How is the school year going for you and your family so far? It’s around this time of year that assignments can pile up, calendars can fill up, and stress can build for the entire family. Add a child’s disorganization or poor time management to the mix, and things quickly go from bad to worse.
That’s why I wanted to take some time today to offer some simple executive function hacks that can help your child get organized and stay focused for a successful, stress-free year. Of course, every child is different, so first I’ll help you identify your child’s “homework personality.” Then, I’ll share a tip that will work best for your child!
Read on to discover four homework personalities and a simple but powerful executive function hack to help each one.
Download Focus Apps for Tick Tock Tommy
Have you ever checked in on your child who is quietly doing homework in their room… only to discover he hasn’t actually begun? “What have you been doing in here? You still haven’t started your homework?!”
If so, you may have a Tick Tock Tommy. This is a child who simply has a quieter internal clock. He can take a break to check his phone or wander into the kitchen for a snack, and before he knows it, a full hour has passed!
Instead of policing little Tommy every minute, try downloading an app designed to help him focus. For example, SelfControl (an app for Macs) and StayFocused (a Google Chrome plugin) allow you to block distracting websites for just a set period of time.
If the phone’s a distraction, download the Forest app. Your child will be able to set a timer for the exact amount of time he needs to focus. If he leaves his phone alone for the entire countdown, a virtual tree will grow, but if he stops the timer early, the tree will die. Kids love using this app over time to grow an entire forest of trees!
Plan Ahead with Last Minute Lucy
Has your child ever put off a major project until the night before it’s due—only to plunge your entire family into a frenzy as you try to knock it out together into the wee hours of the morning?
If so, you may have a Last Minute Lucy. And you need to hear this: It’s very unlikely that your child is putting off work because she’s lazy. Instead, she’s probably overwhelmed. Unsure of how to break long-term assignments into manageable steps, she simply puts things off and puts things off until everything comes to a head at the last possible minute.
Little time management hacks can make a big difference for your Last Minute Lucy. For example, work with your child to plan ahead on a whiteboard divided into the days of the week. When a big assignment is due, help her break the tasks down into individual steps, estimate how long they will take, and schedule them out on her weekly whiteboard “planner” (or, for high schoolers with even bigger projects, a paper planner or calendar app).
Have Weekly Check-Ins with Hot Headed Harry
Homework time starts easily enough. But as soon as you try to ask your child how he’s doing or offer to help, your well-intentioned efforts quickly escalate into huge arguments. Tempers rise. He yells. You yell. All peace is lost in the house, and guilt and frustration quickly set in.
Sound familiar? If your attempts to help always seem to push your child’s buttons, you might have a Hot Headed Harry. But that doesn’t mean you have to check out and leave your child to figure things out on his own!
Instead, tell your child you’re going to have a check-in every single week to simply talk. This shouldn’t be during homework time, when there’s pressure to complete an assignment or figure out a solution that very second. Instead, maybe it’s a walk around the neighborhood on Sunday evenings or while going out for pizza on Fridays.
Use this time to ask your child how things are going—and how they feel about how things are going. Kids may resist your questions at first, but as they get used to the routine, they can come to see this as a low-pressure opportunity to talk things through with you. And you can use this as an opportunity to gauge what kind of help your child might need to succeed in the classroom and beyond.
Schedule Clean Sweeps with Backpack Bonnie
Your child’s teacher reaches out to ask why she hasn’t turned in her assignment. Perplexed, you ask your daughter if she has the rubric. She digs to the bottom of her backpack… un-crumples and re-crumples papers… and finally unearths the important piece of paper that’s been wedged beneath her books for weeks.
It sounds like you have a Backpack Bonnie. The mess is getting out of control, and if nothing changes, her grades will soon suffer. One simple way to set her on the right path is to implement weekly, family-wide clean sweeps. At a set time each and every week, everyone in your family will drop what they’re doing and take 15 minutes to do a “clean sweep” of the papers that have accumulated in the past week.
While Bonnie tackles her backpack, you can tackle your kitchen counter or home office to demonstrate that you’re all in this together. All papers can be organized into three piles: Keep (for papers that you need on hand for now), Archive (for papers to file away that same day), and Toss (for papers that can be thrown away). Make this simple, weekly practice part of your routine to keep the whole family organized and on track for a successful week.
Need More Help? We’re Here for You!
I remember trying to share some of these hacks with my own child when he was in school. No matter how patient and clear I tried to be, my advice always fell on deaf ears. When I finally got a tutor for my child—a tutor who shared the exact same techniques I’d tried to show him—he came home all excited to show me his new systems. Go figure.
If your child resists your efforts to help, know you’re not alone. I’ve been there! And that’s why I’ve created a special Executive Function Coaching program to connect your child with an expert tutor who can coach her to find and implement systems that will work for her… without any work on your part! Just click below to learn more and request your Executive Function Coach today.