Do you have a lazy kid in the house? You know the one I’m talking about. The one who sits at the table and plays with dinosaurs all day or dilly-dallies the day away while you’re going crazy. These children can drive you up the proverbial wall.
What if I told you the vast majority of these children aren’t lazy, they simply have no in-born time management skills?
Time Management is a Skill Issue not an Obedience Issue
Handing these children a subject, such as math, and telling them to plan the week is like sending us into a large family’s kitchen that hasn’t been cleaned in a month. Pizza boxes are piled to the ceiling, flies are buzzing around moldy dishes, and the trash is overflowing. Where do you start?
Break Large Projects into Small Tasks
Often kids have no idea how to break large projects into small tasks, even though it seems obvious to us. I told one child to write the lessons down on his planner and didn’t check back for a week.
That week my child diligently grabbed his books, opened his planner, and stared at the page. He sat there in a daze all week.
We argued. He assured me his schoolwork would get done. It didn’t.
Finally I checked his planner, everything was written down to be done on Monday. Each day he sat down, looked at his planner, and panicked. How was he to do all this?!?
We spent quite a bit of time breaking his lessons down into manageable bites. Instead of being confronted with all 5 Tapestry of Grace books, his entire science lesson, 5 math lessons, and a pile of Latin worksheets on Monday, we divided and conquered the pile.
Read this book on Monday, complete 2 pages of science, do one lesson of math, complete one Latin worksheet. He diligently began dividing the assignments into small chunks. This was the beginning of learning time management.
Decide When Each Task Should Be Done
Knowing how long a task takes requires experience. Our young middle school students when first confronted with planning don’t always have an internal clock that says math should take about 45 minutes.
Instead they’ll look at the lesson and think, “I have plenty of time!” and return to playing with Legos for a few more hours.
Add that same absent time management skill to history, science, English, and Latin and you have a child who plays the day away. Sometime around 3 or 4 o’clock they panic realizing the work isn’t done.
It’s time to teach your child to schedule their day. It’s a fairly simple solution. My son and I sat down and discussed what subject he wanted to do during each time slot in the school day.
Suddenly my son found himself sitting down at 9 o’clock in the morning knowing it was time to do 1 math lesson. Most of our problems were solved! There was just the problem of distractibility.
Focus on the Task to Be Done
By time point we were to the point of learning to put his nose to the grindstone. I played the game, Race the Clock, that my mother taught me when I was first doing my homework at the kitchen table.
It’s a very simple game. You set the buzzer for 15-20 minutes and see how many math problems you can get done, or you see if you can finish your assignment in 20 minutes.
With very young children, I prefer to give them 1 minute to complete 1 problem. Lots of cheering and high 5’s keep the little ones happy. Middle school kids are too dignified for the cheering, so I keep to a simple ‘Good Job!’
It takes time, effort, and patience to teach time management skills to children, but eventually you do end up with high school students who manage their time well.
How do you teach time management skills to your children?