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The Power of a Five-Minute Warning

Do you tend to bark orders to your kids? Unreasonable or sudden demands can be tough to meet. This one small trick will set them up for success and preserve cool heads in your home!

My husband used to be a human time bomb. He was a man on a schedule, and he did NOT like to run late. The trouble was, nobody else in the family could hear him ticking down. The only signal we’d get that it was time to move was the explosion itself.

“Car is running! Let’s go!” He’d call from the garage entry door, while the rest of us were in various stages of preparing to leave the house—me in socks but no shoes, one child still chewing her pancakes while the other was curled in a ball on the sofa wearing nothing but underwear.

“A little warning, please?” I raised my eyebrows at the bomb.

“What, I thought we said we could be there by 9. It’s time to go.”

“Yes, but we never discussed how long it would take to get there. The girls are still eating breakfast.”

“Gotcha.” He tossed a couple granola bars in his pocket. “They can eat on the way. Let’s go!”

This drove me nuts.

But then I realized—I do the same thing to my kids.

  • “Turn off the TV and do your homework—now!”
  • “Time for dinner. Put the game away.”
  • “Close up that book, it’s time to practice piano.”

Now! This instant!

I know how I felt when my husband expected me to crawl inside his brain and synchronize my internal clock to his. It was usually when I was in the middle of something else, and I struggled to make a quick mental shift. Over time, we’ve learned that a simple heads-up helps keep the peace and demonstrates respect for one another.

Likewise, expecting my kids to jump when I say jump—without warning and with no regard for their train of thought or activity—shows a lack of respect for them as individuals. Yes, they’re kids and they need to obey authority. But they’re also human beings; therefore, they deserve kindness, gentleness, and a little bit of space.

So now we harness the power of the five-minute warning.

It makes all the difference.

  • “Sweetie, five more minutes with that game, then it’s time to wash up for dinner.”
  • “We’re leaving for the library in five minutes. Make sure you have your shoes on.”
  • “Finish your graham crackers, girls. Bedtime is in five minutes.”

Warning your children of what’s coming next not only exhibits gentleness and respect but actually empowers them to obey. If you’re a stickler for obeying the first time—like I am—then the five-minute warning can create the space your kids need to transition from one activity to the next without being tempted to rebel.

Think about it. Unreasonable or sudden demands are much harder to meet. If you want to set your kids up for success, offer them a five-minute warning. They’ll be more likely to cooperate, you’ll spare yourself the frustration of barking, and the entire family can actually follow a schedule that works for everyone.

Wow. All that in just five minutes’ time.

What a deal.

“Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master” (Ephesians 6:4, MSG).

Becky Kopitzke

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