By Lisa Hamel
Crying. Yelling. Threats.
A few years ago, this is was often the scenario in our home as we were leaving for church. Getting an entire family synchronized to be ready at the same time is no easy task. As a mom, we are usually the coaches trying to get the team rallied together for school, church, and other outings. You probably have at least one person in your home that runs late. If that’s the case, they likely struggle with time management.
Time management is a skill or function of the executive control center of your brain. What does that mean? It means that the part of your brain that helps you “get stuff done” is actually able to grow in this skill!
If you are great at time management, you may struggle to have patience with your family members who struggle in this area. Just remember, there are eleven to fourteen executive brain functions (depending on who you listen to) and NO ONE is great at ALL of them. It may be an area where you, your spouse, or your kids are weak, so you need to have a tender response to that weakness and build in coping mechanisms.
Being on time is never worth damaging a relationship. I have threatened my children and I’m not proud of it. My nagging everyone to be on time changes the atmosphere in our home to one of fear and anger. No one wants to live in that!
I have learned the following things help:
1. Get a time timer. Seriously. My husband is a corporate organizational coach and he still uses a time timer in meetings with very well paid, successful adults. There’s no shame in needing a visual cue for managing time. We use the time timer for video games as well and it helps us avoid a lot of arguments.
2. Instead of nagging, ask your kids for a “time check.” This can work from about age 5 and up. Usually that’s the age where you are beginning to expect them to help themselves be ready. Here’s an example:
Tell your kids that you are leaving at 9.
Tell them that it is 8:30 now.
Ask them what else they need to do before they leave.
(Depending on your child, they might need a chore list that guides them through what’s expected of them.) This begins to put the ownership of time management on their shoulders.
Now, with my boys being older, I just say “time check” on any given morning.
They tell me what time they know they need to leave.
They tell me how much time they have left.
They tell me what they have remaining to accomplish in order to be ready.
Another option is to ask them the question: “How long do you think this will take?” This puts the responsibility in their court. I feel like I can see the muscles in their brains straining to grow when I ask this questions and that’s a great thing!
3. No “down time” until they are ready. Often time management struggles go hand in hand with prioritization (another brain skill.) This is why we enforce this rule. These days, the times we struggle with lateness is when we have too much time in the morning. My 10 year old loves to lay in bed and read for too long and then all of a sudden, it’s panic time! Because of this, we have learned that we have to “front-load” the day with preparing to leave and then we can read, play, etc.
4. Create buffer. If it takes you ten minutes to get to school, leave twenty minutes early. That way, any unforeseen circumstances don’t derail your day or your family atmosphere.
5. Keep things positive. Did you know that fear actually begets more fear in the brain? Stress begets more stress. Often a child will “lock up” when they are stressed, which means they will take even longer to get ready. Anytime two human brains are together, they either amplify joy or fear. Show appreciation for your child’s preparedness or whatever effort they have shown. This will help build an atmosphere of joy, peace, and love instead of fear.
6. Remember to extend grace. Whether they are ADHD, on the spectrum, creative, super emotional, or just plain old lazy, they need this skill for life. Remember however, that people who excel at time-management skills often struggle to be patient. If you are an “on-time” person, it’s easy to feel like “late” people just aren’t respecting you. I can assure you that’s usually not their intention. I had a family member who would get up 4 hours before church and still be an hour late. She had no desire to, nor grasp of - how much she was inadvertently controlling the whole family. This is where we need the Lord to give us his compassion for others and allow the fruit of the Spirit to grow in us as we remember His grace and mercy in our own areas of weakness….
Being on time is NEVER more important than relationships. If you blow it and yell at your kids for making you late, make repairs. Ask for forgiveness. We are all human and so we are all going to be late at one time or another. We want our homes to be places where we can balance responsibility and duty, with compassion and love. And as we know, the time with our precious kids is limited. When we look back, we won’t remember the Sunday we were 15 minutes late to church. Time is a gift, let’s learn to manage it well.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3 (NIV)
Lisa is currently "SAHM-ing." In the past she has been a pastoral counselor, a singer, a music director, and an accountant! She lives in a multi generational home in the Pacific Northwest with her two boys, her amazing husband, and her mother. She is a coffee snob and a health nut who loves to dance like no one is watching. Check her out on Instagram and Facebook!