How Using a Timer With Your Child Can Help Create Boundaries

If they could, our children would have our attention 24/7. We all know that through experience. There's nothing inherently "wrong" with this fact - our kids love us and need our love deeply. However, most of us have a lot of other responsibilities and our own needs to attend to throughout the day - work, meetings, dinner prep, socializing, our marriage, reading, adult time, alone time, etc.

Using a timer to define when we can give our undivided attention to our children, during family meetings, chore time, roughhousing and meal time can teach them important lessons in boundaries. Here are the top 5 ways that using a timer can help create boundaries for your child!

When practicing one on one connection time with your child, using a timer lets the child know exactly how long this period of one on one time will last. Before starting your session of one on one time, and ask your child what he or she would like to do and follow their lead, you let the child know when the timer goes off, the period of one on one time is over, and you both move onto the next part of your day. The child will learn to respect the limit of the timer, to thoroughly enjoy how well his/her emotional cup will be filled by the one on one time, and with that filling, will be able to move on easily.

During family meetings, which we recommend families have at least once per week, using a timer for individual sharing can help create boundaries for siblings. When each person in the family has a set amount of time to share/speak, and knows when the timer goes off, it's someone else's turn, each person learns to speak concisely, and to respect each voice at the table. The timer helps lessen the chance that one sibling voice becomes dominant, and helps encourage quieter voices to fill their time with confidence.

During chore time, using a timer can help create a boundary and motivation so children know that they need to cooperate, motivate and be efficient to get their assigned chores done on time. Lessens dilly-dallying and helps motivate a sense of completion and satisfaction at a job well done! Also attaching limited screen time as a reward for completed chores adds to motivation.

Using a timer during roughhousing and physical play sessions lets children know that during this designated period, they have us all to themselves, but that when the timer goes off, it's time to move on to the next part of our day. This helps all of us to be present and fully awake to the experience of play and connection, and the timer helps us to be realistic about all the other parts of our lives and day as well!

When children begin their limited screen time during the week (we recommend for elementary children limiting screens to the weekends for a maximum of 30-60 minutes per day), using a timer will help them to stick with limits and to move on to the next part of their free time when the timer goes off. Encouraging children to first have outdoor time, practice instruments, be creative, read, and do screen time last also helps with boundaries and motivation.

Kiran Gaind owns The Connected Family, and offers parent, work-life balance and leadership coaching services to busy modern parents. Give her a call at (415) 377-6791, or email her at with questions, comments, ideas and/or to schedule a completely complimentary create connection conversation today!