By contributing writer Tabitha
We all have one. Probably more than one.
The time waster. The one who will find anything to do rather than what you have asked him or her to accomplish. It can relate to chores, homeschool assignments, reading, or anything urgent or non-urgent that needs to be done.
I have several children who fall into this category, though all for different reasons. One needs to clean his room and instead is found reading a book. An older child gets sidetracked by the younger kids playing. Another cannot stop his art project long enough to finish math. Yet another has several tabs open searching for good music while she is supposed to be watching a lecture online.
You get the picture.
Your scenario may be completely different than mine, but you still have someone wasting time. It may even be you! At times we all choose something other than the best choice when spending our time. It might still be something good, like my child reading a book, but not the best choice for the situation.
How to Keep Your Children On Track
Set a good example!
When our children see us playing games on our phone or spending time on Facebook rather than accomplishing what we need to be doing, they know that time isn’t important. Keep on task yourself. Let them know what you are working on that day, and let them see you working towards that goal.
When you know that no one is going to do any math while the littlest one is watching a movie, limit that activity to a time when everyone is done with math. The same with music, toys, or other activities. This will be different for every family, of course, and sometimes very difficult, but worth it!
Know their limits.
Sometimes kids aren’t willing to ask for help. Whether it is a particularly difficult task or something your child doesn’t know how to do yet (even if you have already helped them with it!) a little help offered at the right time goes a long way. Whether it be when making a bed, cleaning a room, or reviewing algebra.
Take a break.
A change of pace helps everyone.
Yes, rewards for behavior. They do work sometimes. Once I gave M&M’s for each sentence they wrote, and it was a success. All of a sudden those writing skills came back in a hurry, and it was no longer “too hard!”
Remind them of what is important, and what isn’t.
Explain why completing this task is important at this time, and why it may not be another time. Reading that book is important when we are having reading time or when it’s time to relax. Getting your room clean is important now because your baby sister is now mobile and could choke on the toys left on the floor. Getting our science reading done today is important because we’ve made a goal to finish it before May, and we want to go to the zoo on Friday.
Be sure there isn’t another reason they are wasting time.
Rule out illness. I will never forget the time I got frustrated with a child for not doing what I asked quickly, only to learn later (as the child got violently ill) that they just hadn’t been feeling well. Lesson learned.
Set real, appropriate consequences.
Sometimes it’s hard to find a natural consequence for not completing a task on time, but the closer it is to what really would happen outside your family if it wasn’t done, the better. If our younger children aren’t done when everyone else is playing outside or gets time with a video game, they do not get to participate. Older kids need to finish work before I have evening tasks to do, or I can’t help them. While I will still help them, I don’t have unlimited time or attention and family needs have to be met.
Set appropriate limits.
I don’t have tasks for my youngest to complete that take longer than is proper for their age or abilities. An example is asking my 3 year old to pick up 20 things, and I can give her a few minutes to do so while I can ask my 16 year old to clean up his room and expect it done today, realistically. The amount of focus also affects the time I ask.
Be there for them.
When they know they can count on you and see you working hard for them, they are more motivated to make sure they are doing their best for your family too. This is a life long lesson. I’ve found that the more time I spend doing things with my children, the more important they realize their family is both to me and to them, and the more we work together.
Time wasting affects everyone. We don’t want to be late to important appointments or engagements, and this seems to be more difficult for my own family to learn as a homeschooling unit. We don’t have school bells, we don’t watch the clock waiting for lunch, and we don’t have tardiness issues. What we do try to teach is respect for others and how being late is rude, and wasting time is a bad use of the limited resources we have been given.
Time is a gift. Use it wisely. We never know when it will be taken away from us. When we (and our children) learn to use our time in the best way possible, it helps us realize we are responsible for our choices, and that is one of the greatest lessons we can learn.