At the end of the school year last May, my kids were glad they could focus less on time management over the summer. Between school, homework, sports, Scouts, robotics, church and other activities clamoring for their time, it was a serious chore to keep track of their schedules.
Thankfully, summer gave a brief respite.
Now that school has begun again, it's time to dust off those time-management skills and reapply them. Liberally.
We have tried several tactics to help the kids embrace time management. Incentives and rewards is one method that speaks to all kids. Keep in mind to craft the incentive to the child. Extra video game time, while enticing to our son, would get blank stares from our teenage daughter.
Teaching our kids to set boundaries of their own is more of a recent development. We want them to begin to know their limits and make choices. Our daughter gave up band two years ago to focus on other classes she wanted. Our son would play every sport each season if we let him, so we have had to help him narrow down the activities.
We also try to have regular family time as an anchor in the evenings. Dinner around a table (usually our table) helps to connect and refocus.
And if all else fails, micromanage.
Helping my kids rediscover their time-management skills has made me realize a couple of things.
First, kids these days have to manage so much more in the same amount of time. I know as adults we like to say, “Kids have it so much easier than when we were young” – which is true in some respect. Finding information for a paper is as easy as walking over to the nearest piece of technology. The same goes for communication. Memorizing phone numbers and actually pushing buttons on a phone seems archaic.
When it comes to the amount of activities, however, kids and teens these days have to work so much harder – and they have to do it all in the same 24 hours we had back in the day. When I was growing up, practice or a Scout meeting in the evening was a rare event. Now the norm consists of multiple activities in an evening after a full day of school – and that doesn't include homework time, which the teachers want done every day for some reason.
I've also realized that, as adults, we've had the same thing happen to us.
Our schedules have become weekly puzzles that often necessitate “tag teaming” with spouses or other parents. And that’s just to get our kids where they need to be. Trying to fit in our own evening meeting or appointment can be like me putting away the laundry – shoving things in open spaces until the drawer won’t close.
I volunteer for three different activities: Scouts, coaching and church. All three take up time, can have extra meetings and include other outside tasks. I am not complaining about the extra work (OK, maybe a little), but it’s just more proverbial plates that have to keep spinning.
On top of it all, we need to find time for ourselves as people and as spouses. My wife and I have found this to be particularly challenging. We try to find time every night to reconnect by talking or even watching a show together. This brief “us time” keeps us on the same path (though sometimes we may end up on different sides of the road). Individual time has been even more of a chore to find. Lately we have begun to schedule things like exercise and quiet reading.
This may sound like an “our lives are too over-scheduled” rant, but it is not meant that way. My point is that the amount of stuff we do is ultimately a choice. We choose to allow our kids to be in two sports and Scouts (guilty), or be both on student council and to have a job (guilty again). We choose to allow ourselves to volunteer for multiple activities or take on side jobs for extra money.
Time management is exactly that – how we choose to manage our time – and it will always be a challenge. Kids add more activities as they get older, which means we add more activities as they get older. But don't worry. Eventually, we all figure out which activities we really want to spend our time doing. So don't sweat the small stuff.
And remember: The kids will be able to drive to their own activities someday. And that, my friends, is a whole other type of worry.
Ben Price, a 42-year-old married father of two, wrote this guest blog for momaha.com. Outside of being an IT security professional, he spends much of his time in pursuits related to his family, including being a coach, scout leader and kid chauffeur.