time management child’s playHave you ever considered how to best teach our 21st century kids how to manage their time? If you are like me you want your children to be as free as possible to just enjoy being little; to grow up in their own time.

But time’s a lot like money, we all have to use it wisely or we lose it.

Having spent the last decade helping adults with planning and managing their time in a world obsessed with the commodity, I now find myself in a refreshing conversation about children. Clients, friends and colleagues are talking about how to get the time management lessons across to our children and protect them from overwhelm.

There is an endless list of activities that suck up our children’s attention; school, homework, soccer practice, TV, Wii, Facebook, play dates, and parties cram their every waking moment.

They say that your time is the best gift you can give your child. What about the gift of learning to manage their own time? It’s right up there in my book. O.k., I confess to the selfish benefits it gives me: getting out the door on time, homework done faster, my kids remembering where they need to be and when without having to ask and less dragging of feet.

The benefits for the children are endless and more exciting. Understanding time management means they can discover the link between what they want and how to get it. Isn’t that the most thrilling aspect? It took me so long to understand that as a child. Mastering time helps them to get their homework done faster, so they’ve got time to develop skills and explore their talents and dreams, whether it’s football or ballet, kids’ theatre or playing the bagpipes. And still have time to spare.

So how do we do it?

The first challenge is that our children learn what we’re modelling at home. So our ‘crimes against time’ are what they learn. “I’ll be there in a sec”, I hear myself saying all too often. (What is a ‘sec’, anyway?) Multitasking is another fatal time management error. Start doing one thing at a time. Use your diary. Show your children how you manage your time. Tell a friend and be held accountable for improving your own time management skills.

The second challenge is finding the time to teach them about time! While you’re in the car, racing off to another extra-curricular event is a great time. Maybe it’s over the evening meal, or woven into everyday scenarios. Just look for opportunities to talk about it.

The third challenge is how to broach the subject without the ‘boring!!”. Copy the teachers and use a hook to lead into the conversation. This means you need an interesting question or angle that you know will excite your child, like “how long would it take us to drive from here to Sea World?” or “how many minutes does it take to eat a packet of m&m’s?”

In the early years, kids can learn about time by looking at your schedule, using their own timetables, calendars and clocks for different purposes like study periods, holiday planning and catching public transport. You can play games like estimating how long something is going to take.

Just talking about time with little ones helps. Ask your child to check the time on the clock when they go to school, eat meals, watch their favourite television program and go to bed.

For the bigger kids, they can use techniques like SMART goals, Backwards planning and the stop watch to achieve their goals faster.

SMART Goals are my favourite technique. Setting Specific / Measurable / Attractive / Realistic and Time-Framed Goals – and then achieving them- gives kids a sense of focus, mastery and enthusiasm. At first you help them break each goal down into little chunks and after a while they do it themselves, automatically.

Whether it’s the little problems that crop up or the big life-changer dreams – the same technique works for both. Start with the desired result and work backwards little step by little step. Kids can move mountains one step at a time. Be warned: you’ll need a box of tissues as you witness your little person become the master of their own destiny right before your eyes.

Author Brigitte Hinneberg is a mother of three and lifestyle coach who helps busy people master time, energy and money in her award-winning online programs and books at www.didyourememberthemilk.com.au