There are many different ways that we try to reach our children and just as many reasons for doing so. Parents are expected to instruct, reinforce, discipline, model, comfort, organize, and negotiate with and for their children, as well as provide emotional, financial, physical and moral support. It’s a very big job.
The best way of getting a message across to a child varies depending on the individual’s age and personality. However, here are some time-honored Thinking Organized tips for communicating and reinforcing effective executive functions.
- Toddlers: Make material organization as easy as possible for young children with labels and clear instructions. Provide a specific place for frequently used items such as winter clothes or favorite toys. Take advantage of the preschooler’s desire to help in order to reinforce these basic skills.
- Elementary School: When school begins, children learn to bring material to and from school, manage homework and extra-curricular activities and maintain order in their bedrooms. However, parental instruction given during these years is sometimes best delivered with specific goals. For example, “please clean your room” may be less effective than “please throw away your trash,” “put dirty clothes in this bin,” and “make your bed.”
- Middle School: As children grow older, so do their parents. If you feel like you are nagging your middle-school children, try written language. Sometimes, a reminder is more acceptable in the form of a note, and a series of requests less overwhelming when presented as a checklist.
- High School: Email and texts have become the most efficient way of getting in touch with many high school students. Because teenagers are almost always socially connected, sending a message in electronic form is most likely to be noticed and taken seriously. Furthermore, e-communications have the advantage of being non-threatening to the delicate teenage ego.
- College: By the time children leave for college, most are firmly entrenched in more than one communication method. Experiment with different ways to reach students away at school. Sometimes a “goodie” package received in the mail helps them remember that they are loved. Sometimes a text is a good way to say, “I’m thinking about you and can talk if you have a minute.” It is important to respect the independence granted to college students, but keep the doors of communication open.
Despite the age of your children, important information is best delivered and discussed face-to-face. However, for the mundane reminders that keep children on task and on time, sometimes parents need to resort to alternative methods of communication.
We’d love to hear your techniques for communicating with reluctant, resistant or just plain, regular children.