Dear Goodtimer Families,
We extend our heartfelt appreciation to you for participating in the Starr Commonwealth Goodtimer program. As you embark on this journey, we want to ensure a meaningful and effective experience for both you and your child.
As part of the Goodtimer program, you now have exclusive access to the Starr Commonwealth video resource library, providing valuable insights into effective parenting techniques. To access these resources, please click on the following link and use the password "recipe":
For a concise reference, we have provided a PDF download summarizing key points related to the importance of resilience in supporting your child. Please find the document here:
Finally, when using Goodtimer, please keep the following concepts in mind. We've also included examples of what you might say as you read the Goodtimer children's book with a child.
Thank you for being a part of the Goodtimer community. We look forward to witnessing the positive impact it brings to your family life.
Window of Tolerance
Behavior is communication. Even though adults often tell children to “use your words,” the reality is that children (and adults, too) often struggle to find the words to describe what they are feeling and what they want or need. This is especially true when stress is high. This means that being hungry, tired, bored, overstimulated, worried, scared, angry, or just plain frustrated makes language difficult. For this reason, look to behavior as a clue to help you understand what your child is currently experiencing.
For example, if a child is cooperative, engaged in play or learning, pleasant in nature, and finds it easy to use words to talk about what they are doing or to ask or answer questions, these are all behavior clues that the child is well balanced. They are not too tired, hungry, bored, overstimulated, worried, scared, angry or frustrated. We can say here the child is in their zone of tolerance.
When not well-balanced and perhaps tired, bored, scared, or worried, you might see behaviors that indicate hypo-arousal, like clinging, whining, inattentiveness, refusing to do things, and appearing foggy and tired. When a child is hungry, overstimulated, angry, or frustrated, you might see behaviors that indicate hyper-arousal, such as yelling, fighting, defiance, impulsiveness, aggression, and an inability to sit still. When in a state of hypo-or hyper-arousal, a child is not in the window of tolerance.
Emotional awareness is the ability to notice being in or out of the zone of tolerance. If you notice the child is not in their window of tolerance and does not yet have emotional awareness it means that the child needs you to prompt them by saying something like, “It seems like you aren’t feeling balanced. Let’s take a minute to check in and see what might be going on. How does your body feel? What might your body need to feel more balanced?”
This is when the child and a good timer can take a pause. This is a good thing!
“It seems like you might need to take a pause. It is okay, let’s pause goodtimer, and then you and I can decide what you might need to help you feel better.”
When a child notices they are not in the window of tolerance, they can tell you they need a pause. If not, the adult can encourage a pause for both the child and goodtimer.
“I am noticing you are (clinging, arguing, etc.) I think this is a good time for you and goodtimer to take a pause.”
Co-regulation and regulation
Even when children know they are not in the window of tolerance, they often need an adult's help to regulate. This is called co-regulation. The adult stays with the child and helps them to regulate. When not in the window of tolerance, the child's nervous system is either moving too slow (hyperarousal) or perhaps too fast (hyperarousal). The adult will want to check in with their nervous system, too. The child's nervous system will match the adult's nervous system. This means the child will start calming down if the adult takes a deep breath, slows down, and quiets their voice. The more an adult co-regulates with a child, the faster a child will recognize when they feel balanced and when they do not.
“I will stay here with you while you and goodtimer pause. I want to help you feel better. Let’s both walk (drink water or take deep breaths) and see how you feel afterward.”
This is emotional awareness and is the ultimate key to managing behavior. Goodtimer and child pauses are where the magic can happen. Celebrate when a child agrees to pause or if they ask for a pause.
Once a child is aware that they are not feeling balanced, they can begin to practice various tools and strategies to help them get back into their window of tolerance. Sometimes, co-regulation alone will help. Trying multiple strategies with the child to see what helps them the most is helpful. Sometimes, a deep breath and a hug are a child needs to reset. Other children regulate with a drink of water and a small snack. Still others like music, movement, play, art projects, or puzzles to help regulate their bodies. It is essential to understand that adults need to teach children how to be aware of their emotions and how to handle them, and then a child needs to practice. Just like learning to read, teaching and practicing emotional awareness and regulation will take patience, encouragement, and time.
“What more do you think you need to help you feel more balanced?”
Once regulated, then – and only then will talking help or work. Don’t try to ask questions like, “What did you do that or what were you thinking?” until the child is calmed down and back in balance. Here, you and the child can process what happened, how their body responded, and what works to help them feel better. They may even be able to identify a way to avoid dysregulation in the future. For example, “I didn’t eat anything after school before I started working on my math homework, and then I was hungry and frustrated.”
Goodtimer pauses should be just as much of a celebration as tokens. Focus on what the child is learning and how they are improving over time. The focus in the process should be on the adult and child relationship, the child’s relationship with others, emotional awareness, and regulation. Celebrating growth will reinforce a child’s intrinsic motivation and make them feel good about themselves and their progress. The actual tokens should be redeemed only for rewards such as:
- Time spent with a parent, another caring adult, or a family member doing something together (i.e., playing a game, watching a favorite movie, baking, going to the park).
- The ability to play with or purchase something new that will be a tool to help the child with regulation (i.e. a new fidget, puzzle, art supplies, comfort item like a stuffed animal).