As a work-at-home mom, one of the hardest things I’ve encountered is fitting in all my work while also having my child at home. Today, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many parents are facing this challenge for the first time.
I’ve received lots of messages saying, “My kids are constantly at me, grumbling and complaining (I’m bored, there’s nothing to do, or ‘Hey, mom, look what I’ve done!!!’)”. And all this is going on while parents are trying to handle online business meetings, chores, cooking, news, phone conversations with elderly family members, etc.
One of the simplest and most effective things I have implemented to help regain my focus was something called the Pomodoro Method.
The Pomodoro Method is well known in the corporate world and on college campuses. It was developed by a grad student who was trying to come up with a better way to study. He (Francis Cirillo) decided to set a kitchen timer, work in short segments with short breaks and then repeat until his studying was done. He chose 25-minute blocks with five-minute breaks. After three or four Pomodoros (25-minute sessions), he took a longer 20-minute or 30-minute break. It worked so well that he wrote a book about it—and over two million people have read it to date!
Back to children, the first thing I did was challenge my son with painting, colouring, play-dough, an educational game or a chore (4-5 years old), reading, painting, homework, chores, documentaries (6-8 years old) and educational projects, chores, reading (9-10 years old).
The second thing was to set the timer and tell him that he can’t come back to enthusiastically share his results or complain until the timer goes off.
Third, the same rule would apply to me, so we would both have a sign on the door with “Do NOT Disturb” and we would plan to meet at the agreed time or, in exceptional cases, if one of us was in danger. Do not close the door if you feel it is safer for you and your child. Instead, hang the sign next to the door.
There are so many things I love about the Pomodoro Method, but my favourite is how it employs neuroscience to literally train the brain to stay focused.
Some parents find sanity by implementing this method in their daily home routines. Children can learn how to extend their quiet play, especially if they can see the timer. It works like a charm to get them focused on something while the time ticks down. Rarely do they come back because just having the timer makes them focus on what they are doing instead of complaining for that 15- minute (4-5 years old) or 25-minute (5-10 years old) block.
The best thing about using the Pomodoro Method with children is how tangible it is for them. Young children tend to think of their world in concrete ways. They can see the timer counting down and know that at some point in the very near future, they’ll be done with the task. Kids need a light at the end of the tunnel to keep their spirits up. They only develop abstract thinking by age 10, so once you start using Pomodoro in one area, the idea will quickly resonate, and you can use it for all sorts of things. Give it a try and let us know how it has worked for you!
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