As Easy as 1-2-3: How to Teach Your Kids to Get Things Done

Okay so most children are basically a bundle of disorganized energy. Though there are a few exceptions (I have one who loves to organize and arrange things as long as no one is telling her to do it), the truth is that kids need help to get organized for almost any task. How? It is as easy as 1-2-3!

#1. Identify  – Clearly identify the task to be completed and the items needed for the task. Homework – books, pencils, eraser. Brush teeth – toothbrush, toothpaste, timer, bathroom (yes that last one in needed for all those literal kids who will take this as an opportunity to brush their teeth in the family room). Help teach your child the skills needed to identify all necessary items for a task by creating notecards with simple questions like “What I am supposed to do?’ and “What do I need to get to do that?” and “Where are those things located?” Hole punch the cards and put them on a key ring or carabiner clip and hang the ring on a hook in the child’s room or a central area used by the family. Then when a child has a task to do, you can direct them to the question cards.

#2. Gather – One your child has identified needed items for a particular task, have him or her gather the items and place then in the room or area appropriate for the task. Homework – items should be gathered at the desk, table, or other designated homework area. Brushing Teeth – items should be found and gotten out in the bathroom.  Help make sure you child understands where to do a particular task or chore by designating one area for that chore. Homework is always done at the ______. This will help your child establish organized habits, and reinforce the ideas that everything has a place, and everything in its place (which should translate over to picking up toys and personal belongings as well).

#3. Do it – Once your child has gathered the necessary items in the proper location, the final step is to complete the task with efficiency. Some children will be motivated simply by the idea that they can check it off when complete. Our Little Man (almost 4) loves to put a check mark on his responsibility chart and, at this point, requires no other reward to get him to do chores such as brushing his teeth and making his bed other than getting a check mark. Other kids may require more motivation for completing tasks efficiently. Allow natural consequences to rule here, because that is what they will face in the “real world” and your job is to get them ready for that. If they don’t complete homework efficiently, there is no time to play or they miss eating dinner with the rest of the family. A missed dinner because of procrastination of tasks can be a great motivator and is a natural consequence to not completing work efficiently. If your child has an extreme problem with procrastination try setting up a temporary reward system that offers something simple, like a small piece of candy or a pick from the Prize Box (see the posting on how to create a Prize Box) to get them motivated to get down to work. This system should be gradually weaned away. For example, offer one pick each time the child works efficiently, and then once the habit is generall established, work down to one pick for every 5 times, and one pick for every 10 times. Soon you won’t need the reward to get your child working.

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