As parents, family members, and mentors, it’s contingent on us to make sure that the children in our lives are learning organization lessons. Teens and youngsters often have trouble differentiating between necessity and clutter — they need our guidance.
From the Children’s Health Council, a Califonia-based not-for-profit organization specializing in children’s behavioral issues:
Disorganized or distracted behavior seems analogous with childhood. Children are known for getting distracted easily, especially when there is so much to lure their attention–music, TV, toys, their natural need to fidget, etc. But some kids struggle more than others. For those who struggle the most, distraction or disorganization can actually lead to a lifetime of perceived failure, lack of self-esteem and an inability to function in the world.
Here are some approaches that can help them learn how to prioritize while internalizing positive habits.
Six Ways to Get Your Child Organized
1.) Help them decide what to keep and throw away. A good lesson to learn early — you can’t keep everything, especially as you get older. Let them make the final decisions about toys, artwork, clothing, etc., and work as a team to decide what goes into storage units, what gets donated, and what gets thrown away.
This approach gives the child ownership in the process and frees up space without positioning yourself as “the bad guy.”
2.) Provide the right tools, and expect them to be used. With your child, make a list of the storage supplies she will need to have a clean, well-kept room. These items can include boxes, hampers, jewelry hangers, shoe racks, or even “grown-up” furniture like a desk or dresser. Let the youngster pick out their favorites, as well as fun stuff like posters, lighting, a bulletin board, and other room accessories.
Old items with sentimental value can go into a storage unit — it’s safely stored, so your kid will know it’s not gone forever. The goal, however, will be to keep the “new” room organized with the cool supplies. Create the expectation that these boxes, hangers, and so on must be used daily.
3.) Provide a calendar and planner. Discuss putting all school/family obligations on the calendar. Encourage your child to plan ahead. Quiz her on important events. Give her dates to anticipate, and help her learn how to use these items to keep a schedule and to organize her own space.
Soccer match tomorrow? Set out your spikes tonight. Piano lesson Wednesday? Better book some practice time on Tuesday. Oh, and add a trip to the pizza parlor right after that.
4.) Encourage the designation of areas for various uses of the house. A desk is for studying. The living room is for television and games. The foyer is for dirty shoes. If you’re doing your homework in front of the TV in the living room while wearing your muddy shoes, there’s going to be a problem.
5.) Control clothing. Want to fight a losing battle? Nag incessantly about putting clothes in the laundry. If the goal is to annoy and alienate your kids, this is a great way to start.
Instead, provide the appropriate tools. Put a clothes hamper in either the child’s bedroom or bathroom. This helps to keep items off the floor. Ask her to deliver dirty clothing to your home’s laundry area on specific dates.
Once or twice a year, cull the closet — remove clothes that have been outgrown or worn out. Obviously, you’ll toss anything that’s too damaged to share, but the rest can go into self storage. This will create a supply of secondhand items for younger siblings or family friends, and will limit your child’s clothing options.
6.) Remember that structure is important for kids. No one — not even your seemingly impetuous child — wants to live in a messy, disorganized space. And no one wants to be powerless over their own surroundings.
Ask your child to set up a list of daily activities that need to be done (with your input, of course) so that she becomes accustomed to daily accountability. Encourage her to designate times for each activity, such as homework and chores.
Maybe your child needs a couple hours to decompress after a tough school day or a grueling swim practice. Let her know that’s OK, and respect the boundary.
The child’s nightly routine should include:
- Laying out school supplies and clothing for the following day
- Determining if anything needs to be ironed
- Checking the calendar / planner for the next day’s activities
- Verbally communicating any special needs / requests to you
Bonus tip: Remember that you are the role model. If you and your space aren’t organized, you cannot expect your child to practice what you’re preaching.