We all know that before school starts we need to schedule annual checkups and go back-to-school shopping, but how do we set our kids up for success that will last through the school year and beyond? By empowering our kids with the gift of time management. Stephanie Katleman, a mom and founder of The M.O.M. Method (Manage and Organize Myself), shares her tips to help get kids on the right track.
Set a bedtime.
Ease your kids back into a consistent sleep routine one or two weeks before school starts. Kids ages 5–12 need 10–11 hours of sleep per day. Set a reasonable bedtime and stick to it.
Turn your child’s routine into a checklist.
This is the best thing you can do to reduce family stress during the week. During the school year most kids generally follow the same daily routine—take a shower, get dressed, etc. Instead of badgering your kids to get stuff done, work with them; create a personal checklist that includes personal care tasks and age-appropriate chores. Hold them accountable to finish their tasks. When you hear “but I didn’t know!” or “what should I do now?” send them to the chart. No more excuses.
Have the kids create their own calendars.
Work with your kids to add afterschool activities to a virtual or physical calendar to help them see what their days will look like, and make the mental shift back to school. The earlier your kids start learning about calendaring, the more independent they will become—and the less you’ll have to do for them (which is a good thing!).
Put time on their side.
While your kids probably know how to tell time, they may not understand why it’s important. Help them to develop a greater awareness of time by buying a watch and teaching them how to gauge the amount of time needed to complete routine tasks.
Teach kids to plan.
Being somewhere on time (whether it's a traditional classroom or the dining room table), prepared and ready to learn, requires planning. Does your child need to get homework together? Does she need sports gear for an afterschool activity? What time does your child need to get up in order to be ready on time? Post a checklist including what they need to do, and what time to do it so everyone is accountable for their own schedule.
Establish set meal times.
Perhaps it’s a throwback to the Cleaver household of 1959, but setting regular meal times for the entire family (e.g., 7 a.m. breakfast) will not only help kids become more aware of time, but it helps ensure time spent together as a family.
Establish rules for electronics (goodnight, iPad!).
We all know that it’s not good to be glued to screens 24/7. Many parents establish the “what, when, and how much” as it relates to screen time, but it’s also a great idea to set a concrete “bedtime” for technology, when all screens are turned off for the night. Yes, parents, too.
Designate a study zone.
Kids need a designated study area where they can do homework without being distracted. Do you have a plan for the papers that come home from school? Some you’ll need to keep while others can be “filed” in the recycling bin. Figure out how you will manage the paper flow.
Let your kids voice concerns.
Give your kids the opportunity to voice what concerns they have about going back to school. New teacher expectations, rules or a new school can cause anxiety. Once they’ve shared concerns, brainstorm solutions. Having an action plan can help allay fears and smooth the transition for everyone.
Be a coach, not a manager.
With the return of school comes added responsibilities and more opportunities for parent-child conflict. Consider making a mental shift—from your kids’ manager to their coach. As a manager, you nag your kids to get things done because you feel responsible for the outcome. That’s when everyone digs in their heels and the power struggle ensues. As a coach, you instead act as a caring outsider providing guidance and support. You empower your kids with facts and then step back and allow them to make choices—good or bad—for themselves. It’s liberating for everyone and builds kids’ self-confidence for the long term.
Stephanie Katleman is a former San Diego mom.