How to Motivate the Unorganized Child

Executive functioning challenges can often be overlooked as children are otherwise labeled as lazy or Unorganized Childunmotivated. If a child has difficulties with executive functioning he or she may present with behaviors of avoidance, emotional outbursts, or not even acknowledging the task at hand. This is probably because they are feeling overwhelmed and do not have the foundational skills needed to problem solve through organizational tasks. Helping your child to develop these skills can support their independent success and can increase future task initiation toward personal organization.

What Can Parents Do to Help an Unorganized Child?

Support them, assist in their growth of skills, and praise any small triumph! The general idea is to have the child learn the problem solving skills required to think through tasks that are seemingly overwhelming. First you always, ALWAYS start small, then tackle bigger projects as they can manage. Then as they make achievements, don’t forget to recognize their hard work! Praise moments of follow through and self-initiated tasks with recognition and/or rewards.

5 Tips to Help Organize Their Life:

  1. Establish a place to write it all down- daily planners and a family calendar are great tools to keep track of their time.
  2. Introduce Responsibility- Create a Chore chart and a To-Do list as a family. Don’t forget to keep their age and time needed for completion of these activities in mind when choosing the appropriate task(s).
  3. Acknowledge that the time is ticking- Visual timers are great for those children who tend to take more time than necessary on simple tasks. Timers can also help to keep a child focused and engaged in the activity.
  4. Create a place for all items to have a specific home- Designate places for items and stick to it. Growing up with the golden rule  ‘Always place an item back in its original place, in its same or better condition’ may help keep the house cleaner. Utilizing organizational tools, such as visual prompts (numbering, color coding) and charts can help too.
  5. Check in- They will need a little help! Have the children show you their completed work, planner, clean space, etc. Make them feel accomplished and help them problem solve solutions to existing problems.

5 Activity Ideas to Facilitate their Organizational Skills:

  1. Tackle a junk drawer, pantry shelf, or game closet- Have them help a parent problem solve through the organization of a messy place. Starting in a small place is key so there are no overwhelming moments too big for the child. Have the child think through the task with the parent facilitating only when needed.
  2. Cook with your child- A successful meal requires significant planning, working memory, organization, and time management.  See how much they can lead the cooking activity and help when needed. This can be fun for the child while having a great learning experience!
  3. Have them set up the family’s calendar for the next week or month- Give them the tools to place all of the activities on the calendar and check their work when done. Have the child help recognize and problem solve through time conflicts.
  4. Create an annual family night with board games- Board games are great for independent thinking and problem solving. Their success within a board game can greatly depend on their ability to organize themselves and materials within the game.
  5. Assist with putting together new things- Following written or verbal directions can be very difficult. With supervision and help, have the child responsible for constructing and/or setting up new purchased items.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!


Promoting Your Child’s Independence with Everyday Tasks

Have you ever done something for your kids when you know that they can or should do it for themselves?  Some examples include, tying their shoes for them, zipping or buttoning their coat, cutting their food, making their bed, making their lunch, and doing their laundry. boy in capeEvery parent is guilty of doing this every once in awhile, but this can actually be detrimental to your child’s development and their ability to gain skills needed for other tasks.

It may be so much easier for you to do it for them, take a lot less time, or be the easiest way to avoid a meltdown from your child, but this only prolongs them from learning valuable skills. Additionally, you are using your time when you could spend it doing other activities. In order to learn these skills, your children need to be granted the opportunity to problem-solve through a task and succeed. By doing so, this process may transfer to learning other skills, make them feel more independent, improve their proficiency with completing new tasks, and make your life as a parent easier as well!

Here are some tips to help your children gain independence:

  1. Add an extra 10-15 minutes for each activity. This will allow for the increased time needed for your children to complete tasks. If you build in extra time before you have to leave the house in the morning or during the bedtime routine, there should be fewer instances needed to intervene to help your children get ready in order to stay on schedule.
  2. Leave the room! No parent likes to watch their children struggle to do something. If you simply leave the room it may allow you to suppress the need to help them figure something out on their own. If they really need the help, they will come to you and ask for it.
  3. Demonstrate the task to them and then allow them to try it. In order to understand how to open a container or lace their shoes, for example, children are going to have to see it done first. You may have to show them how to do it a few times before they are able to accomplish the task.
  4. Give him or her verbal prompts. Providing step-by-step verbal directions will allow your children to navigate the steps of a task. By allowing them to try the steps out themselves, it helps their body learn the motions needed to complete the task.
  5. Provide written directions. This will allow you to help your children without having to repeat the directions every time. This way, they know where they can go if they forget the steps of the activity while still being able to practice it themselves.
  6. Help only when needed. If you sense your child is about to get frustrated after numerous failed attempts to finish the task, then give him or her the help they need. After practicing, he or she will eventually learn how to do it independently but they may still need a little help along the way.
  7. Give your child the expectation that he or she has to do things for himself or herself. Sometimes children simply do not want to put on their own shoes and socks because it is hard for them, but that is exactly the reason they should do it themselves! If your child knows up front that they are expected to try something before asking for help, there will be less likelihood for a meltdown or tantrum.

It may be difficult to implement these ideas at first, especially if your child is used to being helped each step of the way. However, if you use these strategies consistently, your children will learn how to become more independent and a responsible member of the family!

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