Tip #6 Get the Kids a Timer

Jun 08

A timer is helpful for two purposes.  One, it releases the parent from having to constantly check the clock to ensure that she does not let that promised half hour of computer time drift into two hours (my how time flies when the kids are quiet).  Second, it allows the kids to take control of the amount of time they have been allowed to play the digital device – this is particularly important when the device is being shared among impatient kids.

The one recurring theme that comes up in most of the squabbles among my boys is the concept of fairness.  Because I have three boys close in age, they are forever being forced to share the one thing that they all want RIGHT NOW.  The up side to having three kids a few years apart is that they always have one another to play with. The down side is that they often want to use the same damn thing.   This is especially true when it comes to playing the one computer, or the one iPad, or my one iPhone.  Of course, it’s not limited to just digital entertainment.  They’d rather destroy a single lollipop than have to suffer the fate of watching just one kid savour the globe of delight. Fairness is king in our hyper-competitive household.  And, if even one of my kids suspects that another has a smidgen more than the others, look out – there will be blood.

I’ve learned the easiest way to eliminate myself from refereeing their actions is to give them the power to referee themselves.  Yes, it’s that easy!  For my Apple devices, I prefer to use a timer app. There are several of them available, but I use the very basic free app called Timer+.   Parents can quickly set up different times depending on how long they typically allow each child to play. I set up an alarm called “BoysPlay” for 30 minutes.  My boys have no problem starting the timer as their turn begins.  As long as each of them gets the EXACT SAME AMOUNT OF TIME, everyone can breathe easy.  When the timer is up, a sound alarms and the device moves on to the next gamer.  Works like a charm.

For video game consoles or the computer, a good idea is to purchase a small portable timer that the kids can use themselves.  Again, if sharing is involved, the kids will police themselves well.  On the other hand, if all three kids are playing together (aw, how nice!) the onus falls a bit more on the parent.  You’d better double check that timer.  If the time they’re allowed to play is one hour, they’ll very likely muffle the sound of the alarm when it goes off if you’re not around to hear it ’cause the only thing worse than kids divided against one another is kids united against Mom or Dad.

Image: Carlos Porto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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