We all know time management is an important skill to learn as you grow up, but did you know how crucial it really is to your child’s future? A study from the University of Pennsylvania finds that self-discipline and time management is a better predictor of academic performance than IQ. Basically, by learning good time management skills at an early age, your child will find success later in life. The problem, of course, is that kids aren’t experienced at using their time wisely, so it’s up to you to instill them with what they will need.
Dorothy Rich, author of MegaSkills: Building Our Children’s Character and Achievement for School and Life, believes that though it may be a parent’s job to instill useful values in their children, they cannot forcibly change their disposition. She states that “the ultimate goal is to help children build internal self-discipline and a capacity to manage themselves.” Give them the proper guidance that will teach them the self-discipline they can deploy on their own when you are not around to tell them what to do. Getting them to that point can take some time.
Challenge Their Perception
Children are bad at managing time because their brains are physically incapable of comprehending such things. The part of the brain that controls time management and organization, known as “executive functions,” is one of the last parts to fully develop. This is why children have no concept of how long it takes to do certain activities, making chores feel like they will last forever. They also have no concept of the future, which leads to them putting off responsibilities for later so they can concentrate on having fun right now. To them, the time when they have to actually sit down and do their homework will never arrive.
The only way to get around these tendencies is to challenge their perception of time. Have them write down how long they think it will take to do homework, chores, and other activities, and then compare their estimates to how long it actually takes. You can also have them keep track of time using an analogue clock over a digital one because it provides a physical representation of how much time has gone by and how much time is left for them to finish their task.
Once they see how long something actually takes, it will help them notice how much time they spend on various activities. If they know how long it will take, they can then do better jobs planning their schedule and spend less time procrastinating.
Keep Track of Progress
Honing their organizational skills is a crucial part of teaching your child to manage their time wisely. A great way to do this is to have them track the progress of their tasks with calendars, schedules, and to-do lists that you can fill out and compile together. Have them add all their homework, projects, and after school activities so you can keep track of everything they are responsible for together. Only by helping them understand what lays before them can you hope to teach them how to deal with everything in a timely manner.
For older children learning to manage their time on their own, have them set up a chart that is filled with all their responsibilities next to an assigned time slot. By planning out their time in advance, they will learn how to better set their priorities and keep track of deadlines. After they finish each task, encourage them to check it off the list–this adds a certain level of satisfaction to the process to keep them interested.
We live in a world where distractions are everywhere. Television, phones, games, and all sorts of electronics take up much of our attention, but it’s important for your child to understand that there is a time and a place for these activities. TV and the internet can be huge time-sucks for children because it’s hard to keep track of time when you’re having fun. Have them pick out certain shows they will watch during the week, or give them an allotted amount of free time. By making them pay attention to how much time they are spending with electronics, it teaches them to budget better.
The goal should be to teach your child responsibility when it comes to down to time, so that there’s no point in which they are mindlessly forgetting their responsibilities. They will become more wary of how much time they spend in front of the TV or computer, and it might lead them to scheduling other activities they find more rewarding instead.
It’s important to remember that this is a process. Children don’t have the same time management skills that adults do, and it will be years before they develop them. As you guide them through making more productive decisions, remember to be patient.