Well, the kids are back in school and by now you are probably feeling the surge of hectic-ness that it inevitably invites. Let's face it -- we have a ton more to juggle and a lot more on our to do list.
So how do we survive? Have some structures in place that help support order and routines and which ultimately teach children how to be self-reliant over time. Remember -- the goal of parenting is to work yourself out of a job, not raise a dependent who is a failure to launch, as the saying goes.
Here are a few of the simple first steps to get your organized and pointed in the right direction:
1. Everything has a place:
Make sure your house is kid-friendly and that all items have a home that your children can identify and locate. For example: The place for coats are on hooks that are at kid-level. The place for boots is on the mat.The place for knapsacks is a basket placed by the door. The place for notes from school is an in-basket in the kitchen and lunch boxes have a home on the kitchen island so they get into the next load of dishwashing. Check out IKEA's hallway offerings or a retail outlet like Solutions or Home Sense for fun and fashionable products designed for this very purpose.
2. Routines are so helpful
We are all creatures of habit. The trick is to establish habits that will stick. That means taking time for training or "TTFT" as I like to say in short form. Remember -- it takes 30 days to establish a routine. You can read more on the science of habits in the book The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg or check out the inspirational father of 6 blogger Zen Habits for more family 30-day habit changing challenges. That means it can take until Thanksgiving just to get your kids into the routine of coming in the door -- hanging their coats, putting their rain boots or shoes on the mat, placing their knapsack in the basket and bringing their lunch box and paper work to the kitchen.
Be patient -- but be consistent -- make sure they never miss each step. How? To hold them accountable, you need not nag or yell -- simply wait until they make a request of you. Maybe they ask for a snack or for you to play ball hockey with them. Simply reply "YES, I will when your jobs are done." They know what their jobs are. They will spring to action now, just be patient, friendly and consistently firm in requiring these task be done before moving forward with the day.
3. Ownership has benefits -- let kids establish their morning rituals
There is only one thing harder than getting the after school routine smoothed out. You guessed it, it's the ugly morning routine. Can you get your kids up and out the door on time without World War Three breaking out?
Well, this may come as shocking news but believe it or not, children actually like to run their own lives. They might feign indifference or act as thought they are incapable, but I promise you it's a game of sorts and one that is quickly abandoned when parents learn to hand over control and autonomy to their children. Yes -- withdrawal these services with a kind vote of confidence that you know they can manage. Yes, accept that they will protest at first, but they quickly learn how much better if feels to decide for one's self, to be valued as component instead of incapable and dependent.
It does take switching gears and that switch starts with parents taking a fresh perspective on their children's abilities. To help that process go smoothly, I suggest you empower your child to make their own routines and check lists and to do lists from now on. Post-It's Dry Erase Surface can be cut to any size (a wall in the foyer, a portion of the fridge, a bathroom mirror, their desk at school, inside a locker or mount on a portable clip board).
Ask your child to make their own schedules and to do lists using their own creativity and methods. Of course they will quickly discover that what ever they create needs tweaking. It's great that they finally realize it takes 10 minutes to actually eat breakfast instead of the five they guessed but that's OK. They learned it themselves and adjusted their schedule. Kids learn they can tweak and tweak until they have their own personalized systems they have created for themselves, by themselves, and that they are responsible for on their own. This is a skill of self-direction and awareness that will last a lifetime. Imposing schedules will only invoke refusal, opposition and conflict. Be patient. Let them experiment and make mistakes and correct. They can fix it with a wipe of the cloth and take a new approach tomorrow. Beautiful!
Alyson Schafer is currently working with the Post-It brand.
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