How to Teach Kids Time Management

Why teaching kids time management matters

Do your kids say they ran out of time to finish their schoolwork or chores? Do they dawdle endlessly over a subject they don’t enjoy? But are they also ready early for activities they do like? If so, your kids are normal. Whew! What a relief, right?

Why teaching kids time management matters

In fact, kids aren’t the only ones who behave this way. Many adults do too. But there are real consequences to not managing time well. There are poor grades, late fees, and missed opportunities. The employee who mismanages time will not earn raises or promotions. Poor time management almost always results in disorganization. My own poor time management skills and disorganization resulted in low self-esteem and even depression. We don’t want our kids to struggle in life this way. So we want to point out the value of good time-management skills at every opportunity as well as the consequences of poor time management. We want to raise children who will make the most of the time God has given them. The problem is, how do we teach it?

How to teach kids time management

There aren’t many good curriculum options for teaching time management to kids. One reason is we expect young employees and college students to just learn as they go. But time management isn’t as easy to pick up as you’d think. Kids (and adults) are so busy trying to manage priorities that they don’t stop to think about better ways of doing things.

Because I struggled so much in managing time, I’ve become a productivity junkie. I wrote a year-long series of posts about productivity and will be releasing a book on the subject later this year. I recognize the importance of teaching time management when I give assignments to my kids and my co-op classes too. So my suggestions come out of that experience.

#1 Work on your own time management skills

If you’re a procrastinator, always too busy, or disorganized, your first step in teaching your kids is to improve your own approach. These are books I recommend you start with. You have to learn the basics of time management: collecting tasks into one trusted place, prioritizing tasks, and planning your days. Then you can teach your kids.

I created The Organized Homeschool Life book and planner to help busy homeschool moms manage their time and get organized. When you feel on top of things, you can talk about time management without feeling like a hypocrite. And we know our kids will call us out if we aren’t practicing what we preach!

[Listen to 6 Reasons Your Homeschool Still Isn’t Organized]

#2 Present your child with options

People who adopt a certain planner, task list, or time management approach can be annoying in their insistence that it’s the only way. The truth is we are all different. Some of us do better with a paper planner, others with an app, and still others (like me) with a combination approach. Some of us like detailed schedules, while others prefer a more flexible routine. If your child has ADD, some approaches (like timers and alarms) will work better than others. There is not one right way.

Do share how you manage time. If you’re married, ask your spouse to share their approach too. If you have an older student or know one who is managing time well, ask her to share her approach.

Then discuss tools. Look at student planners, to-do lists, and apps together. Which does your child think would be most effective for his style?

Suggest varying levels of support from you. For example, you can ask your child if you could set timers, create intermediate deadlines, or create a schedule each day to provide support. Agree to back off if that is your child’s request. Your willingness to help and share the options is instructive for your child.

[Listen to Secrets of Scheduling Success]

#3 Begin experimenting

Allow your child to use the approach, the tools, and the assistance he thinks will work best for him. But follow up with him each day for at least a week, and then weekly for a month. Ask how productive she felt she was. When did she procrastinate and why? What changes could be made to the approach to improve on this?

Here are some things to consider: 1) Was your student attempting too much? If so, many kids will ignore their plan or list. Reduce the tasks attempted each day to a level where they can be consistently completed. Or plan to spend less time on each. 2) Were enough breaks built into the day? A break or reward should follow challenging work and should be planned more often for young students or those with ADD. 3) Are there certain times of day that productivity falls off? If so, plan easy activities for those times. Plan priorities for times when your student has the most energy. Make sure rewards or breaks that get extended are planned for after those priorities are complete. In other words, if your child has a hard time stopping a video game time, plan that reward for the end of the school day. 4) Do you need more support to accomplish your goals? Many kids insist that they can manage their time on their own when the results say otherwise. Encourage your child to experiment with having more support from you.

Most importantly, teach your child that time-management skills aren’t about our character. Instead, it’s about learning the right approach for us as individuals with our current responsibilities. I like to present it as a science experiment. What variables could we change to get a different outcome? Some days we’ll get a great result and others not so great. But trying new things can be fun. In fact, one of the best ways to improve our time management is trying something new.

Conclusion

Teaching time management is a great way to grow personally and relationally with your child. And there’s no time to waste. Start discussing time management with your child today. You can track progress immediately!

What are some approaches that have been helpful for you in learning and teaching time management?

Why teaching kids time management matters

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