LITTLE THINGS ABOUT
Dr. Gayatri Bezboruah
We don’t have to remind ourselves that all children worth his or her salt will generate a little chaos and disorganization- in their own lives as well as in ours! While some might tear through the house leaving a trail of toys, backpacks, shoes, and empty drink cups, others may flit from one thing to the next – forgetting books at school, leaving towels on the floor, and failing to finish projects once started. Yes, it’s true that we’d all like our children to be more organized and to stay focused on tasks, such as homework. Is it possible? Well, it is. A few kids seem naturally organized, but for the rest of them, organization is a skill learned over time.
For kids, all tasks can be broken down into a 1-2-3 process.
1. Getting organized means our kids get where they need to be and gather the supplies needed to complete the task.
2. Staying focused means sticking with the task and learning to say “no” to distractions.
3. Getting it done means finishing up, checking their work, and putting on the finishing touches, like remembering to put a homework paper in the right folder and putting the folder inside the backpack so it’s ready for the next day.
Once our children know these steps – and learn how to apply them – they can start tackling tasks more independently. That means homework, chores, and other tasks will get done with increasing consistency and efficiency. Of course, they will still need our help and guidance, but we probably won’t have to nag as much.
Not only is it practical to teach these skills, but knowing how to get stuff done will help your child feel more competent and effective. Kids feel self-confident and proud when they’re able to accomplish their tasks and responsibilities. They’re also sure to be pleased when they find they have some extra free time to do what they’d like to do.
Getting organized: We have to explain to our children that this step is all about getting ready. It’s about figuring out what they need to do and gathering the things they’ll need to do it. Ask, “So you have a book report to write. What are some of the things you need to do to get started?” Help them make a list of things like: Choose a book. Make sure the book is OK with the teacher. Then help them think of the supplies needed: The book, some note cards, a pen for taking notes, the teacher’s list of questions to answer, and a report cover. Encourage them to gather the supplies where the work will take place. As the project progresses, show them how to use the list to check off what’s already done and get ready to do what’s next. Show them how to add to the list as they go, too. Coach them to think, “OK, I did these things. Now, what’s next? Oh yeah, start reading the book.” Coach them child to ask, “What else do I need to do?” and to add things to the list like: Finish the book, read over my teacher’s directions, start writing the report.
Staying focused: Explain to them that this part is about doing it, and sticking with the job. Tell them this means doing what they’re supposed to do, following what’s on the list, and reminding themselves to keep doing it. It might mean sticking to the reading plan so our children don’t run out of time.
It also means sticking to it even when there’s something else our children would rather be doing – the hardest part of all! We can help our little ones handle these inevitable temptations by explaining what they can do in those situations. While working on the report, a competing idea might pop into their heads, such as “I feel like playing cricket now.” It helps if we teach them to challenge that impulse by asking themselves, “Is that what I’m supposed to be doing?”
Explain that they could take a tiny break to stretch a little and then get right back to the task at hand. They also can make a plan to play cricket after the work is done. Let them know that staying focused is tough sometimes, but it gets easier with practice.
Getting it done: Explain to them that this is the part when they will be finishing up the job. We have to talk about things like copying work neatly and then read it over ourselves to help find any mistakes. Coach them to take those important final steps: putting his or her name on the report, placing it in a report cover, putting the report in the correct school folder, and putting the folder in the backpack so it’s ready to be turned in.
GIVE IT TIME…It will take time to teach our children how to break down tasks into steps. It also will take time for them to learn how to apply these skills to what needs to be done. Sometimes, it will seem simpler just to do it for them. It certainly would take less time. But the trouble is that kids don’t learn how to be independent and successful if we parents swoop in every time a situation is challenging or complex!
Here’s why it’s worth your time and effort:
“Our children will learn new skills that they will need- how to pour a bowl of cereal, tie shoes, match clothes, complete a homework assignment.
“Our little ones will develop a sense of independence. Children who dress themselves today at age 4 feel like big kids! It’s a good feeling that will deepen over time as they learn to do even more without help. From these good feelings, they begin to form a belief about themselves. In short, “I can do it.”
“Our firm but kind expectations that our children should start tackling certain jobs on their own sends a strong message. We reinforce their independence and encourage them to accept a certain level of responsibility. Our little ones will learn that others will set expectations and that they can meet them.
This kind of teaching can be a very loving gesture. We’re taking the time to show our children how to do something – with interest, patience, love, kindness and their best interests at heart. This will make them feel cared for and loved. It’s like we’re filling up their toolbox with very necessary tools
Dr Gayatri Bezboruah is Professor of Paediatrics, Gauhati Medical College, Guwahati. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com