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Adulting 101: Helping Kids Learn Time Management

Expert tips on teaching your kid how to manage his own schedule.

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You make sure your kid’s homework is in on time, sports schedules don’t conflict, and the semi-annual dentist appointment is made. “Thanks for your help,” is what your child should say, and will, once the burden of managing their own engagements falls to them. Stephanie Wachman, a local time management and productivity expert of Life in Balance Consulting and mother of two, gives us guidance on turning over control of the calendar to our kids.


5280: Why is it important to let kids have ownership of their schedule?

Stephanie Wachman: For a majority of their young lives, parents handle all aspects of their child’s schedule, from after-school activities to playdates to appointments. The transition of handing over responsibility to a young adult needs to happen gradually so that they can learn how to be responsible for their schedule and their time. It’s a life skill that affects the quality of their life. If they don’t learn to manage their time, they can become stressed, especially when they start college. When they learn to manage it well, they have more confidence, more successes, and most importantly become independent.

At what age should you start allowing children to manage their own time?

Parents have to use their judgment when passing over control by starting with small less risky tasks and then gradually adding bigger responsibilities. As parents, we are reluctant to hand over the controls of scheduling to our kids because we don’t want them to make mistakes or miss important opportunities or assignments. But failure or missed assignments and appointments are great learning opportunities. There’s nothing like missing a homework assignment and getting a bad grade to provide clear understanding on the need to use an agenda. As you begin to release control over your child’s schedule, they learn responsibility and accountability.

What are some good responsibilities to start with?

Start by having a conversation with your kid about what they want to begin handling in their schedule. As a parent, you need to have the conversation as to why you want them to start taking ownership and what they’ll be responsible for moving forward. Each family is different, so it could start with the child taking charge of their soccer schedule and when games are and understanding deadlines for school assignments. Then as a parent, you have to back off and let it happen and from personal experience, that can be the hardest part.

When it comes to learning time management and prioritizing, what are keys to early success?

The key to managing time is prioritization and the best way to prioritize is by setting deadlines. I suggest making a list of all the tasks that have to get done along with deadlines, then taking the biggest and hardest one and breaking that down even further into smaller tasks and deadlines. Next, put a time limit next to each task you are committing to and once you’ve done that, enter it into your calendar. Especially for students, this method helps control feeling overwhelmed because bigger tasks are broken into smaller ones.

At what point do you let you kid start making their own doctor, dentist, and other appointments?

I think kids can start making their own appointments when they are able to get to the doctor’s offices on their own, but naturally they will need reminders from parents. Doctor appointments are not usually on top of a kid’s mind like it is for a parent, unless a sports release form is involved or braces are set to come off. My 11-year-old is now responsible for when his hair grows too long, he knows to schedule a haircut appointment.

What other tips do you have for parents and kids in terms of learning to manage their schedule?

One very specific tactic I’m particularly fond of is teaching kids how to set boundaries. The temptation to hang out with friends or go to a sports game instead of studying is very high, but kids need to get into the habit of setting boundaries and commitments around when they have to study and sticking to them. Sometimes saying no to one fun thing means saying yes to another because you have completed your work. Time management is not a perfect science. As parents, we juggle and struggle with our own schedule. Teach your kids how to use a calendar—it’s usually an electronic one—and show them how to set reminders, color code classes and deadlines to help them visually when they look at their calendar.

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