- Each child has their own scheduling style. It is helpful for parents to work with it, not against it
- For some, using the clock as a motivator works, for others it may not.
- Using the scheduling style method can make life as a parent much more manageable.
Parenting. Probably the most challenging job on the planet. It can be the most rewarding job you will ever have but can also be the most frustrating. Why? Because the people that you work with are temperamental, impulsive, and do not always behave rationally. You guessed it – we are talking about young children. One issue that comes up in parents’ forums and discussions is scheduling.
How do you get your toddler or even tween to be ready to leave the house on time? To get your elementary or middle schoolers to be organized and complete their homework and projects on time? When can you stop being an annoying parent who nags their kids to “get dressed,” “finish breakfast,” “when is this project due?” and so forth.
Unfortunately, there is no magic word that can suddenly turn your disorganized child into a perfectly task-driven individual who is always on time. But there are different strategies a parent can use to help their kids cope better with organizing, being more efficient, and completing activities on time and without too much nagging.
Which scheduling style fits your child better?
In my post, “Why Keeping Time Might Prevent You From Being Happy,” I described how people could be divided into two different organizers, those who rely on the clock (clock-timers) and those who rely on the order of the tasks (event-timers). Funny enough, we are all born with a natural tendency to be one or the other. Therefore, even from an early age, kids can respond better to one scheduling style versus the other.
When people ask me how to tell which scheduling style their child falls under, I always ask them to do the “lunch question” test. When you ask your child, do you want to have lunch, how do they respond? If they ask what time it is, then they are clock-timers. Because their answer means that they will eat based on whether it is time to eat, if it is noon, they might say they are not hungry, but if it is 12:30, they might say yes, because that’s the time they usually have lunch.
On the other hand, your kid might say yes, or not yet. I am not hungry yet. In that case, your child is an event timer as they are relying on their sense of hunger to decide whether it is time to eat yet or not. A similar test can be applied to bedtime – does your child go to sleep when it is a specific time on the clock (let’s say 9 pm), or when they feel tired?
What is the scheduling style method?
Once you have established which style fits your children better, you can strategize using that knowledge. For a clock-timer child, creating a time-based schedule is the best method. For example, you wake up at 6:45 am, by 7:00, you are done with breakfast, by 7:15, you are dressed and waiting at the door.
Or, a project is due on Monday, and you complete the first part by Wednesday. Then the second part by Friday, and you leave Saturday and Sunday to go over and finish any loose ends. The idea behind this strategy is that the child adjusts the activity based on how much time they have. For example, if part one of the project needs to be completed by Wednesday, the second part starts on Thursday regardless of whether the first part is perfect. This notion that this is done by the end of Wednesday, regardless of whether it is perfect, is an excellent motivator for clock-timers. Also, that is why we leave extra two days to go over both parts again. Event-timers, on the other hand, will not respond to this type of strategy. For them, a different method needs to be applied.
Take the getting out of the house problem – you first want to review how the child is getting ready in the morning and the bottleneck. For one of my kids, who is an event-timer, the breakfast was the bottleneck. He could sit and eat his breakfast for 20 minutes, which never left enough time to get dressed and ready. When I tried to ask him to get dressed, his response was, “but I am not done eating.”
Event-timers cannot proceed to the next activity if the previous one is not completed, which is how they function. So one day, I told him that he would first get dressed, put shoes on, and only then have breakfast. That worked like magic! As he felt comfortable lingering during breakfast, knowing that there was nothing left to do after that.
Same with projects. You first think of the part that will be the quickest to finish and the slowest to finish. You start with the fastest part and end with the most uneventful. Hence when you linger on the slower part, you already know that you are almost done as you completed the other parts, which were easier or quicker to complete. This motivates the event-timer to push on because, in their mind, completion is not about how much longer it will take them to complete the project, but how many more tasks they have to do before the project is complete.
Having two kids of my own, one a clock-timer, and the other an event-timer, taught me a few things. First, there is no point fighting this tendency, and it is hard to change unless one wants to, consciously, which is almost impossible in young children.
Second, if you understand where your child is coming from and how they organize their world, it will be easier for you, as a parent, to be able to help them be better at it.
Third, you, the parent, probably also have a natural tendency of your own, not always the same as your child, so on occasion, it might be hard for you to accept or understand it, and finally, life becomes much easier when you apply the right scheduling method. It does work. Try it.