Menu

7 positive ways to ask your children to put their things away

The tools for turning rough mornings into pleasant ones are in our hands.

how to help your child get organized

Too often, weekday mornings can seem like a race against the clock. Your alarm goes off, and you start out with the best of intentions (serenity now!). But by the time the bus arrives (or, for many families this year, by the time your child's first Zoom class is due to start) you are frustrated, frazzled, and yelling at your kids...again.

Not only is yelling at your kids an upsetting way to start your morning, it is also generally ineffective. If it happens over and over again, it can set up a negative pattern: continued noncompliance by kids, and guilt and distress in parents.

In the long run, persistent negative interactions between parents and children (like the nagging and yelling that starts all too many school mornings) can lead children to avoid the tasks parents are asking them to do, and cause parents to give up on making requests. At the most extreme levels, persistent parental criticism can increase the risk for depression in children and teens.

So, what is a parent to do? Organizational skills are important for all children to learn, but many kids need help getting organized in order to be effective with tasks, morning routines and school responsibilities. Problems with organization can hinder school performance and lead to higher levels of family conflict. So if your child needs help getting organized, it's never too late or too early to get them started.


In our book, The Organized Child: An Effective Program to Maximize Your Kid's Potential—in School and in Life, Elana Spira, Jennifer Rosenblatt, and Richard Gallagher guide parents through research-based ways to improve kids' organization, time management and planning skills, while also preserving positive parent-child relationships.

Here are specific strategies to help your child get organized—and make school mornings calmer and more efficient for everyone.

An alternative to yelling

First, we recommend that parents work hard to avoid yelling at kids because this only works temporarily—while using firm but pleasant requests helps kids to be more cooperative immediately and in the future. Rather than catching kids' mistakes and providing harsh requests, we recommend changing directives into "positive prompts."

What are positive prompts? A positive prompt is simply a pleasant request with some honest encouragement. Children are really no different from other people—they like to be treated with respect and good manners. A request starting with "please" and followed by "thank you" when the task is completed makes children more willing to do as they are asked.

This may sound Pollyannish, but respecting children and praising their efforts does lead to improved behavior, as noted in the work of experts such as Russell Barkley, an expert on ADHD, and Alan Kazdin, the former president of the American Psychological Association. My research team has found that parents using positive prompts, and teaching children new skills in managing their lives at home and at school, can help children to grow into more responsive, responsible kids.

Our studies show that even the kids who struggle the most can improve. In fact, children with the greatest deficits in organization, time management, and planning made large improvements that contributed to two wonderful outcomes: Their school work advanced, and the parents and children experienced significantly less conflict. Critically, in one large study, the benefits lasted into the next school year.

How can you start building improved organizational skills with positive prompting? It's quite simple. Here are some of the guidelines we recommend.

1. Move close to your child.

Don't yell a prompt from the bathroom to your kid's bedroom. If you do, your child is more likely to ignore you, making this a wasted reminder.

2. Get your child's attention.

Make eye contact! If they are texting or playing Minecraft, they won't hear you.

3. Ask for one thing at a time.

If you give your child multiple reminders at once, odds are that they will forget at least one of them. Focus on what's most important for that day.

4. Be clear.

"Please put your homework folder in your backpack" is more specific and clear than "pack up."

5. Use a positive, encouraging voice.

It's difficult, we know! But try your best to keep the frustration out of your voice. Try taking three deep breaths (and a slow sip of coffee) before speaking.

6. Don't nag.

When you nag your child, especially about something you've asked them to do before, it is quite likely that all your child hears after the fifth or sixth time is "blah, blah, blah."

7. Stick with the present; forget about the past.

"Please pack your lunchbox" vs. "Let's see if you can remember your lunch today, unlike yesterday." Shaming a child doesn't magically create positive behavior.

As your child becomes more comfortable with a specific behavior, fewer prompts will be needed. But don't taper them off until you notice a change in your child's behavior. Prompts and praise are useful until the behaviors become habitual. Too often, parents expect kids to get it right the first time, but waiting until the behavior is ingrained is key to success.

After you become skilled in using positive prompts and praise for simple tasks, you can learn to encourage higher-level organizational skills in your kids, too. After determining what they need to manage their routines and handle the organizational demands at school—such as writing down assignments, getting the right materials and books home and back to school, and improving time management—you can use positive prompts and careful guided instruction here, as well. Parent-child interactions are critical to teaching lessons that stick with children, putting them on a path to success.

We all want to help our children be more organized—and we want to maintain our close bonds. Using positive prompts is one of the ways to do that. By understanding how to prompt positive behavior in our kids, we can preserve our peace of mind and theirs.

The tools for turning rough mornings into pleasant ones are in our hands.

From the Shop

Get organized for school—and make it cute.

Originally posted on Greater Good.

True

After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

Keep reading Show less
Work + Money