What a great question! and one that comes up often, so thanks for asking so that we all can learn. It is not unusual for kiddos to hate the timer. Endings can be really difficult for kids. – well, for adults, too. Have you ever stayed up late talking with a friend and you just didn’t want the evening to end?
So, there are several reasons that it’s important to set a timer. One, as you mentioned is so that we don’t have to watch the clock. We can pour our love and attention into our kiddo without having to check the time. Also, it helps us with the boredom – meaning we know we only have to play dinosaurs again for 10 minutes. The timer is part of what makes Special Time special. Our child can trust that until that timer goes off, we will not answer the phone. We won’t even stop to pick up that towel on the floor that is screaming our name.
The timer is a LIMIT – and that is a good thing. When we create that yummy emotional safety in Special Time, the limit of the timer going off is often the perfect PRETEXT for our kiddo to work on some feelings. Here is an example of that: http://www.handinhandparenting.org/2016/09/why-do-my-kids-cry-after-we-have-good-fun/
It sounds like your kiddo is using even the prospect of setting the timer as a pretext. If you feel resourced and ready to LISTEN, then go ahead and propose that you are setting the timer, and listen to his upset. You can let go of your agenda to have a specific Special Time and allow him to have a nice big tantrum. It’s probably not the timer he’s working on. He’s using the timer as an excuse to work on some feelings of fear, anxiety or hurt.
Or, you can help him offload the anxiety through LAUGHTER. Laughter is also off-loading fear. I read some great advice that our founder Patty Wipfler gave a Mom on how to handle this upset PLAYFULLY. Patty said if the dreaded limit at the end of the timer brings up a lot, to use PLAYLISTENING. I think of playlistening as PLAYING with the issue/behavior and LISTENING for the laughter.
Patty’s words: Say something like, “OK, I’m going to set the timer now. I hope nobody turns it off–what would we do if the timer got turned off! Yikes! There, now it’s all set and ticking away….(wink, wink). And you hope that, from your pretend-satisfied tone and your “Ahhh, it’s on, and I can relax now” These are all hints, that your child take the situation in hand, climb up and turn the timer off. Then you can be very amazed and taken aback–whatever will you both do without the timer?!? And you can officiously set it again, Just Right, Just The Way You Want, and they can turn it off again when you turn your back. And on it goes, as a general game of “I want it THIS way,” where you are busy setting something up, and they gets to foil your plan again and again.
Kim, I hope those ideas help. It’s great that you are doing Special Time. Trying setting a limit around the limit of the timer – you can either STAYLISTEN or set the limit playfully and PLAYLISTEN. Try doing it one way one time and the other way the next time. Or you can even switch mid-stream. You might start out playful and your son gets more and more upset. Then you can calmly and gently say, ‘we are going to set timer, sweetie’ and allow his feelings to rip. Or if setting the limit calmly doesn’t seem to be getting you anywhere, try switching to being playful.
One thing you DON’T want to do is try to reason with him or accommodate him by negotiating. The fact that he’s anxious and upset about the timer means that there are some feelings there – that again, have little to do with the timer. That’s the pretext. If you negotiate, chances are, there will never be enough minutes and/or he’ll find another pretext – possibly one at bedtime when you are too exhausted to do anything except snap. Embrace this opportunity and let us know how it goes!
Peace & Smiles,
Hand in Hand Certified Instructor
Conscious Child-raising Creating Cooperation and Peace
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“If we are to teach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with children” – Gandhi