Five years ago I created the “10 Rules That Work” for tweens — outlining online safety tips and healthy habits. Through extensive research and a lot of effort my goal was to make these rules deep rooted fundamentals that would not expire over time. Let’s see how rule #2 fares out …
(I invite you to follow along every Saturday as I examine each rule one by one)

Rule #2: Use a Timer

The timer is the most ingenious yet most overlooked tool in our households. I’ve used a timer since my kids were toddlers for managing bedtimes, catching the bus, homework, you name it. What I love the most is its ability to take the focus off YOU as the bad guy. “Kids, when the timer rings it’s time for bed.” Timer rings, they go to bed. If there was ever “Awww! Come on!” I just said “You heard the timer. Time for bed.” End of story. Train them young, it becomes second nature.

When it comes to video games, Dr. Larry Rosen’s research shows that when you use the timer method it’s good to give them two warnings. Games are designed to keep us drawn in. Imagine that your child has been working really hard at something for an hour and all of a sudden you waltz into the room and say TIME’S UP SHUT IT DOWN. Of course they’ll put up a fight! What’s wrong with you? (Haha – just kidding). Dr. Rosen says you should have two timers. Once the first timer rings, let your child know that he now has 5 minutes to wrap it up and when the next timer rings he must shut down. The brain needs time to unwind. It has just spent the last hour on hyper stimulation and received copious amounts of rewards. Once we understand how it all works, it makes so much more sense.

The timer also teaches your child how to self regulate — having the ability to stop doing something even though you want to keep going. There’s no way your child will shut down their video games on their own. Use a timer to teach them the essential life skill of self regulation (which by the way all children should learn by the age of 12 says Dr. Madeline Levine … and I agree).

2017 — Has this rule changed for us?

Absolutely not. We still use timers probably because I’m obsessed with them. I’ll use a 5 minute timer when I put shirts and pants in the dryer then I’ll hang them otherwise they’ll shrink. Today at the age of 13, when my son plays video games he doesn’t sit with a timer next to him or anything but I’ll tell him to watch the clock and to shut down in after an hour (or two sometimes). If he doesn’t do it on his own (which is often), timer-obsessed-lady has one going in the kitchen anyway. After the hour has gone by I will tell him that he has 5 minutes and when he hears the timer he has to shut her down. And it still works to this day.

What do you think of the timer method? Do you use one? Share your comments below.