While I wouldn’t call myself someone who is obsessed with organization — my desk is a fairly messy one — I have a method to my mess, and I do love checklists, charts and calendars.
There is little that compares to the satisfaction that comes when marking items off my to-do list. I live in a world of Google calendars and alerts, reminders on my phone, a dry erase board on my kitchen wall displaying the family schedule.
Part of my love for organization is because my life demands it: I have three kids who go to three different schools and who are involved in different sports and extracurricular activities . My role outside of my career is full-time mom, part-time air traffic controller, chauffeur, scheduler, bill payer, medical appointment-maker, travel agent, party planner and professional shopper.
Luckily, I’m a first-born, type A personality, also known as an enneagram type 1, someone who feels comfortable in that space.
But how do you teach very unorganized children organization, especially when you have multiple children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?
It was a topic I was recently discussing with a friend, trying to figure out methods for my high school freshman to stay organized and on top of her school assignments as well as her busy extracurricular schedule. At 14, I feel like she should own her schoolwork, and that I should not have to be a helicopter parent, checking behind her to make sure her work gets done.
But on the other hand, I know that she struggles with organization.
“Why can’t she use her planner and write down her assignments so she knows what is due?” I asked my friend recently, pointing out that her planner I bought at the beginning of the year is still fairly untouched. But my friend had a solid point.
“Does that method work for her?” she asked.
“It works for me,” I replied.
“But what about her?” she asked.
Truth is, sometimes it’s hard, especially with teenagers, to realize that they aren’t just like us and they have different preferences, strengths and abilities. And while one method of organization works well for me, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for my daughter.
That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to influence her to use her planner and other methods to help her better keep up with her life. But also, she needs to find out what works for her ― whether that means investing in pretty markers and highlighters, working on her note-taking, or getting an organizational coach who could help her in ways that I cannot.
Sometimes part of parenting is giving up control on “our way” of doing things in lieu of finding something that is right for the kid ― even if that is somewhat different than how we do things for ourselves.
Below are some organizational tips from understood.org:
Break tasks into chunks.
Help students create checklists and get them involved in marking off to-do lists.
Teach calendar and time management routines.
Establish daily routines.
Use color-coding for notebooks, folders, or event pens.
Create an organized work space.
Do regular backpack checks.
Before bedtime, sit down to review plans for the next day.
Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: How do you teach your kid to be as organized as you are? | THE MOM STOP