Children today lead very busy lives, and as parents, it sometimes seems they’ve got fuller schedules than we do! As soon as your kids are able to understand the concept of time, you can start teaching them time management skills. Show your children how to use their time wisely and productively – and remember to leave room for just having fun!
Children need help learning that there’s a process involved in accomplishing goals. Everyone wants to do well in school, but not enough people make an “if-then” plan – for example, if you’re going to get good grades in math, then you have to do practice problems each day. Success requires effort. Have your child pick two goals, one having to do with school and one about home (chores or fun, kid’s choice). Write down the goals, and next to that, make a list of what needs to be done to achieve that goal.
Set a Schedule
Set up a day-by-day timetable with regularly scheduled times for homework and chores. When is the best time of day to do homework? For some kids, it’s right when they get home from school, but your kids may have several scheduled afternoon activities, so after dinner might be a more productive choice in your house. During homework time, don’t allow other distractions like TV, computer (unless it’s for schoolwork), phone calls, or texting. Let your child know that when work is done, there’s time for play. Also set specific times for going to bed and waking up in the morning, as a fixed sleeping schedule and getting enough sleep are important tools for healthy growth.
On the Calendar
Using the daily schedule you’ve created, make a calendar, and with your child write down how much time is needed to accomplish academic and at-home activities. First thing on the calendar: weekend time to plan the following week. When the calendar is filled in, children will have a concrete sense of where their time is going and how much time each activity takes. Make a calendar for yourself as well, to show that time management is a team effort.
Divide and Conquer
It can be overwhelming, especially for a youngster, to see clearly to the end of a difficult task. When your child has a large project to do – a school report, a new piano piece to learn, a Lego metropolis to build – break it down into manageable smaller parts, then schedule time each day to complete that part and prepare for the next. Work backward from a specific due date. For example, for a report that’s due at the end of the week, do the research Monday, write an outline on Tuesday, begin writing on Wednesday, finish and proofread on Thursday.
An effective way to reinforce time management skills is through rewards. These don’t have to be material: treat your kids to an ice cream outing, send copies of especially good work to family members, or let your child watch an extra TV show. The important thing is to support your child’s developing time management skills and the accomplishment of a job well done. A helpful hint: when offering praise, gently set up expectations of the next task, e.g., “I’m so proud of you … can’t wait to see what you do next.”