The Clock Technique in Child Rearing

The use of the clock technique allows children to take their first steps in time management and learn how to start and finish their tasks. Learn all about it!
The Clock Technique in Child Rearing

Last update: 07 September, 2021

Teaching our children how to manage time to achieve a certain goal can be a bit difficult. This will depend, among other things, on the time or the task we choose.

Even so, it’s important not to abandon your efforts, as, through this learning process, you’ll encourage the creation of healthy habits that they’ll maintain throughout their lives.

Shouting or threats should never be an option. To achieve this goal, there are different strategies to put into practice, such as the clock technique that we’ll explain below.

What’s the clock technique?

The clock technique is a parenting resource that’s used to encourage children to complete a task and be able to concentrate on it without interruptions. It’s also useful when we need to guide them to modify a certain behavior that we consider inappropriate.

First of all, it’s important to explain to our children what the technique consists of and why we’re going to implement it. We have to do it with simple and friendly language so that they understand what it’s about and get interested in doing it.

The goal will be that in X amount of time, they’ll complete a certain activity. For example, tidy up their room in 30 minutes or complete their homework in one hour.

Depending on the task and when dealing with small children, it’s best to subdivide the task into several parts. This way, we can guide them as we go along so that they understand how to do it and what we expect from them.

The clearer we are, the better things will go. For example, when we ask them to tidy their room, we’re referring to several things together: Putting the dirty clothes in the hamper, putting the toys in the toy box, putting the books on the shelf, among others.

By subdividing the tasks, we allow them to become aware of the things we expect them to do. And, in turn, they begin to identify that the more difficult tasks require more time than the simpler ones.

This technique is recommended up to the age of 8 although, throughout our lives, we continue to use time management resources, such as the pomodoro technique.

Consistency and concentration are difficult to achieve in a world that’s constantly stimulating us. That’s why it’s important to instill these skills and habits from a young age.

A child with many hands holding many different objects, including a clock, a phone, a tablet, a calculator, and a wrench.

Some keys to applying the clock technique in parenting

Like any method, you need to take into account certain points in order to apply it. Among them, we want to highlight the following:

Think about simple activities or tasks, with achievable goals

If we don’t pay attention to this, we can feed the feeling of frustration. As the child achieves their goals, the activities can be made more complex and the time you agree upon can be shorter. The key is to advance gradually.

Promote the perception of time as something positive and not as pressure

This is a very important point. Otherwise, the technique could produce rejection. Although it’s important to follow the time, it’ll also be important to observe the child and their performance in order to know their rhythms and regulate your proposals.

Avoid interrupting them while they’re doing the task

Be careful! Many times, it’s the adults themselves who, after assigning a task, ask the children to abandon it to do something else or to help with something around the house.

Learn to develop your own patience

It’s important for parents to control their anxiety and respect their child’s own rhythms. We need to regulate how much help we give, as we also have to challenge children so that they try to find a solution on their own.

However, we must also be attentive in order to offer help if it’s necessary before our kids become frustrated or angry.

Use motivational elements

Depending on the situation, it may be a good idea to implement motivational elements, such as keeping track of time using an hourglass or a fun alarm.

By watching the sand fall or hearing a pleasant sound when the task is finished, we can arouse positive emotions during the task.

Positive reinforcement

In relation to the previous point, it’s also important to encourage the child to complete their assignments, highlighting their qualities and emphasizing what they’re capable of achieving.

At the end of the activity, it’s good to provide space for feedback, where we allow them to express how they felt and what difficulties they had.

What are the benefits of using the clock technique with children?

In addition to promoting commitment to the task at hand and encouraging concentration, the clock technique has other benefits that we’ll mention below:

  • It lays the foundations of learning time management. Children learn how much time they need to perform a certain task and that time is a limited resource.
  • Children begin to organize themselves and are able to maintain discipline in their tasks.
  • They create habits of constancy in the activity.
  • They reinforce their self-esteem when they reach a goal, as they discover that they’re capable of achieving things on their own.
A child writing in their school notebook with an alarm clock nearby.

In conclusion

The purpose of using parenting techniques is to help children develop concrete skills. For this reason. it’s important to understand the purpose of the method we choose and how it works.

The key to this technique is to adapt to the child in front of us, respecting their time, needs, and difficulties. If we don’t pay attention to this point, we’ll be producing a stressful situation with a counterproductive effect.

Finally, it’s important to choose the right moment to apply it, avoiding those moments when the child’s tired or when we’re busy with something else and can’t pay enough attention to them.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Gottfried A E. Academic intrinsic motivation in elementary and junior high school students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 77, 631-645. (1985)
  • Monsalve Robayo A, Mora Caro L, Ramírez López L, et al. Estrategias de intervención dirigidas a niños con trastorno negativista desafiante, una revisión de la literatura. Revista Ciencias de la Salud, 15(1), 105-127. (2917). Disponible en:

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.