How do you teach a life skill that you have not mastered? Learn alongside your kids.
One of the toughest challenges parents face is how to teach their kids life skills when they themselves aren't so good at them. Life skills, such as organizing, time management, money management make it possible to achieve our goals and yet, they aren't taught in school. If you weren't taught as a youngster, you probably feel especially lost (and guilty) that you don’t know how to guide your kids, because you don't want your offspring to suffer as you did.
The good news is, you can teach and learn alongside your kids. Here's the first in a series of blogs on how to teach your kids life skills, with age-by-age lessons you can master together.
Time Management is the oil in the machine of life. Once your kids learn how to manage their time, they’ll be more successful (and less frazzled) in and out of school.
Here’s an age-by-age guide to time management lessons:
Pre-school kids (3 to 5-years-old)
Help your child develop “time consciousness” by talking about schedules and time in everyday conversation: “We’re reading for 30 minutes.” “I’ll pick you up in one hour.” “Dinner is at 6 p.m.” Then use tools, like a clock on the wall, your cell phone timer or a Time Timer (which helps your kids visualize the passage of time) to reinforce your words. Young children don’t really know what five or 10 minutes means, but a Time Timer lets them see time elapsing. The goal here is to help your kids get a feel for time.
School-age kids (6 to 10-years-old)
The gateway skill to good time management is understanding how long things take. Help your child build awareness during everyday activities. You can even make it a friendly competition: who can more accurately calculate the duration of a task? Use a timer track how long it actually requires to complete a task.
Tweens (10 to 13-years-old)
Middle school is a critical stage to fortify time-management skills. At this age, kids shift from having a single teacher in a single classroom (as they did in elementary school) to having multiple teachers and classrooms, who may not coordinate with each other. Teach your kids to use a calendar to schedule time -- when they’re not in school -- for homework, friends, family and time alone. Show them how to break big, long-term projects into daily steps to avoid missing deadlines.
Teenagers (14 to 18-years-old)
As your kids’ lives become busier and more independent -- school, college applications, part-time jobs, socializing -- the stakes get higher. Grades start to impact college applications and future opportunities. Relationships get more complicated. In lots of instances, your teenager may shy away from your advice; but in this case, your time management hacks – how to do things faster and better – may actually be welcome, because they can help your child feel more competent. Lean into it and show them your best tricks.
I’ve always loved this Annie Dillard quote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” If time management is a challenge for you – if you are always rushed and running late and feeling guilty for being behind – this is good moment to acknowledge your struggle, and commit to learning how to do it better with your child.
Mastering the art of time management can be a tremendous gift to you and your entire family.
This blog is adapted from Julie’s latest book, Time to Parent, which divides the juggling act of parenting into 2 parts: raising a human, and being a human. With concrete, easy-to-implement insights and tools, this book is the ultimate time management guide to your parenting years.