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Teaching Time Management Stage by Stage

Habits we learn when we are young often stick with us for life. As parents, we can help assure that our children develop good time-managements skills by starting early and being consistent. Here are some tips for developing time management skills at every stage of your child’s life.

Starting Out

Preschool - 1st Grade

Young children may not yet understand time, but they thrive on routine. As much as possible, keep a consistent daily and weekly routine.

  • Help your children follow the routine by posting a schedule on the wall or door of the fridge. For non-readers, use pictures or drawings of daily activities to create the schedule. Even if your children can’t tell time, they can follow the order of the day by looking at the pictures.
  • Young children don’t understand the meaning of “five minutes.” Use a timer to give them a tangible representation of time.
  • Purchase an inexpensive clock and use color to mark daily blocks of time, then use the color code to create a schedule of what activities happen during each color/time block.
  • Create chore charts and set a time each day for all chores to be completed.
  • Train children to lay out clothing and any necessary items for the next day before they go to bed.
  • Keep a consistent bedtime and wake time as much as possible.

Getting Excited

2nd - 4th Grade

Elementary children are beginning to understand the passage of time. Use a family calendar where everyone’s information is all in one place. Train children to use the calendar to see when an upcoming event will occur and show them how to add important information to the schedule.

  • Don’t overschedule. Teach your children how to work hard while still scheduling down time and rest.
  • Help your children schedule daily priorities. Show them how to decide how much time each task will take, rank tasks according to importance, and make sure that necessary items get done first.
  • Use color-coding for each family member so that children can quickly find their information on the family calendar.
  • Model for them. Make sure you use your own planner and calendar and let your children see how you do it. Let them hear you tell others that you will need to check your calendar or planner before you commit to an activity.
  • Purchase an alarm clock for your children. By the end of this stage children should be able to get themselves up on time on their own. (Note: Be sure to pay attention to their sleep cycles. If the alarm is regularly jolting them out of a heavy sleep cycle, make appropriate adjustments to the schedule to ensure adequate sleep.)
  • Teach your children the power of “no” when a request will result in overcommitment.

Beginning to Understand

5th - 8th Grade

By middle school, your children are ready to process through each morning’s routine without prompting. Encourage them to take responsibility for getting breakfast, getting dressed, grooming, and tidying their room.

  • Purchase student planners for your children and show them how to use them. Early diligence and training can develop a habit that will continue for life and save time and problems later on.
  • Spend a few minutes each day discussing what needs to be accomplished before beginning the day.
  • Have your children make a to-do list every day, then mark off each task as it is completed.
  • Teach your children to avoid procrastination. Getting the task done will make free time much more enjoyable.
  • Cooking helps your child to work on time management skills. Begin with simple recipes, working up to full meals that require careful management to be done at the same time.
  • Teach goal-setting. Show students how to set a large goal and then divide it up into smaller goals.
  • Help children determine when to be rigid with the schedule and when to be flexible.

Learning to Reason

9th - 12th Grade

Realize that teens often work best at different times of the day. While some may bounce up ready to begin in the morning, many require more sleep at this age and may be more alert in the afternoon and evening. That makes this stage the perfect time to both challenge and allow freedom in time management training.

  • Allow your teen some freedom in creating a personal schedule at this age. Give guidelines, such as what time school work needs to be finished or how late curfew will be, but then allow the freedom to decide what fits within those boundaries.
  • Assign long-term projects and teach your student how to divide them into shorter pieces, working back from the final deadline to decide when each piece should be finished.
  • Hold your student accountable. As homeschool parents, it is easy to give extensions. Instead, set deadlines for projects and hold your teen to them.
  • Purchase a 4-Year High School Plan and show your high schooler how to record information and plan for important high school tasks, such as taking the ACT or SAT. Keeping good records now will make creating a transcript at the end of twelfth grade much easier.
  • Have your student schedule his or her own school work for the year by demonstrating how to take assignments and divide them by the number of school days available.
  • If time and transportation allow, consider encouraging your teen to get a part-time job and be responsible for being on time and ready for work.

College & Beyond

If your student has been developing time management skills along the way, it will be natural to continue that into college and adult years. But, even if it’s a brand new concept, it’s never too late to start!

  • Talk to your young adult about your own successes and failures in time management as a young adult.
  • Show your college student how to use a planner to keep track of assignments, due dates, and important events.
  • Help first-year college students be realistic about the time commitment for college classes.
  • As much as possible, encourage scheduling college classes in blocks, leaving larger chunks of time for studying, projects, and working. Encourage your student to set a timer when working on a project for school or work, taking a break to stretch at least once an hour.
  • No procrastination! Stress the importance of working on projects and papers a little bit at a time throughout the semester so it does not have to all be done at once at the end.
  • Help your student learn how to be realistic about outside activities that can take up a large share of time.
  • Demonstrate the importance of using a to-do list and prioritizing activities, crossing each item off as it is completed for a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Remind your young adult of the importance of scheduling in enough time for rest and sleep. Everyone has different rest requirements to keep from getting overtired.
  • Encourage periodic time management evaluation. What is working? What isn’t? Schedules and routines should be evaluated and tweaked regularly.
  • If your young adult seems to always be behind without really knowing where the time went, encourage him or her to create a time diary, logging time and activities for a week to see where the time is really being spent.

With five kids in their teen and early adult years, Rebecca shares the many ups and downs of parenting, homeschooling, and keeping it all together. As the Well Planned Gal she mentors women towards the goal of discovering the uniqueness Christ has created in them and their family and how to best organize and plan for the journey they will travel.

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