A Strategy To Help Your Child With Time Management

With competing responsibilities to juggle, the weight of the commitments can take a toll on your child, and can contribute to your family’s overall level of stress. Kids who don’t know how to manage their time and meet their responsibilities may find that, in the end, their grades suffer.

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As your child is getting older, you’re probably noticing that his or her commitment to school, sports, and extracurricular activities is growing, too.

Middle and high school students generally have more homework than younger kids, and the number of practices for athletics, dance, music, hobbies and other activities increases as participants move to higher levels of achievement and skill.

The Juggling Act of Taking on Too Much

With competing responsibilities to juggle, the weight of the commitments can take a toll on your child, and can contribute to your family’s overall level of stress. Kids who don’t know how to manage their time and meet their responsibilities may find that, in the end, their grades suffer.

So what’s a parent to do? Many behavioral health experts believe that parents can play an important role in helping youngsters navigate their array of choices in order to effectively prioritize and manage their time. A study looking at eighth-grade students conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that the biggest predictor of how well a child would do academically was how self-disciplined he or she was. In fact, self-discipline was a better predictor of academic success than IQ. This means that even the smartest child won’t be fully successful in school if he or she never studies or completes homework.

How to Set Your Child Up for Success

Good time management skills are not something that most people are born with, but rather something that they learn. To help your child effectively manage his or her time, here are some things you can do:

  • Use a big calendar or chart to help your child plan the coming week or month in advance. It can help to see where the extra commitments are, so you can plan ahead and pace yourselves according to the needs that exist.
  • Figure out where any time conflicts exist, and help your child make decisions on how to handle them. If there is a basketball game and a Girl Scouts’ meeting at the same time, talk through the options, such as leaving the meeting early or skipping it completely.
  • In addition to scheduling games, field trips, lessons, and meetings that have a hard-and-fast time and place, be sure to also allow dedicated time for “soft” commitments, like studying, chores, and family time. Help your child determine how long each item should take. This way your child can see the big picture at a glance and know what to expect all day long.
  • Prepare in advance. Enlist your child’s help to take time-saving steps, such as bagging snacks the night before, laying out clothes and shoes, and having supplies for art or science projects ready to go.
  • Leave room for “free time” when your child can play a video game, watch TV, call a friend, or read a book. On particularly busy days, this time can be broken into small fragments, such as on the way to school, in the car between activities, or right before bed. Don’t feel compelled to stick to any one structure, but find ways to make it work with what you have to give.
  • Use positive reinforcements when your child does a good job following the schedule and completing tasks. You can acknowledge accomplishments with verbal praise, and you might also let your child earn a special outing or other privilege for successfully meeting multiple commitments.
  • When your child seems over-scheduled and overwhelmed, proactively sit down together to figure out which commitments he or she should cut or reduce. Approach the challenge as a team, and be supportive. Come up with changes that can make things more manageable.
  • Allow room for error. Even the best-made plans don’t always work out as intended. Recognize that there will be days when your child may struggle with getting homework done on time or making it to practice promptly. Don’t dwell on the negative. Instead, encourage your child to try again, and see how you can best help support his or her efforts.

Practice What You Preach

When your child witnesses you navigating your own choices and managing your time to meet responsibilities, he or she is seeing a good example of how to effectively get things done. Remember that the time management skills you teach your youngster now will provide an important foundation for the future.

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