How I built up time management skills in my son

It’s amazing how quickly the kids learn to drive a car, yet are unable to understand the lawnmower or vacuum cleaner – Ben Bergor

How I used my phone to build up time management skills in my son. Really works.
In this series, I used my phone to build up time management skills and the concept of time in my son. It worked perfectly as long as I stuck to the framework myself.

I’m a mom of a two year old boy. As far as possible – so far I’ve succeeded – I’ve stuck to my promises, big and small. I’ve always shared with him my plans A & B of our activities together at the beginning of the day or the plan for tomorrow, at the end of today. I let him know in advance, my own schedule in the hope that he starts to consciously think about the activities in his day as a flow of events.

I manage his expectations by informing him that I will be returning home at 6pm and he badgers whoever looks after him to bring him out in order to wait for my homecoming around that time. It never ceases to amaze me how much he remembers of what I said we would do, and also how on earth that little body clock can be so in tune with the concept of time and the duration of time. When I excuse myself to take a shower and he permits me to take my leave because I said to him that I’ll just need ten minutes, his fist finds its way to bang on the bi-fold door of my shower when ten minutes are up.

I can’t fool my son

These amazing phenomena reinforce in me the notions that I must do as I say, and even though children are little people, they’re not to be diddled with. Because the one time I don’t do something that I said I would, it will be when he thinks hmm, “Mom is not reliable so why should I be” and I’m sure that will start a downhill trend that is very difficult to reverse. I am conscious of the fact that two years of age may be too early to begin cultivating skills in time management and in priority management, but I struggle to imagine any downside to doing it this early. Or maybe, their flaws just hadn’t crept up to me.

There is a positive impact smartphones can have on our children despite all the negative press and I’m about to tell you why

So, what does this modern city mom who embraces how technology has intruded almost every aspect of our lives, do to incorporate smart technology with raising her child? Here are some ways I have used my smartphone or smart device to successfully introduce good habits or curb bad ones in my son.


I use the timer in my clock app to limit the time he can watch videos on YouTube. It’s best if you set the timer in the same device so that the timer springs up to push all other apps into the background, forcing your child to notice the timer, if not the timer’s alarm. I am pretty reasonable and generally select 10 mins or 15 mins, so that he has a fairly adequate window to enjoy screen time, without destroying his eyesight in an accelerated way. I support the 20–20–20 rule.

Bonus benefit

This method sows the seed for adhering to the 20-20-20 rule (defined next)

The 20-20-20 rule means that you or anyone younger or older, should watch or read something on the screen for a maximum of 20 minutes. After which you should swivel your head away from the screen to focus on an object preferably a green meadow at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

My logic

The last thing I want to do is to make him feel that YouTube videos are a limited and therefore precious commodity. I don’t want him to think that YouTube videos are a great deal or he’ll never want to give up a good thing, right? Of course kids enjoy videos. Rather than be anxious and negative about screen time (and breed a sense of guilt in our kids if and when they use a smart device) we should embrace that videos are quick ways to level up speech-making skill and vocabulary in our children.

Social proof

As a matter of fact, children learn loads from videos just as how adults do from how-to videos and documentaries narrated by David Attenborough. My niece is raised in an environment where Mandarin and Hakka dialect are spoken 98% of the time, but she knows as many words in English as her brother and sister who are over three years older. She knows what those words mean and how to apply them simply from watching videos on YouTube.

How I do it

  1. I would first open up the YouTube app and I get his input in selecting what video he wants to watch. I start and pause the video.
  2. I toggle to the clock app, navigate to the timer, and I let him see that the result of tapping on “Start” leads to the countdown of the timer by one second, before toggling apps to return to YouTube.
  3. Most times I watch the videos together with him so that I can get a sense of what he’s currently into.
  4. When the timer rings, my son picks up the iPad with both of his hands and extends it to me like a courtier presenting a gift to the Queen.
  5. I thank him, put the iPad away along with whatever electronic device I was also using (if any), and we give each other our fullest attention.

Reality in practice

My son never fails to return the iPad to me soon after the timer rings. Bystanders are often amazed that he does just that, without turning into a shouty monster. After that, he asks to read and I counter-suggest 2 or 3 books depending on how much time we have left before bedtime.

As incredible as it sounds, videos are a stimulus for learning. Remember how in primary school, we get more interested in learning right after watching a short clip or listening to a short track? In fact schools should have that 20-20-20 rule too, if they don’t already practise it.

Other child-friendly hacks that I have successfully used the timer for are:

  1. Getting him to fall asleep (it’s a creative game and it only works for day naps for us)
  2. Getting him to leave my side so that I can gobble down my dinner (or take a shower)
  3. Strengthening his intuition for “time”(unfortunately he knows to wake up before my alarm rings so that he can intercept me before I leave the house for work)
  4. Delaying gratification (this corrects a really bad behavior that he developed from swiping through photographs of himself on my iPhone)
    If you want to find out my methods, read on! Please try them out and let me know what works for you and what doesn’t. I love tweaking processes and making them work better.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: