All too often I hear from friends and clients how stressed, and overwhelmed they feel. They are managing family, jobs, households and extracurricular schedules. When the moment is right, I pose the question, “So what chores does 9 year old Sally do?” or “How does 14 year old Billy help you out?”. Almost always, I am greeted with a look that can only be described as puzzled, perplexed and confused. I am never sure what is coming my way after I ask the question. I am baffled, mind blown, dumb founded even when I hear responses.
Teaching your children the basics of organization is one of the main lessons that will aid them as they grow up and eventually move out and live on their own. Developing good organizational skills is a key ingredient for success in school and in life.
It is such an important skill that teaching the skill commences in Kindergarten, the entire classroom is in zones, and organized in bins. This is something we should capitalize on and continue to nurture and foster at home.
So how do we get our kids on board?
1) Identify your vision. What does organized look like to you? Where do you see your children’s contribution making a difference to you? What are the things you would like help with to stay organized? Of that, what can your child/children help with? This chore chart by The Happy Housewife breaks down chores by age. Even though not specific to organizing, having others contribute around the house will lead to less clutter.
2) Have a talk with them. Its hard for most children to do a 180′. If out of nowhere the expectation is to do chores, pick up, or organize, where that was not an expectation yesterday, they will feel blindsided and probably not meet the expectation. Show them the checklist. Decide together if there is anything that does not make sense with your child’s age, ability, and maturity, then change the list. Ask for their input. In my house, once I knew that my son could be successful accomplishing a chore, he had the option of trading one that he didn’t like for something that he preferred. Once the agreement has been reached, also discuss “consequences” for not following through.
3) Create a checklist. Once it has been established what is practical and reasonable for your child to do around the house, create a checklist. This in itself is a great tool for a child to use. It can be used to manage household chores and also for assignments and reminders of social activities. Creating it on the computer allows you to easily modify as well save yourself the time each week of having to re-write. Looking to save on ink and paper? Once created, print off the document and put it in a page protector, use a dry erase maker to check off chores, at the end of the week wipe clean and start again.
4) Label. The key to being organized is a place for everything, and everything in its place. However, kids have a lot of things going on in their minds at any given moment; sometimes it is honestly hard to remember where the correct spot for something is. By identifying a place for everything, and then labeling, you take out the guesswork of organizing for your children. It will become a no brainer, because the answer is there in front of him or her. Although this may seem like it will not make them have to think about organizing, this practice will find its way into other rooms, and behaviors and organizing will be everywhere!
5) Make it easy on yourself. Once the expectations are laid, support, and guide but don’t give in. It doesn’t mean that you can’t chip in to help, but let your children start to take the work off your shoulders. Look for easy ways to remind and guide but without having the stress, or having to fly off the handle for results.
6) Be patient. Young children will need to be supervised and shown the right way, so that they learn from the start. Yes, in truth, it will likely be far faster for you to do the laundry than to get your 6 year old to help. However, over time your new helper will become more proficient at doing the chore, and VOILA, laundry can be moved down your priority list. Older children and teenagers will have to adjust habits, so stay on them, be consistent and remember the bigger picture. Not only are you getting some relief from being the only one to pick up, help organize etc., you are teaching your children the basics of an organized life. One of the main lessons that will aid them as they grow up and eventually move out and live on their own.