It’s the start of a new year, and if you’re like many parents across our area, you’re looking for new ways to help your kids develop strong habits at home and school. Last Thursday, I spoke with WTOP on ideas to make a positive change for the new year.
Q: How can parents help to create better habits, both at school and at home?
With the start of the new year, it’s common for parents to want to help their kids do a lot of things — and at the top of the list is to be more organized. However, a parent’s definition of “organized” can be completely different than their kid’s! To maintain organization throughout the year, it’s important to include organization into your routine. If it’s your child’s study area, help her get it neat and tidy to start the new year, and then snap a picture of it. A photo gives kids a point of reference to look at down the line. This idea works great for kids’ rooms, too.
Q: What about procrastination? That seems to be a big issue for kids.
Procrastination is incredibly common, especially when it comes to work that requires planning ahead. For example, if there’s a book report due in three weeks, expecting your elementary schooler to break down such a big task into smaller chunks might be unrealistic. Kids often need parental help because time feels vague and intangible. You can make time feel more concrete by tying it to something they love. Let’s say your son is passionate about baseball. If you’re feeling creative, take a pack of baseball cards and divide them evenly into four piles and each time he completes one of the small tasks leading to completion, give him those cards as a reward. You’re not bribing; you’re rewarding him for getting his work done.
Q: Focus and attention to detail are things that parents may also want to improve. What can we do?
We all want our kids to pay attention, especially when it comes to the quality of their assignments. So we say things like, “Don’t forget to check your work!” but that rarely helps. I often think of task completion like the bell curve. When you’re getting started, you’re climbing that hill. When you’ve finished, you’re sliding down the back side, just wanting to be done, thinking about the next thing. To kids, asking them to muster up the effort to go back and review every last question and climb back up the hill usually doesn’t have a good outcome. Instead, say, “As you do that math worksheet, circle the hardest ones, and just go back and check those” or “Just review three of the ten math problems.” By making a difficult task feel easier, kids are much more likely to complete it.