Until I was old enough to drive, my mother was my time-manager. She spent hours every day making sure I used my hours productively and met my obligations. She woke me up in the morning, made sure I got out of bed, made sure I had time to eat and made sure I made it into school on time—and this was all before 7:30 a.m.
When she was not home, it was easy for me and my sister to be lazy, make messes, and procrastinate on completing our homework. We didn't start working again until Mom got home. I grew some independence my junior and senior year, but honestly, college was a rude awakening when I took over my own schedule.
Below are three tips and tricks to help your co-dependent child learn to manage their own time. The adjustment may not be easy, as routine and exceptions dictate kids lives, but they will grow and enter college more prepared for the demands of school.
Teach Your Child to Manage Their Own Schedule
1. Set Weekly Goals
Every Saturday, my mom sat down with her calendar. She worked through what needed to happen that week, planned who did what, and what we were going to eat. She kept the calendar up to date constantly, but this weekly routine of hers set the pace for the week. She generally would also write a note of who was where and post it on the calendar so we all knew each others’ whereabouts, this was before group chat.
To help your child manage their time better, have them join you for your weekly time management exercise. At first, you may just want to show them what you do, explain why you do it and ask for their input. After a couple of times, you can start to work together in the task delegation.
If this is not a part of your current routine, think of what you and/or your partner do to make sure everything happens during the week and ask your child to join you.
Discuss your own personal goals and dive into their goals— when is their homework due? Any big projects? When will they work on them? Do they want to make their dinner after practice or after homework? What will they make for dinner? Who is grocery shopping and what needs to be purchased?
2. Don’t Dictate, Collaborate
One of the hardest parts of teaching young adults to be independent is letting go of the power of telling them what to do and transitioning to a team mindset. Your child will have trouble figuring out how to manage their time in college if they never make their own decisions.
Instead of telling teenagers what to do and when, make a comprehensive list of everything you normally tell them to do when they are watching TV, bored, or it’s time to do chores. Begin the week explaining that these are all of the tasks you generally tell them to do and work together make a plan for when they will do it and how you all will hold each other accountable. Divvy up the tasks based on who wants to do each task, who is home, or who picks the shortest straw.
Encourage your kids to make their own weekly plan for when they will accomplish their goals. Post them on the refrigerator or whiteboard so you can hold each other accountable. Make sure the adults also participate and have something to bargain if you do not accomplish it.
3. Cut Them Off
Some parents are tempted to take over minor tasks because “it is just easier/faster/convenient if I do it." Now is the time to cut them off from your free labor. You have more important things to you and your soon-to-be college student is very capable of washing their own dishes, doing their laundry, cleaning their room, waking up on their own, making their lunch, etc. While this is likely not an easy task, it is time to let your soon-to-be college student do it themselves.
You can facilitate this transition for them by slowly passing tasks on from you to them. Let them know you expect them to take on the task of your choosing and that you are no longer responsible for this. If it does not get done, it will fall on them. Then stick to your word!! If you told them that you no longer will do their laundry and they choose not to do their laundry and run out of underwear, they need to correct their error and do their own laundry.
You also can speed up this transition by saying “you are going to college in (however many months or years) and I won’t be there to do (task) for you, so I am no longer going to do (task) for you” and then do not do that task for them again. If you do slip up, make sure you express that it was a favor and that they are still responsible for the task. Your child will be better off having to do all of these things on their own.
Overall, helping your child’s time management skills means stepping back, teaching them some tools, and letting them learn through trial and error. It is helpful if you either act as a collaborator with the mindset that “we are in this together trying to get everything done in the week, we need to work together and run plans by one another since it takes both (or all) of us to accomplish household tasks” or as their teacher with the mindset that “I have shown you how to do all of these tasks, it is time for you to perform them on your own.”