A Strategy to Help Your Child Better Manage Her Time

As your child gets older, you probably notice that her commitment to school, sports, and extracurricular activities is growing, too.

Middle and high school students generally have more homework than younger kids, and the number of practices for athletics, dance, music, hobbies and other activities increases as participants move to higher levels of achievement and skills.

The Juggling Act of Taking on Too Much

With so many competing responsibilities to juggle, the weight of all of the commitments can take a real toll on your child and also on you. It can also contribute to your family’s overall level of stress. Additionally, kids who don’t know how to manage their time and meet their responsibilities may find that their grades suffer in the end.

So what’s a parent to do? Many behavioral health experts believe that parents can play an important role in helping youngsters navigate their array of choices in order to effectively prioritize and manage their time well. In fact, a study looking at eighth grade students conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that the biggest predictor of how well a child would do academically was dependent on how self-disciplined she was. Self-discipline, which is a factor necessary to manage time effectively, was a better predictor of academic success than IQ. This means that even the smartest child won’t be fully success in school if she never gets her work or studying done.

How to Set Your Child Up for Success

Good time management skills are not something most people are born with but rather, something to be taught. I’ve heard management consultants tell this to corporate audiences and I realize that the truth is that parents can start training our children in this very important area. To help your child effectively manage her time, here are some things you can do:

  • Use a big calendar or chart to help your child plan the coming week or month in advance. It can help to see where the extra commitments are so you can plan ahead and pace yourselves according to the needs that exist.
  • Figure out where any time conflicts exist and help your child make decisions on how to handle them. If there is a basketball game and Girl Scouts’ meeting at the same time, talk through the options, such as leaving the scouts’ meeting early or skipping it completely.
  • In addition to scheduling in games, field trips, lessons, and meetings that have a hard-and-fast time and place, be sure to also allow dedicated time for “soft” commitments, like studying, chores, and family time. Help your child determine how long each item should take. This way your child can see the big picture at a glance and know what to expect all day long.
  • Prepare in advance. Enlist your child’s help to take time-saving steps, such bagging snacks the night before, laying out clothes and shoes, and having the supplies ready for an art or science project ready to go.
  • Leave room for “free time” when your child can play a video game, watch TV, call a friend, or read a book. On particularly busy days, this time can be broken into small fragments, such as on the way to school, in the car between activities, or right before bed. Don’t feel compelled to stick to any one structure, but find ways to make it work with what you have to give.
  • Use positive reinforcements when your child does a good job following the schedule and completing her tasks. You can acknowledge accomplishments with verbal praise and you might also let your child earn a special outing or other privilege for successfully meeting multiple commitments.
  • When your child seems over-scheduled and overwhelmed, proactively sit down with her and figure out which commitments she should cut or reduce. Approach the challenge as a team and be supportive. Come up with changes that can make things more manageable.

Allow room for error. Even the best-made plans don’t always work out as intended. Recognize that there will be days when your child may struggle with getting homework done on time or making it to practice promptly. Don’t dwell too much on the negative. This can make your child feel discouraged, and no one is going to be perfect all of the time. Instead, encourage your child to try again, and see how you can best help support her efforts.

Practice What You Preach

When your child sees you navigating your own choices and managing your time to meet your responsibilities, you’re setting a good example on to effectively get things done. Remember that the time management skills you teach your youngster now will provide an important foundation she can continue to build on as she matures.


Ghezzi, P. (n.d.). Time Management for Kids. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from Better Homes and Gardens{: target=”_blank”}

Lyness, A. (2014, September 1). 10 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in Middle School. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from KidsHealth

Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents. (2005, December 1). Retrieved September 21, 2014, from SAGE Journals