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How to Get Your Teen to Manage Their Time

Ella Herlihy

Responsibilities & Values

How many times have you found yourself late for an important event because your teen wasn’t ready to leave? Does your teen typically show up a few minutes (or more) late to appointments or activities? How do we stop ourselves from trying to wrestle our kids into the car, and get them to take responsibility for their own timeliness?   

In working on a plan to transition accountability to our students, managing their time is an important one for us to let go. According to the Harvard University Center on the Developing Child, “Self-regulation is necessary in any goal- directed activity. Identifying goals, planning, monitoring progress, and adjusting behavior are important skills to practice.”

Often we don’t realize our own habits are contributing to the things our teens do that frustrate us. The 10-minute warning you may have used during the toddler years and found effective even through elementary school now may be causing your teen to rely on you as the alarm for her schedule. When they plan to go to a movie with their friends, do they have the skills to figure out how to get there before the movie starts? If so, they can get anywhere on time—if they want to. When we are constantly reminding and prodding, our teens assume that the responsibility of being on time is ours, not theirs.  

So the simple answer of how to give the responsibility of time management to our teens is to just stop reminding them. But what if this causes them to be late for something crucial? To be fair to them, we have to have a process to take this off our plate and place it on theirs.  

Following these three steps and being patient is all you need to make this work.  

First, have a conversation about why being on time is important and why it is important for him to learn to be on time. Inform him that you will no longer be reminding him.  

Second, talk with her about what system she can create to determine what time she will need to leave,     how much time she’ll need to get ready, and how to remind herself about her own timeline. If you are concerned about an event that has significant consequences for tardiness, then start with events that don’t have major pitfalls, like a movie or a friend’s party. Help your teen come up with the time she wants to be at the event, the transportation time to get there, how much time she’ll need to get ready beforehand, and a way to set an alarm or reminder for the time she needs to start the process.

Third, then tackle the hardest part: “Just do it.”  

 Step away and realize they may make mistakes and they may be late or even miss something. That is not your problem. When you take this monkey off your back, you are doing your teen a great service by helping him develop lifelong skills of maturity and responsibility.


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Ella Herlihy

Being a mom to five children has given Ella Herlihy enough mistakes and victories to fuel her passion for guiding other parents along the road to raising responsible children without losing their minds in the process. She writes to help others learn from her many mistakes and victories, and what she has gleaned from all the books and seminars it takes to raise five children in today’s world. She is currently working on a book to encourage parents to choose to step back so their kids can move forward on the path to unentitled adulthood. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram @ Ella Herlihy.