Struggles between parents and children about getting organized are common, but altogether unnecessary. Use the following strategies to avoid battles, while helping your child become an organizing whiz:
· Don’t make organizing punitive By and large, kids like organized spaces and have no trouble cleaning up at school, or at their friend’s houses. So why are they so messy at home? Because parents (especially working parents) feel guilty and ambivalent about asking their kids to clean up. State simply—“Pick up your toys”. Don’t ask, beg or speak in anger, “Would you please pick up your toys??!!!”
· Be patient. Organizing and time management are life skills (not talents) that can be learned. You can facilitate your child’s mastery of these life skills, but don’t expect instant results – becoming organized is a process, mastered and refined over a lifetime.
· Discover their motivation. Children must get organized for their own reasons, not just to please you. What are they trying to get out of it? What’s the payoff for them? What are their frustrations? (i.e. losing favorite toys, jeans, homework, etc.)
· Teach by example. If you don’t have organizing skills of your own, try applying the principals to a common area like the front hall closet, kitchen or bathroom. Let your child experience the freedom and ease that organizing brings. Then offer to help them in their room.
· Organize together. As tempted as you may be to sneak into their rooms with a dumpster to clear out all the “junk,” long range success comes only through allowing your child to participate in the design, transformation, and maintenance of his or her own space. Kids love to solve problems –- which is what organizing is all about. And provided you stay calm and supportive, rather than judgmental, your child will enjoy the special attention and time together with you.
· Don’t “label” your child as disorganized. Eliminate the phrases “You’re so disorganized!”, “You are such a slob”, “This room is a pigsty!”, “You are such a procrastinator!”. Build your child’s confidence by recognizing the areas where they are organized. (and every kid is organized somewhere-their stuffed animals, their collections, their ipod)
· Avoid pre-judgements. You can’t tell just by looking at their space or notebook whether or not your child is organized. Ask what works for them and what doesn’t. You may be surprised what you learn.
· Respect your child’s own way of thinking, goals and attachments. Maybe you’d group shirts by short and long sleeve—but your child prefers to group by color or style. As long as their system works for them, support it.
· Make the project easier on them physically. Gather containers, tie up filled trash bags, help with labeling, transport giveaways, return objects that belong in other rooms back to their original homes.
Finally, remember that organizing together is a rare opportunity to learn how your child thinks, to share their goals and dreams, to discover what’s truly important to them. As you observe and help your child make decisions about what to keep and what to toss, you will gain insight into how their mind works, and where their values lie. You will learn about new interests, and what’s become passé. And together, you can create a room that is a true reflection of who they are and what is important to them.