How to Introduce Time Management to Children

How to Introduce Time Management to Children

I have a sprightly nine year old who like her favourite character ‘Hermione Granger’ (from Harry Potter series) has to be the first one to raise her hand for any activity that her class teacher announces. I have neither had the heart to stop her nor the intention to do so. But what I had always intended to do was to teach her how to manage time. And to achieve that I started as early as her play school days.

The visual imagery that goes with the term ‘Time management’, is probably an MBA class or an HR exercise of a corporate workplace. But managing time is not something that can be learnt in a classroom or a workshop.

We expect our kids to participate in all curricular and extracurricular activities but we forget to teach them how to juggle all of it. Our intentions are good but the child cannot help feeling overwhelmed and incompetent. And somewhere down the line she gets disheartened and gives up. That has very serious long term implications in terms of affecting the self-confidence and initiative.

Trouble is time is a fixed entity that you cannot stretch but only manage. Sooner or later we have to make peace with this fact. The ‘multi taskers’ that we are expected to become cannot be taught. Over the years I have realized that it’s a skill which is either inherently there or one has to consciously imbibe it. Unless you work on it proactively, the concept of time management remains just that…. a concept. So get a head start by helping your child form some habits that become her second nature. Gift her a survival kit that will help her deal better with what life throws at her.

Start small, bigger leaps will take care of themselves. Here are some of my own hacks that have worked with my nine year old, which you may find useful.

Make the child feel responsible and in charge of her life. As early as she started getting home work, I have driven in the fact that it’s her work and she has to plan how and when to do it. Of course I helped her make a time table showing her how to give adequate time for each task and keeping a buffer time between two tasks. Even I hadn’t envisioned the multiple benefits I’ll get from this process. I do not have to yell at her like a raving, ranting woman to remind her to do her work because she is far more responsible when it comes to her school work than the kids her age. Her self-confidence shows through and she is happy because she gets to play, read, study when she wants to.

Make To-Do lists. My daughter like most kids has this white board in her room which she uses for pretend play. I have found a good use for it.  I ask her to list out things that need to be done, projects to be submitted, tests to be prepared for etc. Now I am trying to teach her to label them according to the Covey’s two by two table as shown below and once slotted, she can go serially from 1 to 4.

I believe with persistence this table will become a part of her planning process, so she will organically embrace the four Ds- DO, DELEGATE, DEFER and DELETE.

Word of caution– do not over do. Have realistic time plans. Try to stick to them. That doesn’t mean a regimented life but if a task at hand needs to be done, an exam to be studied for, break it down into smaller task packets. Leave time for play and fun. Take the child’s inputs and incorporate them. If she is involved in the planning process, there are higher chances that it will be followed. It may not work out from the word go. Sit and analyse what went wrong, what could have been done. Patience and persistence is what is needed.

Bunch up tasks. When I take my daughter to the market or to the grocery store, I hand her the list of things and allow her to pick and choose. The only instruction I give her is that as she moves between the aisles, she has to tick off the list section wise. So if we start at the grocery, we finish grocery first then move on to the next section. No running back and forth. Similarly if she’s cleaning her room, she picks up stuff in a manner that avoids moving across in the house. That is the basic element of time economics. So even if your child is still small to understand the theory of time economics, her practical understanding of the concept is building up. And as she grows older, you will be pleasantly surprised how effortlessly she will slide into the efficiency mode.

Invest in Organizers. My sister laughs every time I move towards the organizers’ section of any store. But for me an organized closet is the way to an organized mind. And the same rule goes for my daughter as well.  There has to be a place for everything and everything in place.  If you assign place for everything which is within the child’s reach, believe me they’ll pick up after them. Gently discipline their little hands to do so and before you know you’ll have so much more time and not to forget a much neater house as well.

Switch off the distractions…. Literally. Resist the temptation to give that TV remote or the smartphone to your kid. Before we know they succumb to aimless internet browsing and passive TV watching.

Food and exercise. There’s no avoiding them. Kids have to be eating healthy

 and need some form of exercise.

And finally, sleep. Often with assignments piling up, classes to attend, places to go to take up so much time that the sleep time is snipped off. What we never realize is that a well-rested brain is far more efficient than a sleep deprived one. Resist the urge to compromise on sleep. It is one of the most counterproductive thing to do. There is a small pea sized gland called the pineal gland embedded deep in the brain. It controls the circadian rhythm and regulates the hormones. It gets stimulated by darkness and inhibited by light. So an uninterrupted night time sleep is the only way to ensure that it gets activated.

Do not underestimate the child’s potential. The only limits they have are the ones that we put. Allow the child to take responsibility for her actions and what follows. Adversity is a far better teacher and much more effective too. That means we have to face our demons too. We cannot be lazy or panicky. As the world is shrinking we do not know which corner of it our kids will end up in. We may not be able to accompany them in the journey that they must take. What we CAN do is make them independent, strong, resilient and responsible. It is our moral responsibility to make them aware of their capabilities.

Hope I have nudged you in the right direction. Like, share and I shall look forward to your comments. Let me know if this works for you and share your hacks as well. I have huge faith in cumulative wisdom.

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