Overview: Guest Contributor Lynna Sutherland of Your Large Family Homeschool has great advice for growing time management for teens. It’s about finding the balance between flexibility and accountability. Read on!
As our kids get older and rise in the grades through our homeschool, we have dreams of them becoming wonderfully independent in their learning — especially if they have lots of siblings behind them who need our time and attention!
Some teens soar into independent study and manage their own time wisely. Others don’t seem to have that natural ability. How can we support them and provide accountability while also allowing the flexibility that their growing interests and busy schedules require? Here are a few suggestions.
3 Tips to Train Time Management for Teens
1) Define the goal; leave the decisions open
When our kids are smaller, we make the decisions for them. We choose their bedtimes, we tell them when to eat breakfast and lunch, and we determine when they will complete their school work.
Teens who struggle to use their time well might need some structure, but it’s best if you can provide that structure in a way that facilitates their ability to take ownership of their choices. Instead of defining the rules, define the goals and let them decide how to meet those goals.
For example, when our kids become teens, we no longer dictate their bedtime — on certain conditions.
We tell them that there are two important requirements that must be met:
- They need to be up, alert, and functional for the requirements of the day (exact times depending on the schedule).
- Other people in the house need to be able to sleep undisturbed in the evening.
If they can meet those requirements, when they go to sleep is up to them. However, we also let them know that if they repeatedly fail to be able to do those things (including if they are a source of intolerable cruelty to family members due to severe lack of sleep), we may need to step in and decide on a bedtime for them.
In this way, they understand what it is we want them to be able to do, and they can monitor their own choices to see how those decisions impact the stated goals. When our teens are focused on the same goals we are, we can offer suggestions that support them in reaching those goals, such as apps that shut down devices at a certain time in the evening.
2) Using a timer and a scheduler
Often a major obstacle to time management for teens is an inability to accurately estimate how long a task will take. In their minds, tomorrow has tons of empty space for getting all the tasks done, so there’s no rush. But in reality, they may find that they are left with too many things to accomplish and not enough time to do it all. (Honestly, I still struggle with that as an adult!)
When kids are little, we may use a count-down timer to encourage them to keep on task and get work accomplished before the timer goes off. When they are older, help them used a count-up timer to get a sense of how long a common task will take. If they know, for example, that it usually takes them about 45 minutes to finish a math lesson, they will be able to plan more accurately for that activity.
Using calendars or schedulers — either a paper book or a digital tool like Google Calendar — is a great way to visually map out a plan using the time-blocks estimated for various tasks.
I’m personally a fan of Google Calendar because it allows me to invite my teens to recurring events or pre-schedule activities like youth group meetings or sporting competitions. And, of course, managing a personal calendar or schedule is a pretty essential life skill these days!
3) Schedule co-working time
Sometimes teens have all of the best intentions in the world. And they may even be capable of mastering the material they are studying independently. But life gets distracting and they fail to start their work when they planned or to keep focused on it.
They may not want you to hover over their shoulders (and you may not want to have to do that!) but working side-by-side can help them stay focused while you complete your own tasks nearby.
Maybe you both plan to settle on the sofa with coffee in hand at a certain time of the morning. Or maybe you both meet at the dining room table after lunch so your teen can work while you clean the lunch dishes. And, since you’re planning it in advance, your teen can go ahead and add it to the calendar for the day!
What are some of your favorite tips for encouraging flexibility and independence while offering the needed support and accountability as you work on time management for teens?
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