Reddit Thread Shows How Timers Have Helped Parents Give Willful Toddlers Necessary Boundaries

Parents on Reddit shared their success stories of using a timer to help their toddlers get through everyday tasks.

Young child holding an alarm clock
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Toddlers and transitions go together like peanut butter and ketchup—as in, they don't. Take my toddler being picked up from preschool for instance. He'll typically run out of the door and headbutt me, not because he isn't happy to see me, the director explained, but because transitions are hard (or at least I'm choosing to believe this!). Other challenges for toddlers include sharing and having any respect for boundaries whatsoever. Because mommy likes to go to the bathroom by herself—or maybe just not while your head is between my knees, honey.

A Reddit thread expresses gratitude for a seemingly simple savior when it comes to toddler behavior. "Whoever gave the advice on setting a timer for toddler activities, I owe you a wonderful steak dinner," the original poster said, adding, "Or whatever if you don't like steak. Our [little one] obeys the timer to a fault. 'Sorry, we can't go to the kitchen until the beep beep happens. When the beep beep happens, we're turning off the TV. When you hear the beep beep, it's time to go!' It works like a charm."

Other parents flocked to the comment section to share that they too swear by the timer. "Yep, we have that. Time to go for bed. 'No I want the timer.' Set timer for 2 minutes. Kiddo going upstairs no complaint," said one timer fan.

"Timers also work when kiddos are having a tough time sharing," suggested another parent. "Only one toy? They're fighting over it? Tell them you will set a timer and when it goes beep beep it's time to change turns."

"Yes! I was amazed that my 3-year-old who never wants to share will gladly hand his toy over when the timer goes off. It's amazing," raved someone else.

Ultimately, parents recommended using a timer to help toddlers with transitions, sharing, and even for potty training, with a Redditor recommending setting a timer every 30 minutes (or at an appropriate interval for your child) to remind them to try to use the toilet.

Another part of the day that timers come in handy for many parents is bedtime. One Reddit parent explained how this can work in your house, writing, "Bedtime is 8:30 (or whatever time you choose), so at 7:45 I'll tell my son, 'Bedtime is soon. I'm setting the timer for 15 minutes. When it goes off, it's time for bed.' Fifteen minutes later, he hears the timer and is ready to go. No fuss, no arguments. He legit stops what he's doing and is like 'ok let's go.'"

Why Do Timers Work for Toddlers?

Another parent nailed the reasoning behind why timers can truly be a lifesaver when you have little ones. "Toddlers really like routines and knowing what to expect," the poster explained. "There's a comfort and security and feeling in control. So setting a timer and saying that when the timer goes off, it's time to pick up toys or go get ready for bed or eat dinner or whatever, they know what they are doing next and when it is going to happen. They can use the time to like mentally wrap up what they were playing with before."

Someone else advised employing a visual aid if this helps your child. "I use a free sand timer app on my phone," the poster shared. "It lets you pick the color of the sand and the amount of time. That way my [2-year-old] gets to participate in setting the timer by choosing colors. And then he watches the sand fall, so he knows how much time is left. It also beeps when time is up. It's amazing how well it works for him!"

Giving your child choices when it comes to using the timer was a tip shared over and over again in the thread. For instance, for some activities, allowing a little one to add a few minutes to their timer helps them feel in control during what can feel like stressful transitions, such as sharing or saying goodbye.

It's Okay if Results Vary—All Kids Are Different

Of course a timer won't work for every kid. Just this morning I set one for when I wanted my son to turn off the TV. He spent all 20 minutes asking, "Is the timer going off yet?" And, "When will the timer go off?" The timer was more annoying than helpful and produced massive anxiety for my kiddo. But that's okay, since every kids is different. My daughter responded well to a timer when she was younger and at age 8, it still works. I'll tell her she has a certain amount of time to clean her room or finish her homework.

If you haven't tried using a timer with your child, it's definitely worth a shot, especially if they respond well to a routine or struggle with transitions—as in, maybe I'm not the only parent who gets headbutted at school pickup?

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