Time management and punctuality are some of the executive skills that can be developed somewhere around teenage. Let’s understand a bit about executive skills. The brain development to learn executive skills starts developing somewhere around at the age of 7 to 10 years, depending upon a child. That is just the start of this brain development, and this development is complete by the age of 25. Till then we need to provide the tools and methods from our child and work together with him. Moreover, we have just talked about brain development and not skills. Only when we work together with the child and empower him to learn the skills, these skills can be acquired.
Empowring the child
We need to sit and discuss our concerns about what is happening around time management and how it is affecting him and you. I would suggest one matter at a time, say reaching late to the school. Find the right time when you and the child are relaxed and can discuss this. Talk about your feelings (only feelings, keep it short, don’t jump into solution or lecturing). Be patient and listen to his feelings and make an effort to completely understand his side and give him that acknowledge that you have understood him.
Work together with the child to explore all the options so that the child will be able to take full responsibility of reaching school on time. Ask him how you can help in this process, like…
- Listing things to be completed by a particular time: Make a list and try to keep it short to only essential items. For example, when I worked with our daughter, we agreed that four things are the top priority for her to get ready on time. These four things are 1. Folding the bedsheet and bed, 2. Brushing her teeth, 3. Bath and 4. Fresh clothes. Put up this list where it can be seen as a reminder.
- Provide and required supporting material: You can buy him an alarm clock and a timer. I have set up a morning alarm for our daughter on my mobile that is kept away on my desk. In the morning our daughter closes it and waking up after that is her responsibility. We have a 3 minutes sand-timer that helps her to time her brushing for 3 minutes.
- Follow up with short reminders: Agree on how he would like to be reminded of things to complete. It could be a sign language or a one-word reminder. Like in the morning if I see our daughter not focused on her routines, I would say “First things first!” and that would get her focused. While leaving home, I ask her again “Have you completed all the first things?”
- Allow them to struggle: This one is a hard thing for parents. Particularly for mothers. In spite of all our above efforts, there is a possibility that the child will falter and may not reach school on time. Because of this, she is going to face some consequences. We need to allow the child to go through such consequences and struggle. It is this struggle that is going to build the required executive skills. Some parents are not able to see the child struggle and do hast to tend to the child. This rescuing of the child stops the required learning and builds dependency on parents. Parents should support the child by showing their empathy that they can understand what the child is going through. However, the child will have to go through the consequences and parents should see that it is carried out and also provide only emotional understanding towards the child.
The critical thing to understand is that we cannot Rectify a child. The child is the product of the environment that we have created for the child. It is time to take the responsibility to work on fixing the environment and not to fix the child. By the time the child is a teen, they have been programmed with all the conditioning that their environment has provided. Below are some of these conditionings that can be a challenge towards working with teens. Never the less it is possible to un-condition even a teen with right and persistent efforts from parents.
- Unconditional love: If the child feels that he has not received enough unconditional love from parents, then the child will not be open and will to do an honest discussion with his parents to work towards their concerns. Here parents should work on creating a family culture where everyone shows Unconditional love. Parents also need to create a culture of sharing their feelings with their children so that the child is encouraged to speak openly.
- Lecturing: By the time the child is teen he has received so much of lecturing that the moment the parent starts talking he will shut off his listening. If we want such a child to come and discuss things openly, we will have to assure them that things will not be forced on to him unless we all agree with them. The parent should work on their skills to remind the child with a single word or a funny sign language. Best way to remind a child is to write a funny, and not-offending reminder notes or letters to the child.
- Giving in: When the child struggles with the consequences if parents give in and help the child. Some parents don’t help the child, but they are not empathetic towards the child’s feelings, and that creates the child to be a rebel. Parents can be both firm and empathetic, that means, they should be firm that the child will be going through the consequence and struggle, and at the same time be empathetic and show their understanding towards all the negative emotions that the child goes through. Here is a video that explains how the parent can be firm and also be empathetic towards the child’s feelings, we call this tantrum management.