My kids can move at a snail’s pace. Especially when I’ve asked them to move faster. Indeed, the request to “pick up the pace” is often met with the opposite response. And when I say something like,
“Guys, we’re in a hurry. We’re running late for school. Could we move a little more quickly?”
They look at me as if I’m speaking Latin.
Because moving “faster” doesn’t mean anything to a three year old. And based on my own experience, I don’t think it means much more to a six year old or a nine year old. It’s too abstract. It’s too gray. It’s too filled with uncertainty about what it is I really want them to do.
“Faster than what?” they wonder. “A sloth? Yeah, I can do that.”
Years ago during a parenting class (like seven years ago), Kory and I were gifted with a “nugget” to help our kids understand the qualities of doing something “quickly.” The funny thing is, we never pulled this nugget out of our parenting tool box until a few weeks ago. Go figure. I guess we’re gluttons for punishment.
The curriculum we studied refers to the exercise as “Three Candy Speed.”
I call it “Mommy will make you pancakes speed” because we aren’t big on candy around here, but pancakes? Well, that can get a party started!
A few weekends ago, we were expecting some company at the last minute. It was Saturday evening, and the house had definitely suffered at the hands of everyone who was home from school and work. It wasn’t filthy, but it wasn’t clean either. And all of us had things laying around the living areas and kitchen that didn’t belong there.
I surveyed the mess and knew there was no way I could handle it by myself. I simply didn’t have enough time. Or arms and legs. And, by the grace of God I dare say, “Three Candy Speed” came to the forefront of my brain. Out. Of. Nowhere.
So I sprung into action.
I called the kids downstairs to the sofa in our den. I told them that I needed some help cleaning, and I needed it “fast.” And then I said,
“Do you see all of the things in the living room, den, kitchen, and at the bottom of the stairs that don’t belong there?”
“Yes,” they nodded.
“I need you to pick it all up as fast as you can so that the house can be clean when our guests arrive.”
“Ugh,” said their body language (different blog post, later date).
“So I’m going to set the timer on the oven for 8 minutes. If you can get everything put in its proper place and get back to this sofa before the timer goes off, I’ll make you pancakes for breakfast in the morning! Do you understand?”
“Yes,” they nodded with dramatically improved attitudes about the whole charade.
And off they SPRINTED to get the work done.
When the timer went off, I found all three of them — yes, even the little one — sitting on the sofa giggling and grinning with delight. They finished all of the work, they did it well, and they had fun! (Of course, I supervised our three year old with some direction.)
So I said this:
“From now on, when mommy says that she needs you to do something with ‘Pancake Speed,’ you’ll know what I mean.”
And our daughter, who knows my tactics pretty well by now, asked just for clarification,
“We won’t get pancakes every time, will we?”
“No,” I said. “But maybe I’ll surprise you every once in a while!”
Mommy and Daddy friends, teachers, grandparents, nannies…anyone, for that matter, who works with young children on a regular basis…this is a great tool! Why I let it sit on the shelf for so long is beyond me. But because I’m so grateful for all of the wise parents who’ve mentored us along the way, I can’t keep it to myself.
You’ve got to try this! We’ve used it multiple since the lesson was taught, and it has worked great.
This exercise teaches children how to move through their tasks more quickly for sure. But it also teaches diligence, perseverance, and focus. And in our case, because the kids did the work together, it was a good reminder about the value of teamwork. (I’ll write more about that and how we use the oven timer in a different context later this week.)
But before I send you off to the world of Pancake Speed (or whatever you decide to call it in your home), I should give you a few tips to ensure you are successful:
1. Do it at a time when your kids are well-rested;
2. Choose a token incentive that will motivate them;
3. Select a task that they know how to do;
4. Set the timer for an amount of time that you are certain is sufficient for the task at hand; said differently, don’t set them up to fail!;
5. When it is over, give them a speech similar to what I described above so that you are teaching into the moment;
6. Make sure they understand that you will not bribe them with that incentive every time; and
7. To keep it fresh, on occasion, surprise them on the tail-end of the task, with a reward of the very incentive that got them moving faster in the first place!
What can you challenge your kids to do at “Pancake Speed” today?
In what other ways have you made abstract concepts for your children more concrete? I would love to learn some of the “nuggets” you’ve learned along the way!