The Art Of Raising Organized Children

Posted on November 18th, 2017

Organized children do not suddenly appear – they are raised. Training the brain to think orderly begins during infancy and continues in adolescence and into early adulthood. When children are young they learn where things go and when to do tasks, but as they grow older, the expectations of life become increasingly complicated. Planning and problem solving skills are needed to navigate school, work, and relationships. The following are five keys to raising organized children:

Be Consistent

Parents should be consistent. Babies learn about cause and effect, or that one action is paired to a response, when parents consistently meet their needs. So, when she cries her cry of discomfort her diaper gets changed, and when she does her hunger cry she is fed. As children become toddlers, they are introduced to rules, which parents must enforce with regularity (e.g. before taking out another toy, clean up the last activity; always wash hands and flush the toilet after using the bathroom). Teenagers need consistency more than ever to keep them safe and to teach them boundaries. These rules must be continually enforced, even if it takes years for the child to learn to consistently complete tasks on their own.

Introduce Order

Organized households tend to have set routines, and these routines should be present from the time a child is an infant. Common time dependent routines include regular sleep and wake times, and standard meal times each day. As children grow older, these consistent routines can teach children how to anticipate their next action. For instance, by reminding the pre-school student to use the bathroom before every car ride, they learn to initiate this act on their own. Likewise, establishing a set homework time trains the student to get to work before going out to play. Children should also be taught that all tasks have a beginning, middle, and end. For example, the child takes out a toy, plays with the toy, and puts away the toy, or we prepare the meal, eat the meal, and clean up the meal. Disorganized thinkers may not recognize the order inherent in tasks and will likely need consistent reinforcement by using schedules, lists, and routines.

Give Everything a Place

When children are still toddlers, it is good to have multiple play areas, each situated in a distinct part of the house. Instructing children to keep appropriate toys in their designated space introduces them to the concept of spatial awareness. As children get older, they should participate in cleaning to reinforce in their mind where everything goes. School-aged children should have regular backpack checks to make sure they understand spatial order. Tweens should put away folded laundry, unload the dishwasher, and clean up after themselves. These strategies will help them to become more responsible about managing their materials.

Practice Forward Thinking

Anticipating, estimating, and planning require a skill called forward thinking. An organized mind can hold onto multiple pieces of information simultaneously. Parents should stimulate their children with fun challenges and encourage them to think for themselves – this will increase their capacity for multi-tasking. Allow young children to exercise preparation skills by having them select their own clothes to wear and help pack their own gear for vacations. Give older children responsibilities such as planning a weekly meal or organizing an activity during family vacations.

Promote Problem Solving

As children enter elementary school, they gain the capacity to make decisions and solve problems, and this capacity grows during the first 25 years of life. Challenge your child to think. Do not over-schedule children, and let them find their own way out of boredom. Learning how to conquer boredom is an important problem to solve. Finally, be sure to limit your child’s passive activities, such as video games and television. Interaction with most forms of media does not require active thinking, and it will not stimulate your child’s organizational systems.

Organization is not just about accordion folders and three-ringed binders. It’s not only important to teach children organizational techniques; teach them what it means to be organized. Help them to understand time, order, location, planning and problem solving by using consistent parenting strategies so that they can create their own organized worlds and grow up empowered as independent adults. For teens lacking organizational skills, it is important to meet them at their level. In other words, if a teen has the organizational skills of a 10-year-old, she will likely need the support and training provided to a typical 10-year old.  When the organizational abilities of a child are nurtured, a more competent young adult will emerge.

Look out for Dr. Korb’s upcoming book, Raising Organized Kids. If you have ideas to share about raising an organized child, please visit the discussion page for the Center for Developing Minds on Facebook.

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Would you like additional guidance in this area? Teen Therapy Center provides individual teen therapy, family therapy, group therapy, parent support counseling, and in-home teen and family coaching 7 days a week, including afternoons, evenings, and weekends. For more information, contact us at 408.389.3538.