Time Me!

stopwatchFor all you moms who’ve ever struggled unsuccessfully to get that adorable but uncooperative kid to do a simple chore like put on her P.J.’s or clean up her toys, I may have a pearl of a remedy for you to try. It’s amazing how well it works and for how many years you can pull it from your bag of tricks when the going gets tough.

My kids are now in their late teens or early twenties and it still works on them sometimes, although I have to admit they have become highly suspicious. In fact, it probably doesn’t work on them at all anymore, but it did! And for a LONG time, too.

You just have to be a little cagey about how you throw it out there and make sure you deliver it with utter seriousness and a real sense of excitement.

You also have to be prepared to lie a little to make this work. I know, I know. We don’t like to lie to our kids and for the serious, important stuff in life, I don’t. But when we’re talking about getting toddlers, preschoolers or early school-aged kids excited about getting things done, I have to admit that I’ve occasionally engaged in the little white lie.

This particular one involves world records, state records, speed, and cheerleading. It doesn’t require any equipment — basically it’s just you, your voice and your high-school-level acting skills. Here’s how it goes:

You: Okay Gracie, time to put on your pajamas!

Gracie: no response.

You: Come on Gracie, I mean it. Go put on your pajamas.

Gracie: No, I don’t want to.

This is when it usually turns into a battle, so now is when you change tactics:

You: (with a lot of enthusiasm, real or contrived) Hey, I’ll TIME you! Let’s see if you can break the Four-Year-Old World Record for Getting Your Pajamas On!

They LOVE this stuff and fall for it over and over. But in order to pull it off you’ve got to turn up the charm now and really sell the idea like this:

You: (big smile, lots of nodding of your head) Okay, ready? (very serious now) Get on your mark, get set, GO!

At this point you start counting slowly and gesturing like mad with your hands to get them going. SMILE, look totally excited and keep counting. Usually they get a move on fast. You have to keep counting slowly and loudly so they can hear you in the other room.

If she doesn’t run off by the time you’ve hit 15 then stop and ask very seriously, “Want me to start over?” Then go back to ONE, TWO and so on. It doesn’t matter how long you have to count. She may run back into the room as you hit 212. No problem. Then you say:

You: Wow, Gracie! I can’t believe it! You almost broke the World Record! Amazing!

Don’t let her actually break it. You’re gonna want to use this one again. She might ask what the record was and you can say “I think it was 194” or some number she is likely to forget. Then shmooze her with:

You: But that was fantastic! Good job.

That’s it. Works like a charm. If you play your cards right, she’ll be begging you to time her on a regular basis.

The kids have fun, you don’t have to yell or get ugly and the job gets done. Score one more for mom keeping the peace and running the show with love, humor and creativity!

P.S. Don’t forget they have World Records for Everything (and State, County and local ones too)….


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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.


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