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Chores for kids pt. 4: Teaching time management


After a couple of weeks of a new chore regimen, expect some push back from everyone.

Left to its own devices, the tendency of any system is to descend into chaos.

-KJ Dell’Antonia in her article on turning chores into habits.
People who are procrastinators by nature are never going to be that excited about a To Do list or a chore chart. Remember that when planning out chores for kids. We have to get creative. Here are some things to try especially if one or more of your kids are just not into charts and lists.

Timers and alarms and clocks

Every child needs to have easy access to analog clocks and timers if you expect them to develop a logical sense of time passing. Digital clocks are just numbers that magically change. What do they mean anyway? To a kid, not much. Get them some old fashioned clocks with hands. Kitchen timers that tick down as the pointer moves toward zero are also great.

How can a timer help, you ask?

Your son is sick of you nagging him and besides, he’s right in the middle of a chapter!

“Son, when this timer goes off it is time for you to take a bath.” Leave the room.

Now you aren’t telling him to take a bath, the timer is! And it usually works.

If you notice your child(ren) having trouble remembering what the timer signifies (because it is always changing) put a post-it note beside the timer. TAKE A BATH

It takes some dedication on your part to transition from the nagging phase to the self-sufficient phase. ( has a great article on this issue.) But, the journey to not-nagging is worthwhile!

Phase 1: Check on them (silently) when the timer sounds and, if needed, give gentle reminders about what they are to be doing.

Phase 2: Let them set the timer themselves at your prompting (“15 minutes until your shower”).

Phase 3: Independent time management with one task at a time


This is the winning solution for my VERY STUBBORN, introspective child who procrastinates like it is his JOB.

Create a timeline for the portion of the day when you are striving for independent actions. At our house we use the after-school time period. Provide a cushion at the beginning and end of the timeline so your child isn’t scheduled to the last minute. This cushion will help set them up to succeed!

Mark off 15 minute increments like in this photo.

Create pieces of paper to indicate activities in corresponding sizes. For example, dinner at our house takes a bit under 30 minutes. So we have a dinner piece of paper that is the right size to occupy two 15 minute sections of the timeline.

Create pieces of paper that simply say chore if the chores vary from day to day. (see photo)

When your child gets home from school, one of the first things they are to do is set up their timeline for that day. They design their afternoon! If they want to put everything at the end of the day, they will learn how that plays out. Let them try it. Give them a chance to learn from experience. Maybe they will rock the last minute rush. Plenty of successful people work this way.

pro tip: Just because it isn’t done your way, doesn’t mean it won’t work! 

This timeline gives your child much more freedom and it saves you a lot of yelling and the frustration of trying to convince them that it’s really a better idea to take a shower after you play baseball. It’s about learning and figuring out how life works.

Phase 1: Help them set up the timeline everyday just by practically making sure the pieces stick on and that everything is included.

Phase 2: Without emotion, (!) early in the afternoon ask, “Have you set up your timeline yet today?”

Phase 3: They enter items into their own digital calendar themselves and follow that instead (or as well).

Just because a chore chart or list didn’t work for your child doesn’t mean they are never going to be able to be a contributing member of society. Use timers and reminders, calendars and timelines to start teaching them time management and how to prioritize. Those skills are just as important as How to Load a Dishwasher.

Who has another not-a-chart chore system? Do tell! in the comments.

More encouragement and ideas from on getting kids to do chores. uses an app that helps keep chores for kids on track.

chores, Kids, parenting hacks

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