On Parenting: The Two-Minute Warning

by jessicaturner on January 16, 2014

jon acuff and kidsI asked my friend Jon Acuff to write a guest post about an aspect of parenting. His words about the 2-minute warning sure rang true for my house. I think it might ring true for yours as well. :)

The 2-minute warning.

The biggest rookie mistake you can make as a new parent is to forget the 2-minute warning.

What’s that?

That’s when you give your little kids a reminder that in 2 minutes, the activity they are currently engaged in is about to end.

It’s what you yell on the playground as they run around with friends.

It’s what you say when their favorite TV show is about to end.

It’s what you say when they’re playing legos and it’s time to go to bed.

Kids need transitions. They need a little bit of a heads up. They love surprises that are made of sugar but hate being surprised when it comes to the conclusion of fun events.

The older they get, the more nuanced the warnings get.

I have a 10-year-old and an 8-year-old. Now, we ask them for feedback on the warning. I’ll say, “We’re thinking about leaving in 10 minutes, what do you think?” More often than not, they shake their heads and we all move on. Not only did they get a warning, they got a little bit of autonomy.

If responding by telling me, “Nah, we’re staying at the park for another hour,” I would tell them, “That’s adorable. You think you have the veto.”

Give the warning. Transition like a champ. Move on with the rest of your day.

Jon Acuff is a New York Times Bestselling author who lives in Franklin, TN. Follow him on Twitter @JonAcuff and read his blog at Acuff.me

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jo-Lynne Shane {Musings of a Housewife} January 16, 2014 at 5:44 am

Excellent advice, so simple and yet so crucial!!

I’d love to hear what he (and you, Jessica!) has to say about counting to 5. My husband does that and it drives me NUTS. I think kids should obey right away. But he thinks it gives them time to think it over???


Amber January 16, 2014 at 9:01 am

I remember hearing at a teaching conference that a countdown gives a child 5 (10, etc) seconds to disobey with no consequences.


KC January 16, 2014 at 12:58 pm

I can’t remember where I read it (maybe the Duggars?) “Delayed obedience is Disobedience.” It was an a-ha moment for me because I give the 5 minute warning and always have. It works for us!


Iryssa January 16, 2014 at 10:47 pm

I love the two minute warning. We’ve always done it…and we’ll go as long as five minutes if the kids are REALLY into something, just to give them a bit more time.

These days my son is so good about it! If we give him five minutes usually he’ll come back at about the four minute mark and say, “ok mommy, I’m ready to go!” My daughter’s more likely to drag her feet to the last second, but she’ll hop to it if I tell her “your five minutes is up!”

I see this as totally distinct from counting (to three or five or whatever)… It’s a plan-ahead strategy. Counting is a *reaction*.


Dawn Camp January 24, 2014 at 11:44 pm

I have an 8 and a 10 year old now, too, and I wish I could just freeze them at these ages. A two minute transition is great for everyone; giving a warning really does make things smoother.


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