Freeman Medical Musings

The Five-Gallon Jug and Time Management
July 17, 2014

Reviewing my previous five-gallon jug metaphor, I think the jug in my last blog post symbolized parents investing in the lives of children, who start out empty and dependent. Parents are like a full five-gallon jug, filled with resources (such as time management, emotional stability, spiritual connection, financial potential, ethics, and so on). Parents act as a resource, “pouring” resources into their children to help them reach adulthood as five-gallon jugs of happy, safe and healthy humans on the planet.

Today, I will be discussing the five-gallon jug and how it relates to time management. Understanding and managing time is a human need. In the past, time motivated people to learn about the Earth’s rotation around the sun, and with that knowledge, that rotation was replicated through the motion of a clock. Understanding time is about more than reciting hour and minute. Before sundials and hourglasses, understanding time helped support human connection. This need drives people to reflect on history, be present in the moment and have a good outlook to the future. Parents “pour” into children a sense of belonging by connecting time to ancestry and pride of “where we came from.” Parents also contribute to a child’s ability to focus and sustain attention by being aware of the current surroundings. They also tip their jug as a way to encourage hope and resiliency for tomorrow. When a child misses this important pour into his or her life, he or she may experience challenges in developing a sense of self, engaging in satisfying interpersonal relationships, planning and making decisions.

Parents can help their children understand time by telling stories that help the child learn about previous generations. Traditions are a fantastic way to underscore this essential principle by bringing the past to the present. To complete the circuit, the parent can guide the child in reflecting on the experience of participating in an activity that has been passed down through the family’s history.

Face time with parents is essential to understanding time and how to be “in the moment.” Simple activities, such as playing “I Spy” and or going on a “discovery” nature walk provide opportunities for children to notice their surroundings.

As children mature and fill their jugs, one of the crucial elements of understanding time includes having a hopeful outlook for the future. While younger children may consider shorter time spans as the future, this early skill leads to planning and decision making later in life. Parents can promote forward thinking through:

  • Tracking positive behaviors via behavior charts
  • Counting down to an exciting event using a calendar
  • Asking the child questions that will help plan a future activity

Time management is about more than being “on time.” Understanding the complexity of time is crucial for good mental health. Understanding time helps us appreciate the past, be mindful and present and anticipate good outcomes for the actions of today.

About the author

Dr. Kimberly Fielding is Director of the Will’s Place Community Outreach Program.

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