Guest Interview - Adam Ashley, Creator of Goodtimer
Meet Adam Ashley, entrepreneur, engineer, and creator of Goodtimer.
Q: Tell us about your parenting experience, and how that helped inform your creation of Goodtimer.
A: My wife and I are avid readers. We read all the books about positive parenting, gentle parenting, and conscious parenting. We were definitely more interested in modern parenting techniques and less about grounding and punishments; more about encouraging the behaviors that you want rather than punishing the ones that you don't. And ultimately, we would try different techniques that we'd read about in books or on blog articles. But we would have difficulty having long term success and we'd fall out of the routine after a few weeks. We discovered modern parenting techniques that worked and seemed to make sense for our family, but we struggled to find an approach that we could consistently incorporate into our routine in a way that was effective for us, which is where Goodtimer comes in. Ultimately, Goodtimer helped us achieve the goal that we were looking for, which was a more connected family experience and a more peaceful home.
Q: Awesome. So when you were designing Goodtimer, did you consult with any child behavior experts or anybody like that?
A: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, we did a lot of outreach, and talked to a number of experts in the industry, as part of our market discovery and product development strategy. And ultimately, we ended up partnering with Jackie Insinger. She's a renowned family dynamics coach and best-selling author. We really resonated with her approach and her strategies. As we were developing Goodtimer, she was a consultant and an advisor to make sure that the fundamental philosophy of positive parenting practices is incorporated into the product. More recently, we partnered with Dr. Camilo Ortiz, a professor of Psychology at Long Island University, who also has a clinical practice specializing in parenting children with disruptive behavior disorders.
Q: Okay, so how does Goodtimer work?
A: So we often describe Goodtimer as a behavior chart re-imagined for modern families, but really, what we've done is we've taken a behavior chart, the time-in positive discipline method, and a token economy, a form of allowance, and incorporated them into one interactive product that gamifies good choices, so that parents don't have to constantly nag, yell, and punish their kids to promote patterns of good behavior. The way Goodtimer works is it comes with an instruction manual in the form of a children's book. It includes the story of Ernesto, a master clockmaker who created this little clock-like device to be his companion, but when he brought it to life, it misbehaved. During the story, Ernesto realizes that in order for Goodtimer to learn good behavior, it has to out into the world and learn from your family. So it's the child's responsibility to teach his or her Goodtimer what good behavior looks like. A really important part of the book is establishing the family's house rules and we provide resources and guidance to parents on how to establish the house rules. Typical house rules for 3-5 year old are things like being a first time listener. Other examples could be going to bed on time, brushing your teeth, eating your vegetables, etc. Goodtimer is all about giving kids recognition for all of the good choices they make throughout the day. Goodtimer's constantly on. It's a visual timer with 12 segments that light up one by one, visually displaying that kids are earning Good Time. Once all the segments are full of light, it does a little celebration, telling kids that they've earned a Goodtimer token. It also has a speaker, so it talks to him throughout the day as each segment is earned.
For example, it says things like "Good job! Keep it up! Way to go!". There's also a separate worksheet inside the children's book, which establishes what tokens can be exchanged for and we highly encourage parents to get kids involved in this process. Little kids are using tokens for small items like glow sticks while other kids are saving them for Roblox credits, a Lego set, or to go on a playdate with a friend. Finally, the last part of Goodtimer as a positive discipline tool. So if one of your house rules is for your child to be a first time listener, and you've asked them to clean up their toys, and they don't want to clean up their toys, rather than continuously nagging them to get them to clean up, parents can simply say to their kids, "Hey, if you're not following our house rule of being a first time listener, you need to turn your Goodtimer over." And when they turn it over, there's a sensor in the device that senses it's upside down. And then parents set the terms to flip Goodtimer back over. So a parent would say "Once your toys are all cleaned up, you can flip your Goodtimer back over or can stay off, what do you want to do?" What we've learned with all of our research is that when you clearly define expectations, reinforce good choices when they're occurring, and when you give children the autonomy to make a good choice, nine times out of 10, they're going to clean up their toys, so they can get back to earning Good Time. The beautiful part about it is that parents are telling us that they're not yelling, and they're not fighting, and they're not nagging their kids anymore and ultimately, the house is more peaceful and families are feeling more connected.
