Some of the most common parental frustrations are lost items, forgotten assignments, and general messiness – in essence, a lack of organization on the part of children. When kids are unorganized, it leads to an assortment of other issues, not the least of which is dropping grades in school. Their lack of appreciation for organization can make them less likely to care about grades and pursuing long-term goals.
As a parent, your gut reaction is to do everything for your kids. You want to clean their rooms and organize their cubbies because it’s simply easier to do it yourself than to convince them to adopt better habits. However, you’ll only stunt their progress.
They can learn organization early on if you provide them with the necessary tools, education, and encouragement to make it happen.
Supply Appropriate Tools
You would never send a man into battle without a gun, and you shouldn’t try to force organization without offering supplies. There are several things that can make organization easier for kids. For example, hooks and cubbies are excellent for storing coats, shoes, and after-school items. Labeling bins also shows children how to put their toys away in an orderly fashion both now and in the future.
Don’t set kids up to fail with inappropriate tools, either. Tools should be the right size and easy to operate for the age group. If you give a small child a backpack that’s too large, for example, they’ll have a harder time finding and tracking possessions than if you scale down. Getting a smaller, child-sized backpack and upgrading as they grow is one solution for success.
Educate on Organization
Perhaps the most important tool to offer kids in this metaphorical war is education. Despite what many parents seem to think, kids aren’t instinctive cleaners. They don’t know how to scrub the toilet properly without instruction, and they don’t now how to organize their bedrooms without a little guidance. They probably don’t even notice the mess when they’re young. A love for organization and cleanliness is a learned trait.
Spend time gently teaching kids about organization. Begin by explaining why it’s important. Then, use your tools to make it easier for kids. Explain little tips, tricks, and insights that you subconsciously use to arrange items and pay attention to detail.
For example, a kid might clean the middle of his bedroom floor and ignore things that are close to the wall or bed because those items don’t stand out. Show them how to walk near walls and furniture, checking for anything on the floor.
Reinforce with Inspections
The honor system isn’t something you can count on until much later in life when the trait of organization is already learned. For now, you’ll need to hold them accountable. Create a chart that explains what kids are supposed to do and set clear expectations for the work performed. Let kids know you’ll be checking after a certain time frame so they’ll accomplish the task and keep your standards in mind.
When your child doesn’t meet the organization requirements you’ve previously set, don’t resort to anger or harsh reprimands. Instead, use it as a teaching opportunity to show kids what they’re missing and reinforce the good behavior of putting things away in the first place.
Keep Kids on Schedule
Children naturally respond to regular schedules. When they’re asked to do something out of the ordinary or their responsibilities change from day to day, they have a very difficult time meeting expectations.
Create a schedule they can stick to. Begin with a daily routine for younger kids. It might cover regular tasks such as “make the bed when you wake up” or “wipe down the sink after brushing your teeth.” These tasks will be performed daily until they turn into habits.
There are also weekly schedules that can be used, especially as children grow and begin taking on more responsibilities. You can assign cleaning and learning responsibilities for different days. Keeping kids busy and on track builds positive habits for a lifetime.
Provide Adequate Transitional Time
No child will be perfectly organized on the first try. Most take years, even decades, to get these habits down. Some learn it more quickly than others based on personality and priorities, but you shouldn’t be discouraged – keep at it.
The more you push for organization, the quicker they’ll maintain habits and the more it will become a part of your natural routine. In time, they’ll learn the importance of maintaining organization and see the long-lasting benefits of this personality trait.