Let’s face it, moms. We typically tend to be the ones who set the schedule, adjust the schedule, and deal with the crises that crash the schedule. We pick up the pieces, often in a way that no one else even notices. And we do this whether we’re good at planning or not!
Some of us learned to handle the day-to-day life management of our families by watching one or both of our parents and learning from their successes and failures. Others of us took on-the-job crash courses as teens and young adults, learning the need for structure—often the hard way—as our lives became more complex. Only a few of us actually had the blessing of being taught how to manage our time well.
Fortunately, regardless of our personalities, our kids’ personalities, or the training we received growing up, we know that we can start a new trend with the up-and-coming generation. We can actively teach them to manage their time well from a young age, allowing those concepts to become well ingrained before adulthood. An important reality to remember in this training, though, is that it isn’t just about teaching them how to create a schedule, use a planner, and manage time well. We must also teach them the flexibility that will help them learn to flow with a routine rather than becoming chained to a schedule.
Priorities for Margin
The first key to flexibility is managing priorities well in order to maintain boundaries and margin. We are constantly confronted with a long list of activities, adventures, and interactions to be involved in. Regular activities such as church involvement, co-op, sports, drama, or music lessons run up against the sporadic birthday parties, youth group activities, or get-togethers with friends.
Here are some ways to teach our children how to evaluate activities and establish priorities:
- As a family, make a commitment to time of rest each week. If your children are teens, the whole family might not be able to set aside the same time, but encourage each family member to find space to refresh by pulling away from constant commitments.
- Have each child prioritize desired commitments, especially long-term commitments such as sports or other extracurricular activities. If only one could be picked, which would it be? Are there activities that can be combined with preferences of siblings to put less strain on the family?
- Take a piece of paper and write the days of the week across the top and the working hours of the day down the left-hand side. Then sit down with your children and fill in all of the non-negotiables. Show them how much time is left for extras, and work together to limit activities to a certain amount of time each week.
- Have a calendar meeting every weekend to talk out the coming week. Instead of simply filling the calendar, talk out ways to help each other protect rest time and manage activities and commitments well.
While we as parents are the ones who ultimately have to make the tough decisions about what our family schedule and routine can and cannot handle, the simple act of involving our children in the process trains them to make the decisions on their own in the future.
Interruptions and Disruptions
What happens in your family when interruptions hit? Does the routine fall apart or is there room for adjustment? It is important that we teach our children how to maintain a routine in the midst of the fluidity of life. Here are some ways to accomplish this:
- Have your children help you meal plan for at least a week at a time. As you plan, come up with a list of quick back-up meal ideas for those days when something unexpected disrupts the plan. Encourage selections that middle schoolers and teens can prepare on their own to help mom and dad out.
- Some days, the homeschool plan has to be adjusted. While you have to make the decisions for younger children, take a few minutes to work through the adjustments with your upper elementary and middle school children. High schoolers can make adjustments on their own and submit them to you for approval.
- Determine as a family what household chores can be allowed to slide when the need arises. Encourage children to work out a way to help one another, especially if one child’s chore can be cut but another’s cannot.
Obviously, we cannot choose neglect. But, we can teach our children that some days it is okay to throw a quick meal on the table, cut the extra activities out of the school day, or leave a pile of laundry unfolded for the time being.
A Fresh Start
The very best way to teach our children to flow with the ups and downs of life is by encouraging them to face each new day as a fresh start. We plan for the week, month, semester, or year. But we can only live in the day before us right now.
Teach your children how to set aside a five-minute evaluation time at the end of each day. (For middle school and up, this works much better if your child has his or her own planner.) Here are some tips that will help with this quick evaluation time.
- Consider what was left undone and determine whether each task needs to be reassigned to a new day or simply scratched from the list. Don’t leave anything just hanging. Deal with it together so the day can be closed and tomorrow can be given a clean slate.
- Take a quick glance together at tomorrow. Are the to-do list and schedule realistic? Do any adjustments need to be made?
There is nothing like a new start to minimize stress and encourage successful days. By helping your children learn how to determine priorities, work around disruptions, and start fresh every day, you are turning their budding time management skills into real-life planning skills!