Q: I've seen all the feedback you've gotten from parents on the website and across the internet. Have you gotten any feedback from children that have interacted with this?
A: Absolutely. During product development, we prototyped lots of versions of Goodtimer, tested them, and talked to a lot of parents and kids. One of the products that inspired Goodtimer was actually the Elf on the Shelf. We were like wow, for a month out of the year kids are motivated to make good choices because Santa is watching and we asked ourselves, "What if there was a product that worked all year round and encouraged healthy habits in a way that's all positive?" And another thing that inspired us is the gamification of good choices. My kids will go to a bowling alley or a skating rink, and instead of skating, they love playing games like skee ball that dispense tickets that can be exchanged for small prizes. There's just something incredibly powerful about a game with a tangible incentive that kids have the power to spend on their own. So what we've heard from kids is; they love the gamification, they love the token incentives. We've also learned that Goodtimer is powerful for kids because they love being reminded by the device and their parents that they're a good person. Even though occasionally they make bad choices that isn't who they are. The product helps them realize that making bad choices doesn't mean you're a bad person and when you make a bad choice it's an opportunity to learn, make it right and get back to making good choices again.
Q: Awesome. Do you have any unexpected use cases, like Goodtimer being used in a way that you or the designers didn't think of?
A: We've discovered about a third of our customers are families who have at least one child with a diagnosed disruptive behavior disorder, the most common of which is ADHD. These parents are often experiencing bigger behavior challenges than the average family. We found that in this community, there's a greater need for effective solutions so Goodtimer is having an even greater impact on these families achieving a feeling of connection and peace because they've got something that's actually working for them.
Q: Are there any prerequisite skills that children need before they can use Goodtimer?
A: No, we really wanted to make Goodtimer as simple to use as possible. The way that it works is really simple; The goal from the kid's perspective is to make good choices by family the house rules and fill the device with light. You can adjust the brightness, you can adjust the volume, you can change the difficulty setting, which changes the amount of tokens that are awarded in any given period of time; from a range of three tokens per day to eight tokens per day. We wanted to give parents a lot of control over their token economy. But we really wanted it to be very, very intuitive. So no skills are needed. It's very simple in the way that it works: you're either earning Good Time or you're not. When you've earned a token, it glows and tells you and you can press the button for your token. And if you haven't been around your Goodtimer, you can press a button, and it'll tell you how many tokens you can take before it says you haven't earned anymore. The token economy is really whatever the family decides, and there's a little chart to fill it out: three tokens for this or five tokens for that. So we really want to make the product super easy for families and for kids.
Q: Awesome. So what's in store for Goodtimer 2.0?
A: With Goodtimer 2.0, we will be able to realize our ultimate vision for the product to be a lot more interactive. It will have a mobile app that will allow us to provide proactive suggestions for parents. For example, take the part where you set up your house rules. The app will ask you a series of questions about your child's age and some of the challenges that you're having with their behavior, and then it'll provide recommendations for those house rules based. Also when you ask your child to flip Goodtimer over for not cleaning up their toys the device will send a signal to the app on the parents phone and says, "We just discovered your son's Goodtimer was flipped upside down. Can you select the reason for this flip event?" And the app will give you some prompted options based on your house rules and the challenges that you were facing. And based on the frequency of those flip events and how long did it take for him to clean up his toys, we can develop a library of resources for parents to help them address those challenges that they're facing. So, we think that through leveraging this technology and the device learning from the behavior trends of the child, the next generation of Goodtimer will be an even more effective tool for helping families encourage healthy habits from infancy through adolescent.
Thanks for your time, Adam!
Are you interested in bringing Goodtimer into your home? Head on over to our store to pick one up for your child!