Teaching kids to manage their time

We live in a world of instantaneous communication – and instant demands. The report you were told to write today was due yesterday, your boss has scheduled seven meetings for the same hour, and you still have to find time to pick up the kids from school, help them with their homework and make a dinner everyone will eat and which is still nutritious.

Pause for a moment. Have I made your heart race? Yes, your life is, probably, fuller than that of your kids, but believe me when I say that they’re as panic-stricken regarding what in their lives goes where. There’s school, sport, homework, test preparation, the school play, extra-curricular activities and nagging mums, shouting dads and difficult teachers to placate. And, on top of all this, there are friends to fight and make up with, parties to go to and the right outfit to find.

In order to get around to everything, without allowing anything to fall by the wayside, children, and definitely teenagers, have to learn organisation.  It is a very necessary skill – one that they will need throughout their lives. So why not prepare your child to be organised now?

First and foremost, let your children organise themselves. I firmly believe that we learn by doing. Buy them a homework diary. Insist they write in it. Check that they’re doing so, if necessary. Ultimately, however, if you’re running your child’s life for them, what reason do they have to learn how to do it themselves?

Assist them in learning how to plan. If working on a large project, they can break it up into manageable bits, and complete each task they’ve assigned themselves. Don’t make them use it purely for homework – let them write down what events they have when, so that they can see that leaving studying until the Thursday before a Friday Maths test is probably not a good idea if they have rehearsals for Hamlet until late on Thursday evening.

If they are inclined to forget about what’s over the page,  a desk calendar can be a good idea – with a monthly planner they can see what’s due when at a glance. Remind them to fill in *everything*. This includes Suzi’s party on Saturday.

Don’t fall for the “planning fallacy”. People have a tendency to underestimate the amount of time it will take them to complete a task.  Encourage them to allow for triple the time they think a project will take them. If they finish with time to spare, that extra time should be theirs – this way, good planning is rewarded.

Flexibility should be promoted: starting early on any given task will allow for Eskom to cut the power – or give them the time to counsel their best friend through a crisis.

Lastly, warn them not to spend so much time organising their lives that no time is left in which to do the actual work. What good is a beautiful schedule that can’t be followed due to time constraints?

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Kerry Esterhuizen

Kerry Esterhuizen

Kerry Esterhuizen, tutor for Penguin Tutoring, avid reader. She has a BA in Psychology, English & Honours in English Literature. Her special skills involve essay and exam writing techniques.

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