Teaching your kids time management will not only take stress off of you, it will give them a skill to use later in life that will help them become more successful in their jobs and in their homes.
But teaching your child time management skills means that you, as the parent, must train yourself to not micromanage their time. You must simultaneously let go and let them grab on in order for the transition to go smoothly in your relationship. And keep this in mind, the earlier you start with your kids, the quicker they will learn.
The first step in teaching time management to your child is acknowledging that you are willing to start letting go. Once you’ve committed yourself to that, here are some ways you can help your child learn to manage their time.
Avoid over-scheduling your children.
Teaching your kids time management does not mean that you fill their days with constant activity. This will only leave them wishing for more downtime. Your job is not to keep them busy all the time, it is to help them understand how to fill time in a constructive way so that they can get the things done that need to be done.
Teach them how to prioritize.
Even young children can understand the concept of what needs to be done first, next, and last. Instead of using a big word like prioritize, help them plan their day with a first, next, and last method. For instance, in the morning, FIRST might be getting dressed, NEXT might be having breakfast, and LAST might be getting their stuff ready to head out the door to school. This is a simple way to approach and begin teaching your kids how to prioritize and get important things done first.
Cut down on screen time.
Screens are huge time suckers for kids (and adults!). They will keep your kids from getting homework done, from being active, and from connecting with their friends and family. Talk to your child about how many hours of screen time they are allowed per day. At first you may set a timer to cut off the video games or the ipad, but eventually they should be able to watch the clock themselves and know when to stop.
Teach your kids to WAIT.
The honest truth is that time management is really all about learning to wait, also called delayed gratification. To strengthen time management, Ellen Dietrick, a Needham, MA, preschool director devises situations that require her students to wait for something they want. “If they clamor for pajama day, for example, we schedule it for a week away, rather than the following day,” she explains. “We mark the days off on the calendar and build up the excitement as the event gets closer. This gives them a sense of what it feels like to postpone something — and a positive experience to associate with it.” (Scholastic)
Try using this concept with things at home, such as special activities or holiday celebrations. Talk about the event days or even weeks ahead. This is a very basic way to teach your kids to learn to wait and to put off things, which will contribute to them learning to manage their time.
Be sure your child knows the consequences of not getting things done. They will miss recess if they don’t get their homework done. They will lose screen time if they don’t get their chores done. They will not get to play with a friend if they leave a mess in the family room.
Set the boundaries and communicate the consequences of crossing those boundaries ahead of time. This will allow you to follow through on those consequences without anger. “You chose to lose screen time when you didn’t do your chores,” can be said by parents calmly and confidently.
As your child faces consequences, they will learn to make better choices that will promote time management.
Teach children to measure time.
Use a timer to help them understand what 15 or 30 minutes feels like. Set it for when they are supposed to be doing a chore or for their screen time. Your objective is to help them understand what 30 or 60 minutes feels like, so when you tell them they are going to bed in 15 minutes, they will have a better understanding of what that feels like and that they won’t have time to pull out a bunch of new toys to play with.
Use a family calendar.
Plan weekly or monthly family meetings where you fill in your family calendar together. You can make a big calendar that hangs on the fridge or wall, or if your kids are older, you can all connect through a phone calendar.
Put fun into time management.
Just saying the words “time management” implies structure, something that is not pleasant. Try making it fun for your kids. Let them decorate the family calendar or use stickers when they complete chores. Compete with each other to see who can get their room cleaned first or get ready for bed first. If time management is not seen as unpleasant or a duty, your kids will implement it in their lives more often.
Teach your child to plan or think ahead.
Being on time–to soccer practice or to breakfast–requires planning. Help your child think about what they will need for the event? Is their sports back packed with their uniform and shoes? What time do they need to leave in order to be at practice on time? You may want to use a checklist for what they need to do or what needs to be into their bag for school or sports.
Coach, don’t manage.
Managers tell those under them what to do. They often nag, and that’s when people start tuning them out and conflicts will arise. On the other hand, coaches provide guidance and support. They empower others to succeed.
Parents who manage will err on the side of micro-managing because they want their kids to have a positive outcome. But parents who choose to coach their kids as they get older will teach their kids to think for themselves and build their decision-making skills.
Do you find yourself frequently saying any of these: “hurry up”, “come on, we are going to be late” or “why are you taking so long?” ? You may feel like your kids have absolutely no concept of time, but even small kids can learn about time management if you are committed to the process.
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