Helping Your Child Get Organized

My 11-year-old boy is in sixth grade and just came home with four 'F's', a 'B' and a 'C.' His problem is organizational skills. He has none. He doesn't have a learning disability and he's well-behaved. His problem is he talks too much and listens too little. I was looking to find some parents who have successfully taught their kids organization. By the way, I'm an organizing freak. I cannot teach him, even though I'm a pro. Help!

-- CLMooney1
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What a wonderful question! You will be happy to hear that your disorganized darling is typical of countless 10- to 15-year-olds. During these years, middlers obsess about peers, discover the opposite sex, worry endlessly about their changing bodies, and more. With so much happening, academics is not atop the priority list. In our book, The Roller-Coaster Years, we have two chapters chock full of strategies to help you. I can give you a snippet here. Does your child use an academic planner? This is a notebook which is designed to help with organization. It lists assignments, homework, upcoming projects and has space for parent and teacher commentary. Get your child one. As you design your "organization lessons," get his input. When does he like to do homework? Where? How long does he want to spend on it? Let him choose the hour, the place, and write up a guess at a timetable. This way he can also pencil in his favorite TV shows and IM-ing his friends. Post checklists with projects broken down into smaller parts. Use visual and verbal reminders. Have him single out which subjects are giving him problems. Ask him for ideas: Getting a friend to help him? A homework hour at the library? You want your son ideally to learn to take responsibility for his work and own the process. Set aside one day a week to clean his backpack with him. Rest assured that all children this age struggle with disorganization. We call it the 3D's -- distracted, disorganized, and disinterested. Check out our book for more tips and lots of empathy, too.

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