Teach Your Teen Time Management Skills (And Free Yourself from Managing Them!)


Between school, homework, college prep, extracurricular activities, part-time work/volunteering, and a social life (never mind eating, exercising and getting sleep), learning how to manage time effectively is an important skillset for a teen’s success and a balanced lifestyle.

As adults with a lot more life experience, we know how hard this can be, which is why setting the foundation as early as possible is ideal. As a former academic advisor, I saw many bright first year students crumble due to lack of time management skills, particularly in a college setting where there is less structure and it is not their parents’ job anymore to check in to make sure they are meeting deadlines.

Read on for tips on how to approach this topic with your teen.

Assess How They Are Currently Managing Time

Some kids are programmed naturally to time manage—others not so much. Does your teen meet deadlines successfully, achieve goals, and have enough time for self-care? If so, they may already have the tools they need to balance their priorities.

However, if the opposite is happening, it may be time to offer some guidance. Jonathan Wolf, owner and founder of YouTime Coaching, shares that “one area of time management that tweens and teens struggle with the most is predicting how much time they will need to do something. This can range from getting ready for school, completing a chore or finishing a homework assignment.”

If this is an area your child struggles with, Wolf recommends the following steps:

  1. Add transition time to their task and assess how that made them feel. After the activity is over, assess with them how it felt to have this extra time built in.
  2. Go old fashioned by using timers and writing responsibilities down. At YouTime Coaching, they fully endorse “time chunking” (aka The Pomodoro Technique), journals and planners. Time chunking is working for a shorter period of time followed up by a built-in break. Time chunking increases productive focus, and mental endurance while also being very process oriented (versus simply looking at the outcome).

Avoid the Urge to Swoop In

By now you’ve heard the term helicopter parents and understand why failure is important to success.  Yet it still can be very challenging not to pull an “Olivia Pope” and shout, “It’s been handled!”

As helpful as it may be in the short-term to work with your child until midnight on the project they procrastinated on, or text them a reminder about studying for their midterm, this is not serving them in the long-term at all. Living with the consequence of a missed assignment or failed test is a much more important life lesson. As hard as it may be, let them learn it.

Help your child see the benefit of “planning ahead” and weighing out priorities. Instead of inserting yourself as the time management tool, show them how to manage their time. Wolf explains, “Parents need to be an ambassador for staying organized. Find ways to involve your kids in the activities that you believe make you an organized individual. Most of these skills are to a great extent learned behaviors and I will give you one guess at who they learn them from...” So if you keep a to-do list on the fridge, have your kids make it with you. Talk through what your plans are for the day, so they can see what your goals are and how you plan to accomplish them. Every little bit of involvement helps.

Strategize on the Best Tool

Everyone is different, so brainstorm with your teen on what makes sense for them. Maybe it’s a physical planner, google calendar, or app like Wunderlist?  (Check out commonsensemedia.org for a great list of more organization/routine apps.) Finding a system that works for them, particularly as they enter college, will make a huge time of transition that much easier.


Working with your teen to embrace time management skills can be challenging, but stick with it. Four out of the seven habits from Stephen R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People revolve around the better use of time, which only emphasizes the importance of this skillset.

But let’s face it – if your teen is resistant, this could be more challenging than you’d hope it to be, never mind that there are plenty of other areas of focus as the parent of a teen. Jonathan Wolf recognizes this, sharing, “Many times parents are like public school teachers, they are spread very thin and because of this demand areas will naturally go overlooked. For this reason, YouTime created The RISE Method for Parent Teaching (download your free copy here). It has helped many parents refocus their effort in a more effective way when it comes to teaching their kids valuable skills and lessons. This method also helps parents approach teaching their kids from the kids’ perspective (which makes life A LOT easier).”

We’d love to hear any tips or success stories you’ve had with your own children. Good luck!

Written by Phase2Parenting

PLEASE NOTE: The writers of this article are not medical professionals. The information in this column is not intended and should not be construed as providing medical or psychological advice, but rather to offer readers information and provide a perspective to better understand the lives of themselves and their children. Articles on this website may be opinion based. The articles are not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, psychotherapist or other licensed medical professional. If you do have health or safety concerns, please get in touch with a healthcare professional.