Last time, the first article in this series described some of the underlying learning processes that contribute to weaker organization. This second one addresses how parents can best play an effective role in encouraging better organizational skills. It also suggests an overall philosophy in helping your child to get and stay organized.
When we observe the thinking processes involved in an organizational task, we can better understand why there is a breakdown for a particular person and we can select the best strategies to improve the situation.
To help our “disorganized” child become less so, we must understand that we don’t simply have people who “are” organized and who “are” disorganized. Organization is more of a process than a personality type, and the more we participate effectively in the process of getting and staying organized, the more organized we become. If you want to help your child be more organized, it might be more effective to approach the process by becoming your child’s partner and being less of a “parent.” Complaints, nagging, and angry responses won’t much help and in fact will likely hinder your goal. Telling a child how to be organized does not always lead to independent organizational skills. Participating as a partner with your child, however, with the goal that you both become better organized,each in your own way, can work well.
When you become a partner in better planning, the child is no longer the problem: getting and staying organized is the problem, and you can tackle it together. You can model the fact that this will require ongoing participation and effort; it’s not a single problem that can be solved “once and for all.” Together, you can share what tasks are bothersome to each of you and why, what tools and tricks can help rectify the situation, and what successes you have. You can also share your personal failures and oversights, further emphasizing that one never quite finishes the job of getting organized. Besides, it is far less likely that a child will become organized in an environment where space, time, and transitions are haphazard and unpredictable: your child is likely to become more organized as you yourself become more organized.
Some Tips for Managing Organization in Children
Maintain a sense of humor!
Labeling or identifying a behavior can allow a student to draw her own conclusions about what might work. “Hmmm, I notice that when you do your homework in your room, it seems to take much longer than when you work at the desk in the office.” You might not need to tell him what to do.
Do not expect immediate compliance with your suggestions. Some students will reject your idea if they feel you are enforcing it, while they may well adopt the change on their own next time the situation arises.
Breaking routines and rhythms requires more conscious thought and time, and it results in more errors. Think about how much more complex it is to brush your teeth when you are living out of a suitcase on a trip than when you do it at home. Allow plenty of extra time,support, and advance warning when making transitions between very different activities or when operating in an out-of-the-ordinary setting.
Know that kids are more successful with organization in tasks they enjoy, so use their successful times as examples and teaching opportunities.