Jeff Herring, MS, LMFT, is a marriage and family therapist specializing in working with teenagers and their parents. A nationally syndicated relationship columnist and speaker, Jeff is also the founder and CEO of www.parentingyourteenager.com, where you can subscribe to his f'ree internet newsletter "ParentingYourTeenager." E-mail Jeff at email@example.com.
Do you ever feel like there's not enough time in the day? You've just realized it's time for bed, and you still haven't accomplished all you set out to do today? Put yourself in your kids' shoes. If you can't prioritize and accomplish your own daily tasks, how can you expect your children to do the same?
Time management is an acquired skill. Help your kids learn to be better managers of their time. I have devised a way to help our 12-yr-old daughter with time management by dividing her main activities into five basic categories: homework, chores, bed time, social activities, and telephone. Homework and chores kind of go hand in hand. They have to be accomplished every day. Our daughter started middle school this year, and she is exhausted when she gets home every day. I have a hard time putting her to work right when she gets home. Our initial rule was that her chores and homework had to be done before bedtime. That worked to a point, except that she was always underestimating how long it would take to get everything done and she'd save it all until the last minute. We then tried a different approach. Our daughter gets home at 3:00 every day. Dinner's at about 6:00, and bed time is 9:30. That gives her approximately the same amount of free time before and after dinner. The new rule is that one thing (chores or homework) has to be done before dinner, and the other one after dinner. So far this has worked very well for us. She has a little time to relax after school and feels she has a little control over her own time.
Bed time has always been a problem at our house. We initially told our daughter she had to go to her bedroom at 9:30 but she could stay awake as long as she likes (reading, listening to music) as long as she got herself up when the alarm went off. This worked for a couple of weeks and then she started sleeping through her alarm. So now the lights go off by 10:00. As soon as she proves she can get up on her own again, she will earn this privilege back.
Social activities are great, as long as they're supervised by adults and also granted in moderation. Don't spoil your kids by letting them go wherever they want whenever they want, even if they have all their chores and homework done. The more time they spend with their friends, the more time they have to be influenced by who knows what kind of peer pressure. The more time kids spend at home with their families the better. Make social activities a privilege your children have to earn so they will see them as a privilege and not something you owe them. Teach them to spend their time in more constructive ways like reading, writing, or playing games with the family.
And along with the social activities comes phone privileges. Telephone conversations at our house are limited to 15 minutes each, 2 to 3 maximum per day, and not after 9:00 p.m. Even this is lenient, but it gives our daughter ample opportunity to talk to her friends about homework, etc. Limiting phone time also encourages kids to spend their time in more constructive ways and teaches them to think about what they want to say before they get on the phone.
Remember, kids not only need to learn how to manage their time, they also need to learn to use their time wisely. That's the only way they will be able to compete in today's world. There's plenty of time for fun, but only after the work is done. Kids have a lot on their plates these days, and they aren't born knowing how to manage their time. This is where you come in. Kids need to be taught these skills, and not just by word, but by example. Don't forget to practice what you preach.
Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom who publishes the Creative Homemaking Recipe of the Week Club, a weekly newsletter that contains quick, easy dinner ideas and money-saving household hints. To subscribe send a blank e-mail message to FreeRecipesfirstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Creative Homemaking at and Suite 101 -http://www.suite101.com/welcome.cfm/creative_homemaking.