My son Tsoof (bless his soul) is a really great kid. For a teenager, someone who generally listens, does well at school and cares for his family is rare and I definitely consider myself lucky to have him for a son.
But sometimes, he can leave things for the last minute.
From time to time, it is time to go to bed and all seems quiet, and then we hear this, “Oh, $^%&, I need to do X for tomorrow!”
“When did you get this?”
“A couple of weeks ago”.
“Why haven’t you done it until today?”
“I was going to, but then I forgot”.
You may remember Tsoof is very busy and starts most mornings early. Staying up late generally means the next day is toast, because he will drag himself out of bed with great effort, suffer through the day and come home miserable.
Ronit has tried many times to get him used to writing in his diary and checking it regularly for due dates and assignments, but that works for about a day and then stops. Being auditory, writing is really not his thing and he can only plan linearly.
Since he is a lot like me (in this respect too, I admit), I suggested to him that instead of scheduling things for the future, he should do them right away. It might seem less efficient than working towards deadlines, but it is a lot easier to manage.
Simply put, the only question the child has to answer is “What assignments did you get today?” Then, regardless of when they are due, he or she must go through them until they are finished. No TV, no friends, no phone calls and no games until everything is done.
Do it NOW.
But this system is not complete without parental supervision (is it ever with kids?), as demonstrated by Noff, my youngest daughter (bless her soul too).
You know how when you have your first child, you stare at them for hours, take pictures of them doing every little thing and generally hover over them? You know how with the second child, you do less of that? Well, being the youngest of 3, Noff manages to stay “below radar” most of the time, using the following clever ploy:
I say, “Noff, please clear the dishwasher”.
“OK, Daddy”, she says in a cheerful voice.
30 minutes later, I get up and see her in front of the TV.
“Is the dishwasher cleared?”
“Oh, no, Daddy, oops. I’ll go do it now, OK?”
25 minutes later … You get it, right?
Eventually, I remain standing there and say, “Do it NOW. Come on! Get up and go clear the dishwasher right now”.
She is a good kid, Noff, so she does. Actually, she STARTS. From time to time, I still have to peek and keep prodding until everything is in place.
Luckily, Noff is great with deadlines and knows everything on her schedule, even though she is only 9. She also hates homework and does it in a flash as soon as she gets home on Mondays, so between the two of them, I only have one kid’s worth of prodding to do.
But kids are just (come on, say it with me) reflections of their parents. Monkey see, monkey do. So we need to look at our little mirrors and check ourselves for spots.
Ronit and I are involved in many things and Eden is involved in many things too, so “the kids” have 3 possible role models for time management.
One thing I have realized a long time ago was that my kids see Ronit and me working at home and think we are just playing on the computer and avoiding housework, so why should they do it?
I personally do not keep a diary and without automatic reminders on Outlook, I would miss all my appointments, I would never pick the kids up on time and on some days, I might even go hungry for a lot longer than I should. I get carried away by things, you see. So if Tsoof immerses himself in his composition and forgets about homework, is that any different? (Well, yes, because I still use Outlook reminders and get things done, but you get the point).
Stress is a memory blocker, so one daily occurrence for us is remembering things in the shower, when we are all warm and relaxed, but we are already upstairs and it is too cold to go downstairs again. Besides, the day is over and we are ready for bed.
More often than not, we write ourselves a note for tomorrow, so at least we do not forget, but sometimes, we just “make a mental note”…
Time management is very important nowadays, especially in a busy home with several kids and careers. I have found that doing things right away saves a lot of the mental overload created when there are many things to do. The good thing about handling tasks as soon as they arise is that our mind can focus more easily on one thing at a time. Also, many of our mental functions are obstructed and even blocked by pressure and being able to focus calmly on a job until it is finished keeps us “in flow” and improves our productivity.
I often say this to my kids, “If you get an assignment today, which is due in 7 days, and you do it on the last day, you spend 6 days carrying it in your mind and weighing yourself down. If you do it today, you can spend the next 6 days doing whatever you want and feeling free”.
One final tip is this: in some cases, there is more than one things to do or no time to do anything right now. Then, what you need to do NOW is write down the list of things to do and put it where you will definitely notice it again (I often carry mine in my jacket pocket or leave it on top of my computer keyword until it is done).