How to Help Your Child Manage Time Well

One big challenge for primary and middle schoolers is juggling school work and other activities. Here’s a guide to help them manage their time effectively.

By Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj

How to Help Your Child Manage Time Well

“Wake up, Amu! It’s already 7. You’ll be late for school,” yells mom from the kitchen with one eye on the oven and the other on the pressure pan. Dad is busy packing lunch while also interacting on the phone with a service engineer to help repair the ‘ailing’ washing machine at home. Amu reluctantly pulls herself up from her bed and heads for the bathroom where she hears the hurried splashes of water as her brother, Amrit, rushes through his morning rituals. Amu bangs on the door repeatedly and finally Amrit comes out. He then puts on his uniform and rummages through the dresser-drawers for his pair of socks. “Dad, where are my socks?” “On the bed-side table,” Dad’s reply is drowned by the sound of the school bus’ horn.

“Amu! Amrit! That’s the bus … you haven’t had your breakfast, here … come … quick,” Mom shouts, her voice laced with concern. Amu rushes out of the bathroom … ‘honk, honk’ goes the horn again. Amu hurriedly dresses up, rushes to the kitchen, grabs a sandwich and heads for the door … ‘honk, honk’ goes the horn, for the final time … As Amu and Amrit scramble to get into the school bus, Dad and Mom shut the door behind them and get into the car to drive off to work. Dame Time from the cuckoo clock on their living-room wall heaves a sigh of relief.

Isn’t this a familiar scene in most homes where there are primary and middle schoolers?

How often do we, parents, wring our hands in despair, stating, “No time, No time,” and, how many times do our children chant the same phrase in sheer frustration? It isn’t surprising. For, ever since the days of sundials and hourglasses, man has been engaged in a tough tussle with Dame Time in his attempt to manage her. Those ancient timekeepers may have given way to sleek, digital ones; however, man’s struggle to keep pace with time remains unchanged.

Given the finite nature of time with its limits of 24 hours a day, 60 minutes an hour and 60 seconds a minute, managing it is indeed a challenge. When adults find this challenging, what about children? We may presume that they are free of challenges; however, managing time is a huge challenge for them. Therefore, we need to impart time management skills to them early in life. Even before looking at how this can be done, let us explore why this is essential.

Why should children possess time management skills?

“Work–life balance is as important for children as it is for adults. It is essential that children establish this balance early on. When they grow up into adults and become professionals, they will need to manage their time well,” says P S Prince Jeevanand, Head, Human Resources, Larsen & Toubro, Oman, and father of Andrew who has recently completed his class 12. Most children aim high these days. Prince adds that children engage in a lot of activities apart from academics, especially in the primary and middle school stages. “They have bigger goals and higher aspirations. Proper time management alone can help them attain these targets,” he says.

Pamela Anand, a homemaker and mother of Jessica and Rebecca who are in primary and middle school respectively, echoes Prince’s thoughts. “Today, children need to juggle a lot of commitments – school, assignments, projects, coaching classes, sports, extra-curricular activities and hobbies. They do not know how to manage their time. We need to teach them how to do it,” she says.

We should also realise that time management enables effective management of all areas of children's lives. For want of time, they will feel stressed out, lose control over their emotions, and end up wasting resources. Therefore, we need to impart time management skills to our children.

How to Help Your Child Manage Time Well

10 Tips for parents to help children manage time

Managing their time is not the responsibility of children alone; it is a collective commitment of the entire family, especially that of parents. Here’s how parents can help.

1. Set realistic goals

“We should understand the unique capabilities of our children and set realistic goals for them. We shouldn’t push them to achieving what is beyond their capability. Also, goals should be self-driven and not a mere translation of parental goals. Otherwise, children will end up spending a lot of time on something they cannot or do not want to accomplish,” says Pamela.

2. Make children realise the essence of time

‘Time and tide wait for no man,’ goes the old adage. Children should be made to realise this. They should understand that time flies by and once time is lost, it can never be regained. They should be taught the importance of punctuality, early in their lives.

3. Stress on planning and organising

“Planning will go a long way in helping children manage their time. Parents should get children to plan all their activities,” feels Prince. Planning should go into even simple chores like arranging school bags and getting uniforms and footwear ready the previous night itself. This will cut down the time spent in last-minute searches. It is also important to realise that orderliness will save a lot of time, which is why it is important that you teach your children that everything should have a designated place.

4. Avoid procrastination

‘Procrastination is the thief of time,’ – make children realise that delay will never work. They should get things done immediately. Putting something off indefinitely is poor time management.

5. Prioritise

Often, a lack of prioritising goals and duties leads to chaos in schedules. Children should, therefore, be taught to decide which chores gain importance and urgency, and approach them accordingly.

6. Draw up schedules

One of the important elements of time management is estimation. Having weekly and monthly planners at home can be of great help. You should allow your children to estimate time requirements for each task. This should then be included in the schedule. “I help my son to draw up schedules for all his activities. This helps him to manage his time to a great extent,” says Prince, whose views are endorsed by Pamela. She says, “I help my children prepare daily schedules which include studies, piano, tennis and prayer.”

7. Use alarms, timers, prompts and alerts

Drawing up schedules isn’t sufficient. Children should be prompted to adhere to them. Most of us are good at planning to perfection, but faltering when it comes to execution. This is where small, yet effective measures like alerts and alarms can help. Pamela says, “I ensure that my children follow these schedules which are displayed in their room on a white-board by prompting them.” As for Prince, he says, “I set up alerts for my son when it is time to complete one activity and move on to the other.”

8. Remove distractions and ‘time-stealers’

If your child is distracted by television, computer games or social media, you should impose restrictions on him. Otherwise, these distractions will eat into his studies and other important activities, and will throw time management out of the window.

9. Develop routines

Having set patterns for all activities ensures that it becomes easy for children to follow them. So, encourage children to develop a routine.

10. Set a good example

This is the most important way parents can help children in time management. As parents, you should manage your time well and set a good example for your children. Prince says that he even shares with his son those few instances where he had to face the consequences of poor time management. Thus, his son is able to learn from his father’s mistakes. Pamela feels that parents should invest their time in helping children manage their time. Being a homemaker has been a blessing for her as she has been able to devote most of her time to her children’s schedules.

As Mother Teresa said, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” Yes, time is precious. So, let our children cherish and value every moment.