Cary Farrell

Vital Life Skills your Child Needs - Time

by Cary Farrell
September 13, 2013

If you have helped your child get control of his/her room and have a home study area going then the last skill you need to work on is managing time.  Some of us are born with internal clocks that keep us on a schedule and some of us aren’t.  Some of us have a great ability to focus on a task and get “lost” in it so that hours can go by without our noticing.  These people struggle and feel frustrated often because they feel rushed or late.  Knowing that you don’t have an internal clock is important to admit so that you can create times to focus and learn ways to use external clocks to keep you on time.  Donna Goldberg says in her book The Organized Student , that learning to tell time and understanding the concepts of time are traditionally taught quickly in kindergarten and then not really touched on again except for in math when the student learns how to determine how to add and subtract time.  Very little time is spent on helping the student understand how long a minute or hour is.  And we as parents don’t help with this concept either because we tell our kids to “wait a minute” but that minute could be as long as 30 minutes before we get back to them.  


You can practice the concept of time by teaching your child how to count out a minute and then checking an analog clock to see if they were right.  You could also use a one minute sand timer while they brush their teeth so they can watch the sand going down to help grasp the passing of time.  Getting a bigger sand timer for longer amounts of time could help with other tasks.  Donna says that teaching children how to use an analogue clock is important to help them understand how long time is.  There are lots of fun clocks to help with this and posting the clock in an area where you can talk about it when your child is young will help the concepts to be taught and caught.  Here is a website with fun interactive games.   Even older children can struggle with telling time or understanding the passing of time.  Be sure to review with your kids as they get older.  Play a game with them to see who can estimate time to the closest minute.


It is also helpful for you to time them on certain tasks to help them see how long it takes them to complete the task.  Watch them to see if they are staying focused or if they are distracted.  Try to help them get a realistic timing so you can help them plan out their day.  If it takes them 10 minutes to get dressed, 5 minutes to make their bed and put away their pjs, 20 minutes to eat breakfast and 10 minutes to get themselves out the door then it will help you to determine what time they need to get up in the morning.  If they can stay focused and get done faster then they could earn free time before school.  


Giving your young child a simple calendar is another important tool to help them understand the passing of time.  Putting playdates, weekly activities like church, holidays, birthdays, grandma’s visits, or any other dates that your child would understand helps them to see routine and how their week works.  We used to count “night nights” with our children when they were little before going on a trip or a special event.  All of this lays a foundation for your children as they get older and have to complete projects for school or larger assignments.  Help them break the project down into bite sized doable pieces that they can put on their calendar to make sure they are not waiting until the last minute to get it done.  A few of those last minute projects can create havoc in the home quick!


Timers can be useful if you don’t overuse them or keep resetting them.  Make it a game to beat the timer or be clear about what will happen if the task is not completed by the time the timer goes off.  If you ask the child to complete a task in a certain amount of time but do not hold them accountable to it then they are hearing the message loud and clear, “ I don’t have to hurry or stay focused because nothing bad will happen.”  If nothing bad happens then you are training poor use of time which will cause you frustration and your child to struggle to be successful in life.  If you teach them, make it fun and reward them for completing the task on time then you should rarely have to subject them to the negative consequence you have outlined ahead of time.  If you stick to what you say and make sure the negative consequence is negative to the child then it usually will only happen once or twice.  You don’t have to get emotional or angry about it, just stick to your agreed upon word and don’t give in.  


Training your child is your responsibility even if you send your him/her off to school.  You can not rely on a school curriculum to teach your child all that he/she needs to know.  Yes, training your child is tiring and can be challenging but the reward is a  self managing adult that you will be proud of and who will feel successful no matter what career he or she goes into. They will be a blessing to those around them and the society at large. Make learning fun and be your child’s biggest cheerleader.