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Manage Your Child's Day

This is how my first-grader used to arrive home after school: Fling jacket and backpack on the floor. Traipse upstairs. Ditch shoes and leftover lunch along the way. Her attempts to finish her chores and homework were just as haphazard. Like many kids come September, it seemed as though she was a tornado in training. But thanks to a few creative ideas, I was able to calm the storm and bring order to our house and her schedule. Here, surprisingly simple changes that will get your kids on track throughout their day:

Easy Mornings
Make a list and check it twice. You may never deal with forgotten permission slips again if you stick to this routine: Have your child run through a written going-to-school list. Jacket? Check. Lunch? Check. Homework? Check. Goodbye hug? Check.

Corral clutter. Once my husband designated a convenient "coat place" (a low-hung row of pegs) and "shoe place" (a plastic bin) for our four kids, it was amazing how much faster we got out of the house in the morning.

Work-Friendly Afternoons
Play beat the clock. Kids often don't realize how long a task takes from start to finish. The secret is a time limit  -- there's nothing like a deadline to cut down on dawdling. And if the ticking clock doesn't provide enough of a push, you can add a consequence  -- for example, a bedtime that's pushed up by 15 minutes that night  -- to give it some real meaning.

Set up a place to call his own. Creating a work space for your child early on  -- even before he enters preschool  -- can help him develop good study habits and organization skills. It can be as simple as a small table in the family room or kitchen, with easy access to crayons, paper, and glue. Use clear storage boxes or two-gallon zip-lock plastic bags so he can see what's inside.

Peaceful Evenings
Plan ahead. The night before, pack up a lunch bag and place it in the fridge so you can grab and go the next day. Or help your child choose her clothes and lay them out on a chair.

Contributing editor Paula Spencer is the author of the Parenting Guide to Positive Discipline.

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