Time Management Skills: Teaching Your Child about Timeliness

How to Build Your Child's Self-Control

Although the values and boundaries around punctuality vary in different parts of the world, American culture views timeliness as a sign of integrity and responsibility. Learning to be punctual can have a very real impact on relationships, school, and business.

Being on time is associated with executive function skills, or the behind the scenes skills needed for learning, such as focus, perspective-taking, and organization. These skills are critical for academic success, as well as success in later life, according to Ellen Galinsky, author of “Mind in the Making.”

Children who exhibit chronic lateness often struggle with organization in general. They may find it hard to keep track of personal items or forget to turn in homework. Helping them establish the habit of timeliness tends to have a positive ripple effect to other areas of life. Some children are inclined toward organization and punctuality, while others take a more carefree attitude. How can you help a child who is not as in tune to the social norm of punctuality become more aware? Below are a few ideas:

Time Management Tips: Teaching the Importance of Being on Time

Understand the benefits of timeliness. Help your child understand that being on time feels better. Try explaining, for example, “When we’re late, other people have to wait for us, which isn’t fair to them. I feel grumpy and nervous. And, we sometimes miss out on things like morning stories at school.”

Keep a planner or to-do list. Time is an abstract concept for young children, but using visual schedules and planners can help develop time management and organizational skills by making time concrete. Together with your child, create a daily or weekly calendar, preferably with some visuals, such as bedtime, school, etc. Go over the schedule each day so your child understands what to expect. For example, say, “See, we’re having breakfast now and then we’ll go to school. After breakfast, you need to get your shoes and jacket on.” Try setting a timer to keep your child focused.

Build in margin. The baby needs a diaper change as you’re walking out the door. Your toddler dawdles over breakfast and your older child has lost his or her homework. These realities of family life can derail the most organized parent and child. Give yourself a buffer by building extra time into your schedule to prevent lateness. If you need to be out the door by 8:00 in the morning, tell yourself – and your children – that departure time is at 7:45. Try setting the clocks ahead 5 or 10 minutes. Give an older child his or her own watch or alarm clock and encourage accountability.

Get organized. You know the drill: it’s time to walk out the door and your child can’t find his or her backpack. The shoes are nowhere to be seen. The car keys have mysteriously disappeared. Help your child organize his or her things so everything has a place and encourage him or her to put everything back in its place. Get lunches, clothing, and backpacks ready the night before. This one habit can instantly give everyone in the house an extra 10 to 15 minutes every morning, not to mention an added measure of peace.

Allow for “child time.” If you constantly feel rushed, the problem might be your schedule. If you struggle with time management or organization, try writing up a time budget to make sure your schedule is realistic. Write down every commitment you have in the course of a week. Include the non-negotiables, such as grocery shopping, work, school, and meals. Add the non-essential activities that are important to you. These might be things like extracurricular activities or community service. Now, add in some blank space – unstructured time for reading, play, or family time. If there’s no room for blank space, can you delete some non-essentials to make room?

Time Management Takes Practice

Learning to be punctual takes practice, and these time management tips can help your family get out the door on time. However, most of us are occasionally late when things come up that we can’t control. Be patient with your child, but don’t shelter him or her from life experiences or the natural consequences that come with tardiness

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How to Build Your Child's Self-Control