Tutors by Baseby Karina Gafford from Tutors By Base

Is your child driving you crazy? I won’t tell anyone you said it!

Do you get phone calls at work from your child’s school because your child forgot his lunch—again?

Frustrating, right?

It’s especially frustrating for military parents who are organized and successful. You can capably manage cross country moves, navigate the complexities of altered family roles during a temporary assignment or deployment, and when Uncle Sam says jump…well, you know the correct answer. You and your spouse are the poster children for organization. But when you stare into the chaotic abyss of your child’s bedroom, backpack, you name it, a nagging thought in the back of your mind wonders briefly if the MTF perhaps made a mistake in the nursery.

It’s hard to understand why your child isn’t so organized.

Here’s the thing – organization isn’t an inherited trait, and your child isn’t forgetting his/ her items on purpose.

Remembering to pack a bag for the day involves a pretty complex set of cognitive skills called “executive functioning skills,” and not every child masters them all at once. So, that means that your little darlin’ might have strong task initiation skills, which means that he can get up and prepare his lunch for the day. That’s great!

However, if he is not quite so developed in his focus or task completion skills, then you may find that his lunch remains on the counter for the day, leaving your kitchen to develop a nice eau de turkey sandwich. Meanwhile, you have to rush through your lunch break to drop off yet another bag of Wendy’s burgers and fries—not exactly the brain food you had in mind for your kiddo that day.

Alternatively, your child may have made the lunch, packed the lunch, and left for school with the lunch. But, if he left the refrigerator open and didn’t clean up after his meal prep, now you’re still stuck with a problem, rotten food and (hopefully not) cockroaches or mice.

Task completion is a big problem for many of our students! Don’t worry though! This is something you can overcome, and you can return sanity to your family!

You can tell if your student struggles with task completion if he/ she exhibits some of the following characteristics:

1. Your child doesn’t finish an assignment unless you watch over him to make sure it’s done.
2. Your child will only study for the subjects he enjoys.
3. Your child either avoids work that seems challenging or quits after spending very little time trying to figure it out.
4. Your child spends an inordinate amount of time on disliked tasks; they just drag on and on and on because your child is trying to distract himself from the unpleasantness of the task, making it take far longer than necessary.

If you know that your child struggles with any of these, then the first step to helping your child learn how to develop his task completion skills is by developing a structure for him for homework. You can do this by:

* Setting an established time for homework each day, for example, 4:00-6:00 PM. Make sure that sports, activities, and snack time have been accounted for before setting a time, and then strictly adhere to that time.
* Setting an established space for homework each day, for example, the kitchen table. Make sure this space is clear of any distraction, so that means no television on, no side conversations, no screaming younger siblings in the vicinity, no video games, no cell phones, and no iPod. I mean it. Your kid will be so annoyed at first, but once he starts to “get” how this distraction-free zone benefits him, he’ll really appreciate the structure you’ve created for him (though he may not tell you he appreciates it!).
* Making sure your child has everything he will need to complete his homework in a handy location. Help your child prepare a box of supplies (pens, paper, etc.) that he can keep near the kitchen table for when it’s time for homework.
* Creating a “to do” list with your child at the start of each and every homework session with his hardest assignments prioritized first.

Good luck with going back-to-school this month. If you have more tips to share on how to help your child get organized, please share them in the comments below!