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10 Ways to Teach Organization to Your Kids

Suzanne Shaffer



Everyone can benefit from organization — especially kids and teens. As they grow, they will carry the lessons they learn into adulthood. The best way to teach organization is to start when they are young, but even teens and adults can adopt these organization techniques. Organization and order make for a happier home and a happier life.

1. Be a good example.

Kids mirror what they see adults do. If you want your kids to stay organized and maintain order in the home and in their lives, you should practice what you preach. Keep the house clutter free and organized by establishing routines throughout your day.

2. Insist on order.

It’s easy to let things pile up. Life is busy, and we all have things we do that require our immediate attention. Your children should learn that their responsibility as members of the family is to take care of the home and their possessions. Their room is their room, but certain standards of cleanliness and order should be adhered to. Make your expectations known, and set consequences when they don’t abide by them.

3. Get rid of clutter.

Clutter. Unless you are a minimalist, you have it. Too much clutter makes it impossible to maintain order. Consider having your kids donate unwanted toys to a charity each year, cleaning out those items that they don’t use. Do the same for clothing and any other items that are taking up space in the home and are not being used. One mother even sent an email to her friends and family asking them to curtail giving toys as gifts in lieu of other alternatives, such as passes for museums, entertainment, plays, etc. This keeps the clutter under control as well.

4. Make organizing a routine.

Set aside a time every day to work on organization. It might be before bedtime or in the morning before school. Some families choose to do this once a week on the weekend. Whatever time you choose, abide by the rules and keep the routine in place. When kids know what’s expected of them, and it’s part of their routine, they will be less likely to balk and complain about doing it.

5. Everything needs a place.

By providing a place for everything, organization is easier. Tell your kids to put things back where they belong. Teach kids to decide on a place for all their items and provide them with the tools they need to keep their space organized: boxes, shelves, containers, etc. Carry this over into every area of the home, teaching them to return items they use to the place they belong.

6. Teach time management.

When kids learn to complete tasks within a specific time frame, they learn how to develop organized methods for completing those tasks. Set a specific time frame for cleaning their rooms and finishing their homework. Encourage them to make lists of tasks, which can also be used when doing school projects. Teach them to break the tasks down into steps and cross off the steps as they are completed. Not only will it teach them organization, but it will give them a feeling of accomplishment.

7. Designate a study time and study place.

Your kids, especially teens, should study in the same place every night. It doesn’t have to be their bedroom, but it should be a quiet place free from distractions. Have the place stocked with school supplies and materials they will need to study. Keeping that time every day set aside for study makes it easy for them to review, prepare for tests, complete their homework, or work on an upcoming project. These study patterns will follow them into college and even their work environment.

8. Keep a master calendar.

There is no greater organization tool than a calendar. Families with kids and multiple activities should maintain a master calendar listing the family’s commitments, extracurricular activities, vacation time and major family events. This helps the family keep track of each other’s activities and avoid any scheduling overlaps. Once your child enters high school and begins to apply for college, you can create a calendar simply for college prep.

9. Teach money management.

One of the greatest lessons you can teach your children is how to manage their money. But, in order to manage money, they need money to manage. Some families use weekly allowances, while others pay their children for completing specific chores. This teaches kids that if they work hard and complete the tasks they are asked to complete, they get paid. One mother uses this to establish a connection between work and income.

Personally, I’m not a fan of giving an allowance. An allowance is an amount or share allotted or granted. That sounds like a no-strings-attached transaction, which doesn’t really fit with communicating that pay is the result of work. It can create an expectation of “You owe me (insert $ amount), regardless of any effort on the child’s part. (Did anyone else’s mind jump to that 80′s movie Better Off Dead? “I want my two dollars…”)

A commission, on the other hand, is a sum of money that is paid to an employee upon completion of a task, usually selling a certain amount of goods or services. With kids, it’s associated with the completion of assigned jobs around the home or for the family.

It is an earned amount — not a grant. It is also not an assumed amount that a child starts with and then has a little deducted if he doesn’t follow through with responsibilities. If an adult doesn’t show up for work, her boss doesn’t figure she had good intentions and just deduct a little from her wages, she doesn’t get paid at all for that day!

10. Don’t forget to praise.

As with any tasks your child completes, it’s important to praise their organization skills. Praise them when they put their things away, do their homework as expected, clean their room, and manage their time and money. It’s easy to nag our kids and correct them when they don’t do what we expect from them, but we often forget to praise them when they are successful. Praise goes much further than nagging in motivating our kids.

Habits when started at a young age carry on into adulthood. Teaching a child organization helps them to keep their lives in order and complete tasks as they become adults. Every parent’s goal should be to train their children to be and stay organized.

Suzanne Shaffer counsels parents in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation. Her blog offers timely college tips for parents and provides parents with the resources necessary to help their college-bound teens navigate the college maze. You can also find her on Twitter (@suzanneshaffer) and Facebook (parentcollegecoach).

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