Are We Teaching Our Kids to be Dysfunctional about Time?

The book writing is coming along, which means I've got Sabbath on the brain all the time. (Too bad I haven't taken one in a couple of weeks. Oops.)

I'm finding that the book is really not about Sabbath. It is about Time: how we understand it, measure it, spend it. Time is a great leveler because we all have a finite amount of it. Even the CEO of a Fortune 500 company cannot cheat death (though admittedly, top-notch health care doesn't hurt).

So here's something I've been kicking around about time, and I don't have an answer. I've always heard that with kids, it's beneficial to give them some warning when it's time to transition from one activity to the next---especially if the first activity is something fun that they aren't going to want to stop doing. Parenting experts advocate a countdown, e.g. "five minutes and then we need to leave the playground," or "we leave for the bus in ten minutes."

We are practitioners of this method, mainly because it makes life easier: more warning means fewer tantrums because they wanted to go down the slide One! More! Time!, and fewer frantic searches for shoes when we need to walk out the door. But we also do it because it respects our children as people. I don't like being yanked around without warning and wouldn't like it if it were done to me.

On the other hand, I wonder whether there is a downside, in the sense of making the awareness of time a little too prominent a feature of our kids' lives. Childhood is great kairos time (holy time, time outside of time) in a lot of ways. Kids get what it means to be immersed in an activity, enjoying it for its own sake, not worrying about the clock. Does the warning system take them outside of this immersiveness and condition them to be aware of time in ways that aren't helpful? And is there a cost to them in terms of their development or their enjoyment of childhood?

What do you think?