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Stop Nagging Start – Get Children Real About Time

  1. Nagging happens because we nag. One challenge is how to stop the nagging when children have no concept of time. If they don’t understand what a minute feels like, then how can they honor a five minute warning. To stop the nagging, we need to take the first two steps:We need to say what we mean and mean what we say. If we say they have five minutes to put their toys away, we need to have a consequence that supports that. The consequence needs to be clear before they are asked to complete a task. It needs to be reasonable. When training a parent to get her children to stop playing and clean up their mess, I coached her to tell her children in the following way: “I don’t want to nag you anymore, “Beginning today, when I say you have 5 minutes to cleanup and put your toys away in the designated spots, I will expect you to stop playing and begin putting cleaning up right away. You will only get one warning from me. After five minutes, I will check the room. Any toys left on the floor or not put away properly, will be put in a big black trash bag. They will go into the garage until you have met the five minute deadlines for 10 days. Please tell me what will happen to your toys still on the floor when the five minutes is up?”  Ask them if they believe the 5 minutes is enough for the task that has to be performed. We often  ask children to complete tasks that take more than 5 minutes, so be sure you have allowed enough time so they don’t fail. The children need to repeat the rules and come up with some ways that they can make that happen. One child suggested she and her brother put things away after they use each thing. That way they would only have to put away the one thing they were playing with when their mother called the 5 minute warning. (It takes 7 days to create a habit, but I add three more for security).
  2. The next step is to help them know what 5 minutes feels like. The first step in getting real about time is to do an experiment with them. Ask them to close their eyes and tell you when a minute is up. Most children who don’t know how to count to 60 will stop after 10 seconds. At age 8, my mother asked me, “Please stop talking for at least 5 minutes.” After 1 minute, I wrote her a note, “Is five minutes up yet?” I like to make a game out of learning about the time it takes to do everyday activities that end up being minute eaters and result in many people being late. Download the following worksheet to use with your children to help them internalize the feeling of elapsed time.


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