Letting Kids Own Their Time

I’m like a lot of parents in that I usually nag my kids to get the things done that they’re supposed to. They’re kids, they dawdle, sometimes to an amazing degree. It’s exhausting and frustrating telling them over and over to get their work done.

Frankly, it’s usually not a great use of my time either.

Now that I’m homeschooling my oldest, having her work without being constantly reminded to keep on task is very important to me. Telling her over and over to get back to work frustrates both of us and makes for a difficult day. I’ve had to learn a new skill. I’ve had to learn to tell her that her time is her own.

This isn’t easy to do. Reminding her to keep going is such a habit and comes so naturally that keeping my mouth shut while she goofs off on an assignment is hard.

When I notice a lot of goofing off now, I tell her that it’s her business if she wants to be stuck at her desk all day. Her time is her own and if that’s all she cares to do, that’s her choice.

Usually she speeds right up. Other times, it turns out that she was procrastinating on a question she needed to ask.  Obviously I’m still going to help her with things she doesn’t understand, and she’s learning to come to me more quickly.

It’s working pretty well. We’re getting her school work done in less time and with much less frustration.

This works with chores too, if there’s something to motivate them to keep moving. Chores are a bit more difficult because it’s so easy to play in the same way they would be if there were no chores at all to do. Days that you have something to do after chores are done it’s a bit easier to push the motivation to get things done without asking over and over again.

I’ve always had a preference for natural consequences with kids. In teaching them to manage their own time, I look for times when they’ll miss out on something if they don’t keep on task.

Sometimes it’s being allowed to stay up for a special show on television on a non-school night. Other times it’s an outing or going out to play with friends.

What I really love is that even when they get hit with the consequence, it’s less stressful for me. Maybe my kids don’t whine enough when they miss out on something because they didn’t do something else, but I usually find it much less stressful to let them deal with it. They do know that protests of “it’s not fair!” don’t get too far when it’s their own choices that created the problem.

My work benefits from the kids managing their own time too. I can focus more on the things I really need to get done, whether it’s housework or online work. It’s nice having everyone get things done sooner so we can have more time to do other stuff on our own or as a family.

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