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If you’re one of those parents whose children are never ready when you need them to be, or can’t find where they have put their things. Read on for tips on teaching organisation skills.

When it comes to teaching kids about organisation skills, many parents question whether this is even possible. Yet it has been proven that keeping your child in a good routine and setting reasonable boundaries will help everyone in the family to better manage their lives.

Véronique Stheeman, grade-2 teacher and mom, shares her expertise on how and why to encourage your child to be organised.

Getting it right from the start
“The first thing to know is that children will do what we as parents show them,” says Véronique. This is a process which begins by demonstrating how things should be done. “From the time they wake up in the morning, show and explain step by step what is being done, for example: going to the bathroom, taking off pyjamas, folding them and putting them under the pillow, taking out clothes and lining them up in a sequence (underpants, T-shirt, trousers, socks, shoes, etc). This way they will learn about what is needed in getting dressed and where the different items are kept in the cupboard.” Véronique explains.

You can then follow the dressing routine with a breakfast schedule, i.e. taking out the food, plates and cups, eating breakfast and packing up afterwards by removing used items from the table and putting them in the sink for washing. “Even if you do have a domestic helper to do this, it is important that children learn from a young age that this is what mealtime involves,” says Véronique. It is also a good idea to teach your children to pack their own school lunches so that they know what it needs to include as well as what they can expect to eat at their break time. Assist in making the sandwiches and allow them to choose their own fruit and a healthy snack to go with it.

Example of a morning routine

  • Wake up at a set time, e.g. 07h00
  • Get washed and dressed (15mins)
  • Breakfast and clear the table (20mins)
  • Brush teeth and comb hair (5mins)
  • Pack school lunch (5mins)
  • Leave for school at a set time, e.g. 07h45

The school schedule
At school there is a definite schedule in place where kids are taught to follow certain procedures each day. From standing in a line at an assembly and greeting the class teacher in the morning, to recess and packing up books at the end of the day, they know more or less what they can expect. This also applies to extra mural activities, where for instance they know that on a Wednesday they are going swimming, and on a Friday there is art class, etc.

Yet, while school is an excellent place for following a routine, it needs to start and finish at home. “A teacher can only do so much in the classroom,” says Véronique. In her experience, there are some children who are very disciplined and organised at school, but as soon as they get home they are a nightmare to control because no boundaries have been set and there is nothing planned for the rest of the afternoon. “As a teacher, it is easy to see those children who care about being organised and those who do not. Some pupils will always arrive at school on time, with their bags packed and they have all the pencils and books they need, while others come to school late and often it is these same kids who tend to forget things or hand in incomplete homework,” she says. In order for children to be organised at school, regulation needs to be valued in the home environment and it is a parent’s responsibility to monitor their behaviour and progress in the same manner as a teacher is required and trained to do.

Wind-down time
After dinner it is equally important that there is an evening routine in place and a ritual before going to bed. Perhaps you can allow some play time before a bath, which can then be followed by putting on pyjamas and reading a story. “You need to take your time and create a peaceful atmosphere at night so that children feel more settled,” says Véronique. Eventually it will come to a point that when all you have to say is: “It is time to get ready for bed,” and they will automatically start getting undressed and going to the bath.
If you haven’t done this before, it is going to take a couple of weeks to get right, however children are usually quick to adapt to a routine and once it is set in, it will become a habit that will inevitably benefit the entire family.

A break from routine
It can happen that just when your child has settled in a good routine, school holidays come around and it ‘falls out the window’. Or perhaps you and your partner go away for a weekend and leave your kids with their grandparents – it can have the same effect whereby the expected order that you have tried so hard to uphold is disrupted.

“This is not necessarily a bad thing,” says Véronique, as once the holidays are over and things are back to normal, they are usually happy to fall back into the same organised schedule. It is also often easier to introduce something new into the routine after having had a break from it, such as encouraging them to now start dressing themselves or to try a new sport, which beforehand they may have been opposed to.

Even within the holiday period it is important that you make plans for the day so that your children know what to expect. Also, rituals such as the breakfast routine and getting ready for bed should be the same. “Make sure that you tell them what you are planning to do and see that you carry it through. This will prevent them from getting bored and doing something naughty because they don’t know what else to do,” says Véronique.

Pro’s in being organised

  1. It reduces stress – being prepared for what needs to be done makes it more likely that you will run on time and carry out a task to completion.
  2. Builds respect as a parent – if you are organised it is easier to keep to your promises and your children will appreciate the time that you set aside each day to help them in their routine.
  3. Teaches valuable life skills – your children may not realise the benefits now, but being organised will help them later on to be reliable adults.
  4. Helps make everyone feel more secure – when you are consistent in your ways your children will know that you are always there for them and you as a parent will feel more competent and in control.

In Conclusion
While making yourself conscious of being more organised and teaching your children these skills may seem like a tough task at hand, the sooner you set things straight and create an order to follow, the easier it will be for everyone in the family to become accustomed to and work around. Children love routine and they thrive when there is a good one in place. You will inevitably find that you have more time and are less stressed – and who knows – maybe if you forget something your child will tell you!

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