My kids are expected to do a fair amount of chores and household responsibilities on a daily basis. I used to spend a lot of time and energy trying to keep my kids on-task and stop them from playing when they were supposed to be working.
Mostly, this looked like me nagging and getting annoyed: "Kids, focus!" ... "What are you supposed to be doing?" ... "Stop playing and get your stuff done!" Does this sound familiar to you? Or am I the only one who easily fell into the pattern of nagging? :)
My daughter has a Type 1 energy type, which means that she wants to find the fun in everything and likes turning everything into a game. She can easily distract her brother from his tasks, too. This used to drive me crazy, but when I learned more about my daughter's energy type, I realized that I was not being supportive of her in requiring her to not play while working.
Nonetheless, I still needed to find a way to make things flow more smoothly without me nagging or losing my temper. And I wanted to be able to step out of the role of micro-manager, where I felt like I had to be constantly redirecting and reminding about what was supposed to be happening.
A few years ago, I came up with a system that has given me the freedom to retire from my role of micromanager... well, at least mostly ;) I've recommended this method to others, and they've reported that it has worked well for them, too! Read on if you want to get out of the nagging business.
Time Management Method for Kids
Here is what has worked well for us:
Step 1: Due-Time - When it's time to do the morning chores/routine, give your kids a "due-time". Make sure that the due-time allows for plenty of time by making it at least 2-3 times longer than it would take *you* to complete what they need to do. When your schedule allows, you can also ask the kids if they want their due-time to include 15 minutes of play time.
Step 2: Move On - Then just move on and leave it to the kids to manage their time. (With younger kids, then move into family work alongside them at this time, while the older kids are expected to do their own work.)
Step 3: Time's Up - When the due-time arrives, check back to see if the kids have finished everything they needed to do. Don't be a tyrant about it; if the kids don't complete their tasks by the due-time but they were actually focusing pretty well, then give them a few more minutes as needed.
Step 4: Extra Chores - If the due-time arrives and the kids are not done yet, and they've been playing around a lot in the meantime, then the kids will earn an additional chore, as well as one more chore for every 5 minutes that elapses before they are done.
This Method is NOT for Very Young Kids!
Please make sure your kids are ready for independent work before trying to implement this method. Most kids are not ready for independent work until they are at least 8 years old.
One of my kids was ready for independent work at around age 7, but the other one wasn't ready until around age 9-10. Family work (working alongside your kids) will generally work better with kids who aren't ready for independent work yet.
I'm Accountable, Too
Although I designed this method to teach my kids time management, I also apply it to myself. If I am not done with my own routine/chores by the due-time, then I will earn extra chores, too. That helps keep me accountable and ensures fairness all around.
The few times I've ended up earning extra chores (when the internet or text messaging was my nemesis ☹), my kids thought it was so great and laughed so hard. This helps keep things light and not too authoritarian.
Keep Calm and Set Clear Expectations
All of this needs has to be done with a calm attitude on my part. I had to work at just letting this process unfold rather than continuing to nag at my kids about what they needed to be doing.
I also made sure to discuss it all with my kids in advance so they would know what is expected as well as the consequences. It needs to be clear that the extra chores are not being used as a punishment, but rather as a tool to help the kids learn to manage their time effectively.
NOT for School Work
I do NOT use this method for anything relating to school work. In the past, forcing my kids to do school work led to burnout, hate of learning, and damaged relationships. Now that I know better, I focus on "Inspire, Not Require" so that our schooling can be a time for my kids to flourish in pursuing their own interests and taking ownership of their own educations.