Children don’t always have the same sense of urgency their parents do. This can create problems when parents feel they need to yell or threaten their children in order to motivate them to get things done. But just as bad, the children don’t actually learn how to manage time for themselves.

Kids spend a lot of time reacting to adults’ prompts to do things: “gentle reminders” to get up, get dressed, get in the car, pack up their things, get ready for soccer practice, do their homework, and go to bed. But giving them the means to plan their day allows them to practice time management skills. Once they have a chance to take control of their lives, they can demonstrate what they are capable of, to adults and themselves. And parents won’t have to raise their voices as much.

The difference between poor and good time management is the difference between reacting to events in your day and planning for them. Children should given opportunities to plan their days and figure out how to move through them. Here are some strategies for teaching kids how to manage time:

  • Use analog clocks and timers to teach and manage time. For some people, it’s helpful to conceptualize time visually as portions of an hour/day, in a way digital clocks don’t allow for. Although not a clock per se, the Time Timer is a highly visible resource for any age. Get it as a free app, or buy a real Time Timer.
  • Post a calendar in a visible area of the home (kitchen, most likely) for all family members to see. Schedules are often either in adults’ heads, phones or planners, but children need to actually see them to develop an understanding of time and schedules.
  • Let children help develop their own schedules and work with them to decide when adults AND they think they could complete homework and household responsibilities (chores).
  • Teach kids how to use the calendar app on their phone. Use Google Calendar or other shared calendars to share scheduled events among family members.
  • Scheduling responsibilities makes it more likely that necessary tasks will get done with less nagging. When those jobs are accomplished on time or ahead of schedule, then the time left is for privileges (the activities that children want most to engage in), which have now been earned.
  • Teach children to make lists of things they need to do.
  • Help children identify “time wasters.” Don’t turn on the TV, have access to the tablet, or play video games until other necessary tasks are done. Any parent knows the battles that can ensue when trying to take these things away or turn them off; it’s easier to postpone turning them on in the first place.
  • Spend at least 5 minutes in the morning, over breakfast or in the car, discussing how the day will go in a positive way.
  • Begin the morning routine the night before; lay out clothes, prep lunches, collect items needed for school/practice, etc. Take that time to remove obstacles to getting out the door in the morning.

Lastly, be aware of your own challenges with time management, especially engaging in time wasters (scrolling through social media, maybe?). Above all, kids learn most from what they see their role models doing. Using them as a mirror to reflect our own time management abilities and challenges can help us all come out ahead…of time and in life.

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