without sickness slowing everybody down. Getting dressed in the morning and making beds gets constantly derailed by the lure of toys and books in the bedroom. Picking up toys before bed in timely enough fashion that they can have a bedtime story is an exercise in futility.

Not anymore.

Last night, whatever toys were still on the floor when the timer beeped went into the confiscated box, without so much as a murmur of protest from the kids: there had been a definite goal set, with definite parameters, and they didn’t meet it so understood the consequences. This morning, when they started dragging their feet about drinking their water, I set the timer and warned them there would be no more toast unless they finished their glasses by the time it went off (this is not starving them, by the way – they’d already eaten plenty). They finished in half the time allotted. After breakfast, I told them it wasn’t an absolute necessity, but let’s just see if they could get dressed in five minutes, and then make their beds in another five, and they did it (practically. Grace came in just under the time limit, while Joy squeaked just a hair over, but close enough that I still counted it as a win).

The last time we tried doing timers for chores/eating/et cetera, it didn’t work. They were still preschoolers/toddlers, and the timers just made them more nervous and frustrated. Now, though, the timer seems to be just exactly what they need. I’m pleased, thinking that we will be able to start setting good habits of timeliness and NO DAWDLING, and they’re pleased, that they have something to help them stay focused.

I’m sure it won’t last forever, and I don’t think I’d even like to spend the rest of the kids’ childhoods living by timers, but for now, this is exactly right.