This is my third child going through middle school. I would consider myself a seasoned parent.
I can look back and see where I should have spent a bit more with my older kids. Our family has many great traits. Systems and organizing are not one of them. I think it is a defect in our DNA.
Don’t get me wrong, we did a pretty good job with my first two. They are problem solvers, confident and super independent from a very young age. That did not happen by accident. Those traits were high on our parenting list.
One thing we should have spent more time helping them develop is organizing. To be more specific help them develop a system to organize their stuff. You know all the stuff that happens when the magical executive skills are developing.
The world of middle school is much like the real world in that you have an assortment of people that you must work with. You also have an assortment of assignments, supplies, afterschool equipment like no other time.
The common thought is that by middle school they should be able to figure this out on their own. I’m here to say otherwise.
My third child ventured into middle school last year.
8 different teachers, school supplies, school uniforms with several moving parts, PE bags, football bags, and the clarinet all had to go to school and return home daily. Then as if to develop those organizing and planning skills, even more, the schedule changed every day and again every week. Yep, chaos.
So, for 21 days, 3 weeks, we put up reminders of what to do when we came home and what to do before bed. When he came home we had to empty the PE or football bag (Think gross, smelly clothes.) Before bed, we had to look over his schedule, figure out what was needed and leave it all packed up for the next day.
Notice I said, “we”. I believe this is the piece that made this strategy most successful. Nothing builds a new habit like accountability.
In this case, I was the accountability piece. Initially, it was we every day. Then, it was “we” 2 or 3 days a week and I would just check the days he did it on his own. The last week it was him doing it and him showing it to me.
Here is where we (the awsome adults) get it wrong. We try something for a few days and when it doesn’t change we are quick to say “We tried that before but it didn’t work.” Remember it takes at least 21 consecutive days for a behavior to become a habit.
I will tell you it was not always easy to do this with him. Sometimes, I just didn’t want to. I did get a lot of “I can do this on my own.” I knew he could, but I also knew if I didn’t stick to the 21-day plan this may not be a success.