Time management for kids," screamed banners on the little kiosk that had sprung up overnight at our apartment complex. The persuasive team from EducationOne convinced every child in our block to attend the free workshop that was to be held on Sunday morning.

Clock in: Will time management help your child get more from life?

My 10-year-old came back from the session with eyes sparkling, waving a timetable board and marker pen. Sanjeev Arora, a child psychologist and speaker, had held the kids spellbound, peppering his talk with jokes and interactive questions. “So, what did you learn?" I asked. Apparently, the gist of what he had said was to not sleep in the afternoon, cut down television viewing to less than an hour a day and to do homework as soon as lunch was finished. Through the one-hour session, the one message droned in with unfailing regularity was to cut down on TV.

I was baffled. For as long as I could remember, I had been telling my daughter the same thing, only to have my advice fall on deaf ears. So why was she so receptive now?

“It is the way we tell them," grinned counsellor B. Kasturi. She pointed out that while most parents want their kids to finish homework as soon as they get home from school, they generally give in at the sight of their children’s tired faces. One hour of rest stretches to three, and homework finally gets done just before bedtime. “That is why we always have a follow-up session with parents," said Kasturi. Kids have to learn to prioritize tasks. Television is a privilege that can be granted only if tasks have been completed.

“But, wouldn’t kids rebel if you structure their time so much—isn’t childhood all about freedom?" I protested, thinking of how we had gone through school and college without such sessions.

Time management is an acquired skill, and today’s kids, who have more distractions, definitely need to be taught to manage, insisted sthe counsellor.

But here is the catch—one session is not enough. To sign up for the programme, you have to register with EducationOne for about Rs1,000 and pay a hefty annual fee on top of that. The firm is actually in the business of helping kids with homework, but conducts personality development and time management classes on weekends. Apparently, about 4,800 kids are registered with the agency.

And EducationOne is not the only one in this business. New Delhi is filled with workshops for kids aged 10-15, which touch upon a range of subjects, from Understanding Self, Team Building to Personality Development and Stress Management. Clearly, “motivational" workshops targeting middle-aged corporates have now moved down the ladder and are finding an audience of young minds.

“It is because they never had these workshops as kids that corporate employees have to undergo them now," said Seema Middiya, a consultant with New Delhi-based Training Alternatives.

Middiya adopted the same concepts that Training Alternatives uses in its corporate programmes to start Education Plus—a summer workshop that helps kids with setting goals, leadership and team building. Initially targeted at schools, the workshops had more takers among parents and culminated in the programme run by Middiya for three hours per day, thrice a week.

Training Alternatives also runs one-off programmes for the children of employees of corporate clients. For instance, it has conducted programmes on goal setting for the children of Oberoi Hotels’ employees.

Of course, several schools have experimented with such workshops—at The Scindia School in Gwalior, for instance, Dehradun-based Canadian trainer Ken McRae conducted a leadership programme for school prefects. Former school captain Rahat Kulshreshtha, who attended the session, described it as very helpful. Similarly, Bluebells in the Capital and Amity have also occasionally had workshops.

But do these one-day sessions have any impact?

“You cannot achieve these skills overnight. Not in three hours or three days. It has to be a continuous process," admits Mohina Dar, principal, Amity International School, Noida.

But, Dar insists, time management, stress management, team building, and leadership training are essential life skills for today’s child. At several schools, a period is devoted to life skills, but it is questionable whether focused learning really takes place during that hour. “At Amity, life skills are not intentionally taught. They are exposed to it all the time during school hours through various activities," says Dar.

She feels that it makes more sense to train teachers in these concepts so that they can impart techniques to students.

By that logic, doesn’t it make sense for parents to learn these concepts and then inculcate them in their wards? On the Internet, there is plenty on ‘how to’ teach kids time management—I am picking up a few lessons. So can you.


# Teach children to make ‘To Do’ lists every day.

# Teach them to prioritize tasks as ‘urgent’, ‘important’, ‘weekend’

# Find out the hour at which your kid works best—if your child is a night owl, then certain tasks can be done in the evening; if he or she is a lark, then help them set an early morning schedule, before school.

# Teach kids to finish a task in an allotted time—often, kids fritter away time set for reading by sharpening pencils, doodling, et cetera. Make sure that if 30 minutes are allotted, then the task is finished efficiently in that time. Give rewards or incentives for efficient work.

# Set aside free hours for tele- vision, socializing, reading novels. Let the child decide what he or she wants to do during this time.

Write to lounge@livemint.com