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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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