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Teach Children To Be Organized

By Bill Knell

As a father of seven, itís been my experience that there are two types of children. Those who love to be organized, and those who hate it. Some people think that organized children learn from their parents. If thatís true, why do so many meticulously organized adults have such messy and unorganized kids? Regardless of the cause, guiding disorganized children towards a more organized lifestyle has many advantages.

One of the keys to success is organization. Everyone at the office gets a laugh out of the geek who has post-it notes all over their computer monitor or is constantly digging in a reminder book or daily organizer to make a note or check on an entry. We think of those people as anal retentive nerds obsessed with their schedule, but is that really organization? Probably not. People who are really organized are those who have a good sense of time, their relationship to it and have learned how to manipulate schedules to their own benefit.

We live in a complicated society which seems to be placing more and more demands on our time. In most family situations, it takes everyone to make it all work. The lesson we need to teach our children is how to get through each day without experiencing a breakdown in their schedule. Remember, when their schedule breaks down, yours might also. Itís the dreaded cascading effect!

A child wakes up late for school. Youíre ready to leave, but they are still in pajamas. Meanwhile, you and other people need to be other places. In another case, your kid forgets to put a uniform or good clothes needed for a special event in the wash. When they need the item in question, itĎs unavailable and a possibly meaningful event is missed leaving all involved with bad feelings or worse.

These may seem like trivial matters to some, but I have met more then a few moms and dads who have quit their jobs to avoid these kinds of mini-disasters. In trying to deal with one problem, many of these newly created stay-at-home parents have caused another. Their Spouse suddenly finds that thereís a lot of extra pressure from being the sole support of the family. The stay-at-homes also feel their own kind of pressure. Having taken themselves out of the career loop in a job market which prefers people who stay in it, thereís the real concern that returning to work might be harder then they thought possible.

A Personal Tip

My personal input here:  When my eldest was in preschool, I adopted a policy of logical consequences.  One of the consequences of not being ready for school was to go at the scheduled time in whatever stage of dress they are in at that time.  She went to preschool in her pajamas!
And guess what!  IT HAPPENED ONCE!

This might be a practice to institute early on, when the consequence are less severe in the big picture of life!
Good practices start early.

Another logical consequence I have used successfully was to charge my children as a taxi would, if we had to return to school, a friend's house etc. to retrieve a left behind item or homework assignment. 
My 4th grader found herself paying me $15 for a forgotten math book!  Expensive homework assignment.

Whatís wrong with this picture? The short answer is that many parents have made themselves into personal organizers for their kids. Instead of taking the time to teach their children how to get organized, they merely do all the thinking for them and are right there to put the fix in when the kids forget to take care of something. There is no upside to this plan! Teaching children how to function well in a family will give them the skills needed to function well in society.

Whether they have a talent for organization or their room has been declared a toxic waste zone eligible for clean-up through the federal superfund, children need to learn good organizational skills. The first mistake must parents make while trying to get their kids organized is begging, reasoning or bargaining with them. Reserve your speeches for the Kiwanis Club and save your arguments for the traffic cop. Kids are unimpressed by words.

Children will learn by themselves that being organized offers itís own rewards, but thatís not a reality that will dawn on them overnight. Because each child is an individual and may or may not lean towards organizing skills, you have to step in and be a positive guide. Part of this involves setting an example. If kids see that youíre always late, tend to sidestep appointments or live on an edge of your seat schedule, they will assume this is acceptable behavior and copy your example.

Being organized is all about time management and balance. The way to prepare for this is by getting enough sleep, eating correctly and exercising. You canít imagine how many parents have told me that their children are living nightmares who refuse to clean their room, canít seem to get their homework done and rarely perform household chores in a correct and timely manner. A closer examination of the problem almost always reveals children who stay up too late, play video games for hours at a time, eat a lot of junk food and go online for unrestricted amounts of time.

Children left to themselves are unlikely to develop a schedule that promotes organization. By helping your kids to manage their time, you will also be helping them to develop good habits. Balance their time between physical, mental and spiritual activities. Exercise, playtime with friends and chore completion will cover the physical. Homework, video games and online activities will cover the mental. Spiritual activities are those that nourish the soul and spirit.

Regardless of your religious beliefs (or even if you have none),  there are things your kids can do that will promote good citizenship and build character. Encourage your children to volunteer their time for church or social projects (litter or local park clean-ups, clothes drives, church or school fund-raising activities, etc). Not only will your kids learn how to better manage their time, but theyíll gain an understanding of the vital role we all play as responsible members of society.

Part of being organized is being flexible. Make sure your kids learn to value their time, without obsessing over it. There will be times when things break down and schedules fall apart. As long as this doesnít become a trend, give your kids some space to mess up. Make sure they know that you are there to help them pick up the slack when they feel over-whelmed. If you have several children, be sure they understand the concept of working together and pitching in to help each other when needed. Despite sibling rivalry, kids need to learn that working together for the benefit of all is a part of life.

Organization isnít just about time skills, itís about balance. Children who canít balance out their schedule become disorganized adults who have trouble fitting into most learning, work and social situations. Balance means allowing time for the fulfillment of obligations, but also personal growth. Itís easy for people who work or play without balance to get stuck in a rut. Encourage alternative activities and exposure to new situations. Kids who are challenged with an influx of new ideas and activities are less likely to fall out of step when it comes to responsibilities and keeping a good schedule.

Most children who eat junk food do so because theyíre hungry. Have some prepared vegetable snacks or alternatives to sugary treats available. Bad eating habits can easily lead to all kinds of other problems that remain with children throughout their lives. Part of being balanced means being willing to accept personal responsibility for proper nutrition.

No parent wants to become a schedule enforcement officer, but itís important to keep your child on track when it comes to organizing their time and following through on commitments. Thereís an old saying, ďThe lazy man works double.Ē If you donít take the time to get your child organized now, you may find yourself faced with a far more disastrous situation later as their procrastination and lack of organization festers.

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