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Teaching Organization To Children


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Dear Rivka,

Help! My 8 year old daughter is terribly disorganized! Any tips for helping me help her change ? I am motivated to teach her as it is making me crazy.

I have been working for a full year now with a delightful 7 year old who had convinced herself she was not organized. The process took a blend of time, a little money for supplies and a lot of patience from the parents. Here are the key elements that worked in this case.

Control clutter

It’s hard for any of us to be organized when we have too much stuff. We worked with her to give away half of her “stuff”as a way to make the organizing and containerizing manageable. Initally it was difficult because each toy was special to her. Once we explained that the toys were not headed to the garbage but would be played with by other children she was able to give them away easier.

Everthing has a home

We corralled the toys we bought into open top containers and she labelled each container herself. This worked wonders as she was told to bring down one container at a time. Additionally, clean up was very quick and easy. We corralled her clothes too, with open top bins for different parts of the wardrobe, we gave away a decent amount of clothes too.

One in one out

She knows that the amount of toys she has is the maximum capacity she can take care of, so she committed to pass on older items when new ones came her way. Before Chanuka and birthdays her parents will gothrough her belongings and help her decide which toys to pass on to other children.

Catch them being organized

She was initially quite resistant to the thought that she was remotely organized. So her parents were instructed to “catch her” doing organized things and comment with specific praise. Instead of global praise such as “Wow you’re organized,” they were to stick to specific praises such as”You put your bag by the front door, now that’s organized.” Or “markers back in the right bin, nice work.”

An ounce of prevention

Each night she sets a timer and straightens up the room for 5 minutes. She chose a fixed time each week, normally on a Sunday, to do a deeper 15 minute clean up of the toy and clothes bins. These clean ups are not micro managed by the parents, she gets reminded her once in a while and her parents help her sometimes too, but the onus is on her. She has internalized that it’s her responsibility to manage her possessions.

She recently set up a brush and hair band section in a drawer by the front door because, and her parents quoted, “keeping them in the bathroom just wasn’t as practical.”

Now that a full year has passed we will be stepping up this for the upcoming school year by giving her her own alarm clock with the responsibility of setting it and waking up from it.

Good luck with this challenge. Taking the time and energy to teach your daughter how to live an organized life is one of the most empowering lessons you can teach her.

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Dear Rivka,

Help! My 8 year old daughter is terribly disorganized! Any tips for helping me help her change ? I am motivated to teach her as it is making me crazy.

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