Managing time is a learned skill. Some people may be naturally better than others, but everyone needs to learn and implement the practices to ensure success in not only the school setting but once they reach the workforce as well.
But how can parents help to teach and train teens (both younger and older) to be good time managers? After all, you teach them to brush their teeth, clean their rooms, and to be kind to others. It makes logical sense that they would need to be taught in this area as well. You may be an over-scheduler or a non-scheduler, but wherever you find yourself you can help instill healthy time management techniques into your children.
1. WRITE IT DOWN
Encourage your teen to get in the good habit of writing down assignments, their details, and their due dates in a place that they will see them. Smartphones, digital calendars, or daily planners are all good places to start. Make sure it’s not a random scrap of paper that can get lost or thrown away. Trying to mentally organize all the important information that comes with being in middle or high school is a recipe for failure. This is also an important step in helping your children become less dependent on you and more dependent on themselves. Then you can move on to the next step of helping to teach your children helpful time management skills, which is often easier said than done.
2. MODEL BEHAVIOR
Children learn so much by observing and mimicking behaviors. It is no different when it comes to the issue of managing time. Whether or not you notice, your children are watching you and they are filing away pieces of information to be pulled from later. Are you constantly in a rush and late to appointments or school? Do you find yourself short-tempered or stressed out due to there ‘not being enough time in the day’? We have all experienced these things, but the key here is to not let it be the normal standard for your family. A very helpful tool is to post a family calendar on the wall in the home where everyone can see it. You can write down everyone’s activities and appointments in a different color (Mom is blue, son is green, etc.), and so by merely glancing at it, you can see what is coming today, tomorrow, or the entire month! When you can visually lay out a week’s worth of to-do’s, you can then begin the next step of prioritizing.
There is a big difference between needs and wants. Help your teen identify what needs must be accomplished first, and then move on to the items they want to be involved in. For example, explain that they must allot enough time on Tuesday evening to finish homework and prepare for school the next day, and then let them ‘reward’ themselves by choosing an item off the ‘wants’ list (watch TV, social media, a friend comes over etc.) if they have enough time. For younger teens, you can be a little more involved in the processes, but for older students, you should help once or twice to show them the way, and then they are mature enough to tackle the process on their own. Making a list or using a planner is especially helpful in prioritizing.
It is hard to sit back and let our children experience the natural consequences of failing to study long enough for a test or rushing to complete a last-minute paper, but it is absolutely necessary that they learn these things while in the safety of the family home and school. These are not lessons we want our children to be learning in college or early in their careers, where the failures can have longer lasting effects. When we let them fail or succeed in time management as teenagers, we are actually helping them grow up and learn to take responsibility for their own actions. Do the hard thing and guide your children into good habits, but let them try and fail (or succeed!) on their own.