Parenting for Productivity

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“How are you doing?”

“Crazy busy!”

Sound familiar? These days, it seems our culture is experiencing a crisis of over-commitment and information overload. For people of all ages, attention spans are shorter and distractibility levels are escalated. Responsiveness has markedly deteriorated, cell phones are virtual appendages, focusing is more difficult, and relational depth is increasingly being replaced by superficial breadth.

How can we raise focused, productive, disciplined kids in this crazy environment?

Our children are bombarded with information, opportunities, and distractions like no generation before. We have to arm them with a strong productivity foundation and personal disciplines to handle this (often chaotic) new world! Whether they go on to college or the workplace, they will eventually be in charge of how they spend their time—how will they fare?

Studies show time and again that successful people are extremely disciplined with their time, viewing it as a priceless asset they cannot get back. That’s the attitude we want to cultivate in our teens. Another key productivity driver is their ability to focus, and to plan for their achievement. Encourage your children to set goals regarding their career, family, education, finances, service, experiences, recreation/leisure, and daily responsibilities. The more specific, realistic, and measurable they are, the better.

Have you begun to instill these values in your children? Here are some evaluation questions to consider as you “parent for productivity”:

  • Are they effective goal setters, planners, time managers, and decision-makers?
  • Do they control technology, rather than allow technology to control them?
  • In their daily planning, do they focus first on what matters most?
  • Do they consider their time as a precious asset?

If you see this as a growth area, here are few ideas to help your children cultivate stronger productivity and personal discipline:

  • Avoid “last minute-Louie” syndrome: Require them to ask for permission to participate in an event a certain amount of time (hours, days) beforehand to allow you time to check your schedule. When it comes to schoolwork projects, help them plan for completion at least a day before the due date and to work backwards to meet any interim deadlines
  • Check your teen’s daily planner on a regular basis to ensure school assignments are being recorded and completed. Set up a reward system for keeping this up.
  • Prohibit the use (or better yet, presence) of cell phones at the dinner table
  • Include them on your decision-making process when there are important household decisions to be made.  Ask them what they would do before you tell them your decisions, and let them go through the process as if they were making the decision.
  • Set up a family media use schedule and have each person plan the amount of time they will devote to media/internet/video games. Consider having them earn “screen time” by completing chores and homework assignments.

Help your teens learn excellent time management and personal disciplines—you’ll also be providing them with the ability to experience success in their relationships, academics, and life work!

Dennis Trittin and Arlyn Lawrence are the co-authors of Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World, and the What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead Leadership and Life Skills Course (available as stand-alone book for teens or curriculum in standard and Christian editions). They speak and provide resources for parents, teens, educators, and mentors about building “life literacy” in children and young adults. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter!