How To Teach Your Child To Be Organized
Noah Webster informs us that organization is “the act of forming or arranging the parts … in a suitable manner for use or service.” While the skill of being organized is close to and has some overlaps with teaching responsibility, ultimately, parents model organization, or lack thereof, whether they intend to or not! I’ve checked out many internet sites that teach organization, but these common themes stand out:
The Family Calendar – Paper may seem a little old-school, but a large block calendar can be a great visual for teaching children organization. Train your kids to get events and times marked on the family calendar. Display this family calendar prominently and emphasize that if an event isn’t marked, it may be missed. Use a color code for differentiation between individuals. Each week, as a family, review who goes where and when. For recurring events such as music lessons, choir practice, sports practices and games, write them on the calendar right away – even scheduling a few months out. Be sure to include special nights such as movie night, family game night, etc. You may also consider designing a reward system in small or daily increments to keep the calendar updated. It will take some discipline, but keeping a family calendar can help to teach children to be organized while bringing peace of mind.
In addition, each child should use their assignment book to list their homework, projects, and deadlines. Each day homework is to be added, typically Math and Reading, but remember to include any projects and tests with their due dates.
Several tools are needed to establish a routine. While not an exhaustive list, this should help you to establish a routine to start:
- Designate a time and place to study. Be sure to include all of the tools necessary to complete the work.
- Delegate specific times for free time and electronics time.
- Select a place to store backpacks and lunch boxes.
- Set a time to clean out lunch boxes and pack lunches.
- Be intentional about checking in with your child to see if there are permission slips, homework, forms, etc. that require a signature.
- Establish a time for bedtime and include enough time to pack the backpack and lay out clothing for the next day.
- Enforce the sleep schedule. Children and teenagers require more sleep than they think they do!
- Prioritize consistent wake-up times. Alarm clocks or wake-up calls from parents should not be ignored. Verbalize the expectation that children need to get up when called or there are consequences. Plan those consequences together such as a 15 minute earlier bedtime, extra chores that evening, loss of free time, or no electronics time. Agree on these so that there are no arguments when they are used – don’t just threaten, follow through.
Breakfast is an important meal. It is a time to feed the brain, pray together, and set the tone for the day. Studies also show that eating breakfast can improve concentration and productivity.
The Power of the Checklist
Another way to teach your child to be organized is to introduce making checklists and checking off the completed projects. Keep the lists doable—make your list just for the day or for the week. Celebrate when there is a success for completions! Until making and keeping checklists gets more automatic for everyone, use rewards. Build in negative consequences to speed compliance (that means making the list, doing the work, and checking off completed tasks before bedtime).
In Lower School at Dayspring Christian Academy, students need to learn how to complete their lists efficiently, since we (parents and teachers) tend to assist more with prioritizing – “Do your Math and spelling first, then work on the report that is due next week.”
In Upper School at Dayspring Christian Academy, students need to learn how to prioritize their lists on their own— breaking projects into doable sections. Students learn to think, “I have a paper due next week, but I have tests next week, too. I better start the paper now.” or “What can I complete in Study Hall so that I have more time to do ____ at home?”
Organization for the family, such as loading / emptying the dishwasher, doing, folding and putting away their own laundry, helping with meal preparation or shopping, trash removal, handling recycle collection, etc. is imperative to the overall organization of the home. Teaching your child to be organized involves training them to understand that “many hands make light work.” Be sure to include your children in planning activities for fun – making a collection and organizing the collection, planning a day trip or family vacation, and cooking together (recipes need a collection of ingredients! They also require that directions be followed and teach time-management). Family activities like these teach organization, and everyone benefits from the results!
Establish Standards for Electronics
Observe and monitor your child’s electronic use. Make standards for electronics use and enforce those standards. Examples include no electronics allowed at the dinner table and no devices in the car—take time to speak to each other in the car instead. Determine how much time is appropriate for your child to be on social media and games and clearly communicate what you’ve decided. Stepping into this role earlier rather than later prevents bad habits from forming and conflicts can be avoided.
Teach Money Management
Lots could be said about money management as a necessary organization skill, too. Money management requires organization and responsibility. We’ve discussed teaching your child money management in our “How To Teach Your Child Responsibility” blog. Check it out!
Parents as Models of Organization
While this is not an exhaustive list, starting early in teaching your child organization and responsibility is vital to the character training of your child. Parents are their child’s first models of organization. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) How can one be a trainer IN organization if one is NOT organized? Ask yourself:
- Do we complete our tasks on time?
- Do we make it on time for appointments and events?
- Can we walk through our own bedroom without stepping on misplaced clothing and clutter?
- Do we have a To Do list that gets done?
Children watch and learn from us, especially when we don’t plan it – much is often caught but not taught! If we are not careful, they may grow up just like us. Is that a compliment or not? Ask your kids!
Dayspring Christian Academy educates children from preschool through 12th grade. Dayspring is different from other private schools in Lancaster County in that its rich and elevated classical curriculum — called the Principle Approach — trains the hearts and minds of our students to understand and apply truth. Our mission is to assist parents in providing a wholly Christian education for their children. If you would like to learn more, please schedule a tour or contact Karol Hasting at 717-285-2000.