How to Teach Kids Productivity

Girl marking up a calendar

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If you have ever felt the mad rush after procrastinating everything you should have been doing over the course of a week, you know why productivity is important. On the contrary, if you have ever felt the positive burst of emotion that comes with being on top of your chores, work tasks, and hobbies, you have experienced the benefits of productivity.

Helping kids develop their work ethic may sound like an impossible task, but teaching kids productivity is both doable and important. Productivity is the result of skills that can be taught and practiced from a young age. Mastering these skills will prove beneficial to your child's success for years to come.

Productivity is really a series of habits that help us get more done in less time, or help us do a better job over a shorter period of time. These habits can be taught to young children and practiced over the years, leaving them better prepared for school and later, the challenges of independent living.

What Is Productivity?

Productivity refers to how well you manage time and end-product quality when completing tasks. Doing more chores in less time is productive, as is writing an excellent report in the same or a shorter amount of time as it would take to write an average report. And sometimes, being productive means knowing when to take a break and relax so you can better accomplish your tasks at a later time.

To be productive you need to be able to plan, prioritize, focus, and persevere through challenges, as well as recognize when it's time to take a step back.

How to Talk to Children About Productivity

Kids might not necessarily understand the term "end-product quality," but you can talk to them about productivity in a way that reaches them best. "Children can better understand concepts through representation, so the use of books or stories can help them," notes Martha Horta-Granados, a teacher, psychologist, and psychology consultant for Sensible Digs.

A good book to read to younger children to help introduce and explain the concept of productivity is "A Place for Everything: Habit 3" by Sean Covey and Stacy Curtis. For older children, try "Get Organized Without Losing It" by Janet S. Fox and Steve Mark.

"These books will teach children the importance of being organized and help them accomplish all of their daily goals," explains Horta-Granados. "In addition to teaching children the meaning and importance of productivity, these resources can teach them some techniques and serve as a personal guide if you as a parent plan to focus on teaching this to your children.

Setting up a problem-solution scenario can be another good way to open up a conversation about why productivity is important. For example, you might talk to your kids about the morning rush to get ready for school, or their teacher's report of missing homework. Then turn it over to them for possible solutions. In a guided conversation, come up with some plans, such as making a to-do list or completing homework first thing after coming home from school before playing.

Why Is Productivity Important?

Today's world is competitive and sometimes over-scheduled. Kids are feeling the effects of this, with 7% of children ages 3 to 17 dealing with anxiety. The number of children with anxiety, depression, and focusing problems is on the rise.

Better time management can reduce stress and help kids be more successful in school. Early academic success is linked to continued academic achievement later on. This may help to bolster kids' chances in careers and prepare them to be successful in the work world as well as in managing their personal lives.

"In a globalized world where demands may exceed individuals' personal capabilities, having skills such as mastering productivity is essential to achieve personal and professional goals in the future," says Horta-Granados. "If children are taught from an early age to be organized with their school and homework, tolerate frustration, concentrate when carrying out a task, and persevere in their objectives, they are being taught skills that will prepare them for academic success and their professional future."

Parents and teachers play a vital and integral role in developing kids' productivity. Teaching productivity is part practical skills, part emotional regulation skills. "When a child who has already acquired skills to be productive is faced with an unfamiliar challenge, they may become frustrated because they cannot meet it," explains Horta-Granados. "If they have the skills to regulate their
emotions, they will be able to surpass many possible challenges."

How to Teach Productivity to Kids

Here are some ideas to help you teach your child the skills needed for productivity.

Daily To-Do List

Visual reminders tend to be very helpful for kids. Pre-readers can have a list drawn in pictures or you can print out photos of your child doing each task to post. You can use a written list for older children. "They should write down the tasks to be accomplished each day and thus have them graphically present so that they know what to do," suggests Horta-Granados. They can even write down what they want to do when they complete their tasks so they can look forward to their downtime.

Calendar

Using a calendar helps introduce kids to the concept of time on a larger scale, allowing them to learn about planning ahead. Repeating weekly chores, such as wiping down floorboards or doing a load of laundry, work well posted up on a calendar. Choosing more specific chores, like vacuuming the hall, as opposed to cleaning the house, which is too vague, helps kids be successful. You can also write in when they will be able to play outside or use their screen time, which helps teach them that both being productive and resting are important.

Frustration Tolerance

Frustration is inevitable, and if you don't have the skills to push through it, one of many small inconveniences can derail productivity. Letting young children experience frustration is an important part of helping them deal with it. For example, you don't have to rush in to help your child build a tower that's difficult or close a snap they are struggling with. Even just waiting a short period until they ask for help is a good first step.

During the times that your child does get overwhelmed by emotion, provide a safe, calming space for them to begin to feel their feelings and work through them. This might be in your lap or together with you in their room as you model deep breaths. Some kids calm best when they are left alone. It depends on your individual child, and the end goal is helping them learn how to calm down when they experience strong feelings.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness means doing one thing at a time, and practicing the task at hand. This practice is important in your child's overall productivity. "When we rush, we turn on our stress mode, and it makes it harder to focus when we are multi-tasking, anxious, or hurrying," explains Tejal Patel, a mindfulness and meditation expert for kids and parents.

It can be easy to think that it's better to do everything at once, but you will probably get more done quicker if you put your full energy into one thing at a time.

Model Productivity

No matter how much we say, what we do ourselves has the greatest impact on our kids. Write up your own daily schedule and post it somewhere that your kids will notice. Make your own calendar, and get your chores done when you come home before stretching out on the sofa to enjoy a hot drink and your favorite TV show.

Narrate, telling your kids something like, "I'm so glad my chores are done so I can have relaxation time!" Or tell them how happy you are that you have finished your tasks so you can spend some time with them. Modeling both productive habits and relaxation habits will help set your child up for success.

A Word From Verywell

Productivity is a life skill that can benefit kids in many ways. Good time management, the ability to focus and persevere through challenges, and strong emotional regulation are all part of productivity. It's also crucial that your children know that it's OK to take a break sometimes and that they don't have to be productive 24/7. You can teach your kids how to be more productive in many small ways. Developing these habits will help prepare them for a happier and more successful life.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR Family and Scary Mommy, among others.