It’s Sunday night, the evening before we go to co-op, and once again the teen is madly typing away at the computer, making a valiant attempt to write a paper from FROM SCRATCH that is due TOMORROW.
Why didn’t he complete it (or even START it, hello) earlier in the week, you ask? Good question!! *mom stands by gnashing teeth*
Maybe it’s because he’s lacking in time management skills — a common problem among teens.
Teens tend to be about the thrill of the moment rather than long-range planning and execution, am I right? Which can lead to frustration for EVERYONE.
The good news is that time management is a skill that can be learned, and we can help them.
Granted, by this time we can and should hold them responsible for doing a lot of it on their own — which is why I have been known to let my kid face the consequences of his poor planning by having to present a hastily written paper at co-op.
But we shouldn’t expect them to just do it automatically, with no guidance. Chances are, although we may not remember it, we learned time management from a series of hard lessons in our own lives.
So we might want to give our kids a leg up so they don’t have to go through all that.
How to help your teen develop time management skills
It’s a multifaceted approach, all of which can happen simultaneously or one-by-one. It depends on your own style of time management and also how your teen is wired — which may be vastly different from you, don’t forget.
Don’t try to force them to be like you in this area. It will take trial and error to find out how THEY work best. But here are some things to explore:
1) Guide them in the task of making lists.
It’s hard to plan when you don’t know what you have to do — or when you’re trying to keep track of it all in your head.
Having everything — assignments, household chores, activities — all written down goes a long way towards eliminating the frustration that comes with forgetting (another thing teens tend to do, bless their hearts).
This can be a daily or weekly activity, depending on how it works best for your teen and family. I personally do this (for myself) on a daily basis, because then I can schedule the day in half-hour increments and really “get ‘er done!”
2) Teach them to use a planner.
Start working with them in the use of a school planner of some sort — preferably during the middle school years. (But it’s never too late!)
Digital or hard copy doesn’t matter (Pam has some really cool teen-oriented printable planners in her shop!), as long as it is a) filled in, and then b) consulted regularly. LOL. It ain’t gonna help if it doesn’t get used, y’all! (Not that I know this from experience, or anything…)
You can start by having them plan out one subject for the week. They make the plan and then bring it to you for consultation to see if it is reasonable or not.
You discuss with them whether the plan is good or bad and why. As they execute the plan that week, take note of what works and what doesn’t, so they can incorporate that information into their plan the following week.
Gradually add a subject at a time — because each subject will have its own planning challenges — to their planning responsibilities.
Each time, you provide guidance regarding what they’ve set out for themselves to accomplish, and you both discuss how it went in reality the following week. Eventually they can plan their ENTIRE WEEK without your input. (And mom does the happy dance!)
3) Give them tools to help them work efficiently.
— i.e., to not waste time. (YET ANOTHER THING THAT TEENS TEND TO DO.)
My kids (and myself, truth be told) have benefitted greatly from setting a timer when sitting down to work. You can use something like the Pomodoro method (which I wrote about here: Homeschooling Teens Who are Easily Distracted — you can get a free printable task list, btw) or just randomly grab the timer and set it when you know motivation is at a low.
Prizes for getting something done in the specified amount of time (m&m’s work!) can be a great motivator, even at this age.
There are also apps to block out social media and other distractions on the computer while they are working.
Or even allow them to listen to music in their headphones sometimes — this helps me, too, so I see no reason why I shouldn’t let my teens do it (as long as they are not getting distracted by messing with the playlist, which can also be a tendency… sigh.)
4) For some things, you just still need to be the responsible one.
Getting them out the door on time for their job or outside activities (where it’s likely that they’ve made a commitment and others are counting on them to be there) may still be your duty for awhile.
Major tip: Guide them in the art of stopping whatever they’re doing at home in plenty of time to get ready for whatever is coming next. Giving them warnings ahead of time is helpful — “Hey, dude, you have 10 minutes left to work on that, then we’ll need to start getting ready for your guitar lesson.”
Then when that 10 minutes is up, and you come back (which you
will probably might have to do) and say “Yo, stop this now and get those teeth brushed,” it’s not unexpected — so the emotions are much less.
(This is actually true at any age. Give your younger kids a 5-minute warning before you need to leave the park or other fun activity, and they will come when you call much more readily.)
BUT, to give you some encouragement, I have found that though getting to activities on time may still be on you for awhile, teens really will at some point kick into gear and do this themselves.
My son is completely in charge of his work schedule now; I don’t even know what his hours are, most days. And he was the one I was most worried about in this regard. So keep pressing on! Your efforts will bear fruit! 🙂
5) Use consequences when necessary.
— like the aforementioned letting the old-enough-to-know-better son (a senior at the time, hello) go to co-op with a poorly executed paper to be presented in front of his classmates and teacher. Sometimes this is the best way to prove your point.
The next week the paper may be completed earlier and more thoroughly. Maybe not — teens can be obstinate creatures, sometimes (add that to the “teens tend to be” list). It can take them awhile to actually put two and two together, lol.
Other consequences — “you don’t get your phone back until this is done.” No car. Monetary fines — this is a huge motivator at this age, and it’s not without its place in the real world. (“My time is worth something. You waste my time, you owe me.”)
CAVEAT: While time management is definitely a necessary skill in this world, and many times our teens seem to have absolutely no concept of it, I personally believe it is also something we need to give a little grace about.
I myself am not the paragon of getting things done. I still procrastinate
a lot at times. I am late getting places, um, a lot. So to expect my teen to be better at it than I am — a classic example of “do as I say, not as I do” — isn’t really fair.
So be patient as you work through all this with your time-challenged teen. Rome wasn’t built in a day. As with many of the more valuable goals in life, this one may take quite a bit of effort. Hang in there. Maybe in the process, you’ll get your act more together, too!
More organizational and time management help
P.S. If you want some help with your own organizational and time-management challenges, check out my 31-day series JUST for homeschool moms! You can see it here: 31 Days of Practical Organizing Tips for a Homeschool Mom’s Life.
One of the posts is about my daily half-hour time scheduling I mentioned above. There are others about conquering clutter, organizing your homeschool stuff, how to be less stressed, and all sorts of other great tips and strategies that are easy to do and will make a big difference in your day-to-day.
I would suggest clicking over to it and then pinning it for future reference — then you can visit one post a day and implement them in your life!