Why saying “5 more minutes” makes me cringe.

This probably has never happened to you.

But I used to waste my children’s time and confuse them terribly.

And if I’m not careful, I could still do it everyday.

In the early morning hours, my daughter is content to write or draw while my sons play with Legos or toss a ball around. In these beautiful hours that seem to rush toward noon, every chore and household task seems possible and within reach. Before the kids wake up each day, I usually set up a framework for our day which includes chores and tasks but more importantly our school time. Since we are indeed a homeschooling family, it seems best to manage our time to include this top priority.

So after the snuggles and tummies have been satisfied, we all move into our routine.

And this is when the “5 more minutes” monster would gobble up all my good intentions.

It’s 8:55am. 5 more minutes to 9 o’clock. It seems right to assert that we should start our formal learning at the hour. So calling out “5 more minutes” in order to prepare my littles for the transition seemed right and fair.

But what was I supposed to do in those 5 minutes? How would I best transition from this to that?

Sadly, therein lies the problem. I would think I can quickly change the laundry or I’ll just read one blog post or I really should bathe and change before starting school or I have to email her back before it gets too late. And before I know it, it’s 9:10am and I’m seriously lost in the task I fooled myself into thinking would only cost “5 minutes” but has turned into 15 or more.

There are days where this doesn’t bother my kids at all. They listen to my warnings about time and transitions and play patiently. But then there are other days when I get the 5 minutes right, and the call to transition comes as a shock and they revolt against it. Battling me for their beloved playtime freedom all the way into lunch. Like somehow I robbed them of their identity and they plan to bear a grudge forever.

And it hurts me when they react this way. I don’t want to be the bad guy. I know I deserve their angst because of how I have confused them to think that “5 minutes” doesn’t mean 5 actual minutes.

It isn’t fair that I am loose and spontaneous one day and strict and demanding the next.

There had to be a better way. I was languishing under the broken promises and failures on my end to keep my word.

And I found it: I started setting the kitchen timer.

This worked perfectly in the home. #1 because it kept me accountable. I needed the “stop now” beep to keep me on task. And #2 the auditory cue for the kids taught them that this whole time thing isn’t arbitrary. Together we honored the beep, and stopped what we were doing. We moved into the next activity together as a team. It was wonderfully supportive of my authority to be able to keep order and manage time well.

But what about at a playdate or library?

Well, I started wearing a watch and using it’s timer to manage the same way. It works great. I have to keep myself accountable – I’m the toughest one to control – and we are all happier when we follow through.

So instead of saying “5 more minutes” and not keeping track of when that will actually be, I’m careful and creative. My kids can feel time so much better now, which means they are much less confused and much more able to keep track of time for themselves. (Plus we gave both of our older kids watches so they are able to learn and apply time well. This also serves as accountability to me too – my son will call me out on the timing of the day if I miss transition.)

So whenever I hear another mother call out “5 more minutes” and then 10 minutes pass, I cringe.

Are you that mom? Does it drive you crazy? 

Here are my 7 quick tips to transform your timing and transitions:

  • Start using a timer first for yourself to feel time. How long does it really take you to get ready in the morning? Knowing how many actual minutes you need for your personal tasks will help you better manage your time. And better management of your time will allow for better management of your priorities: schooling, cooking, cleaning, etc.
  • Begin learning to budget time by hour. Look at the whole day and first break it down by hour. Only allot one activity per hour. This allows for margin.
  • Next to your time budget write in your “actual time spent.” These notes will give better insight as to how you spend your time and what needs to change better than any outside advise.
  • On days when you need to leave the house, start your time budget from the end and work backwards. By this I mean: know what you need to leave the house, and write that time in your budget. Working backwards to include all the things you need to accomplish, you will end at the beginning = when you need to wake up to make the morning flow smoothly.
  • Make it a top priority to keep your word to your kids. If you are in a bad habit, like I was, of vain timing and promises then it’s time to focus your actions first. Hold your tongue. Don’t give a countdown. Just do life with them, transition along side them, and nurture them through the day. You may be surprised at how much more you enjoy being with them when you’re not focused on “timing” everything.
  • Tell someone what your routine is. Hearing the words come from your own mouth will be more helpful in discerning what timing needs to stay and what needs to change.
  • Do the work to change for yourself. Don’t get caught up in other family’s timing or transitions. Be true to your kids first.

What would your timing tips be? Share them with me in the comments below! I’d love to learn from you too.

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