As an educator, I have often discussed with or counselled parents who are either concerned or frustrated with their teen’s time management habits. The list of top 5 non-negotiable expectations from their growing child that I have heard from them are listed below. You may want to list yours, chances are it would be some or all of the following:
1. Eating healthy, sleeping enough and maintaining personal hygiene
2. Doing well in school and being prompt with homework
3. Sharing household responsibilities like laying the table for dinner, taking the dog for a walk or helping grandmother with her Skype call
4. Spending time with family, especially on occasions that are significant like birthdays, rituals and social outings
5. Working towards defined goals – both short-term and long-term; for example, a short-term goal could be baking a cake for a friend’s birthday party or tending to plants in the garden and a long-term one could be learning to play soccer or learning to play the guitar
While all of the above need time, there are some aspects of your teen’s life which, when they overtake the day’s schedule, end up being 'time guzzlers'. I asked a few teenagers to identify some activities of theirs which they felt made them waste time. They picked the following. You can help them manage these.
Taming your teen’s top time guzzlers
Television: Suggest your teen to pick out specific shows that interest her and put them on record. Thus she does not have to watch them by appointment. She can schedule a specific time during the day or week to catch up with that favourite show. A routine can also be made to watch it with the family or friends to combine the hang-out time and entertainment time.
Video games: If you see that gaming is taking up more time than your teen can afford in his schedule, use it as a reward time - "After finishing homework, you can turn on the play station or catch Pokémon for an hour."
Social media: Facebook updates, YouTube videos, WhatsApp and Instagram have become a part of the lives of our teens. Set aside specific time for social media. Allocating time will prevent such activities from overflowing into the rest of the schedule.
Sports and hobbies: These are necessary but sometimes they end up becoming time guzzlers. If it’s a club that your teen is a part of, discuss with the parents of other children and sort out the logistics and time for practice. Plan keeping in mind the activities that you have already included in your teen’s schedule. Overall, time needs to be balanced and spread across the interest areas of your teen. Avoid over-scheduling. Keep breathers within the schedule.
Hanging out: You need to understand that this one is as much a time guzzler as being an actual emotional need for teenagers. They wish to spend extended periods of time with their peers and any amount of hang-out time isn't sufficient for them.
You can combine one or all of the above to an overall chunk of time to be spent on socialising—both virtually and physically.
Scheduling is the key
Have a discussion with your teen once a week on what would be the broad outline of the week. To begin with, you can share yours. Role-modelling is the best way to preach. You may consider putting up both your as well as your teen's to-do lists side-by-side on a white board or on the refrigerator. Arrange the tasks in the to-do list in the categories of:
- Definitely (just have to be done)
- Should be (can be partially done or pushed if ‘definitely’ is taking more time)
- Love to (leisure and feel-good activities)
Once this list is made, draw up a day-wise schedule of activities. A to-do list remains as such if it is not scheduled. Allocation of dedicated time is critical to a to-do list becoming a 'done' list. You can use technology for this with apps and planners. Also, model good time management habits yourself and share your challenges and successes with your teen. If you are asking your child to fill in the schedule, go ahead and fill in one yourself. And, please remember to schedule leisure as well. If you go in for such scheduling and planning, you will find that routines develop over time. Your child will begin doing certain activities in a certain order like playing a game right after school or doing some specific chores at home right before or after dinner and so on.
Set rules and expectations clearly with consequences
Setting rules and expectations clearly with consequences (that have been discussed and those that you would follow through) works better than continuous reminders, which in turn reduce the child’s responsibility and ownership for her schedule. Use this opportunity to ensure that time management becomes a long-term life skill for your child. This will go a long way in not only estimating the time that will take her to work on a project but also to manage and work towards much complicated long-term goals. It’s alright for her to feel stressed at times. Tell your teen to accept it when she feels stressed. Share with her what you do to relax when you are stressed.
Here are some suggestions for both parents and teens to ease stress:
- Make a list of immediate matters that are causing stress and prioritise the tasks. It helps in tackling procrastination.
- Break a big task into modules. For example, if you ask your child to clean the room, break it down further by listing smaller tasks such as cleaning out drawers, sorting out the cupboard, clearing the desk, and so on, so that one task at a time can be achieved.
- Do something to get rid of your stress like going out for a walk, swimming or jogging. If indoors, take a shower, do a couple of yoga poses, or have a cup of hot tea/chocolate.
- Take a small break to read a short article or watch a TED talk.
- Call a friend or family member for a quick chat.
- Seek help if you think someone in your network would be able to support you in it. Sometimes, switching on some music and cleaning the room with a friend becomes the most fun thing that teens can engage in by turning a chore into a play-date.
- Last but not the least, if you or your child has over-committed, do not hesitate to pull back from one or two of those.
As your teen starts employing time management skills, the immediate benefits would be palpable, like:
• staying relatively calm before projects are due or before school tests
• developing a sense of responsibility and independence
• having increased guilt-free time for socialising with friends
• performing better in school work and other activities
With these tips, help your child to manage his time effectively.
Nivedita Mukerjee is a journalist, educator and parent. She writes about matters that concern a child’s success and well-being. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.