Dallin has never been the greatest of students. School is just not something that he is enthused about. I mean he does ok. Just not as good as I know he has the potential to do. A couple months ago, we had a week or two where he was forgetting to write down homework assignments, forgetting to bring stuff home that he needed for his homework, forgetting to turn stuff in at school, and so on almost everyday. I am sure all kids do it a little bit, but it felt like it was getting out of hand to me.
So I went searching for some ideas of how to help him. I came across a book called Smart but Scattered. It approached helping children get organized, remember important things, do better at school, etc. by helping children learn the root skills needed to accomplish those things. The authors referred to those skills as “executive skills”. Skills such as response inhibition, working memory, emotional control, sustained attention, task initiation, time management, planning, and organization. They provided questionnaires to help determine what skills your child is lacking in and ideas for improving those skills.
One section of the book that I really liked provided some ideas for incentives and check lists for helping your kids have a successful day. And so, about 6 weeks ago, we implemented morning, afternoon, and evening check lists or “routines” for the kids to do.
I set the alarm on my phone to go off at 7:30 every morning, 4:00 each afternoon, and 7:30 each evening. Now after weeks of doing this, every time the kids hear the alarm they know it is time to start one of their routines. If I have to remind them multiple times to do items on the list they get a mark on their chart. They can also receive marks on their chart if we ask them to do something not on their chart and have to ask them more than once. They can also receive a mark for bad behavior (I think the threat of a mark has now eclipsed time out as being more effective!). I laminated all the charts and we are using dry erase markers to write on them– works really well!
Their routines are all very similar, but do have a few variations. Layton’s is a little shorter and I included pictures to help him remember what each step is:
For areas that they are assigned to clean, there is a check list posted in that room to help them remember what they have to do:
If they go the whole day without a mark, they can get a star on their chart.
When they get 10 stars, they can choose a prize from the prize box.
I think one of the nicest benefits that I have seen so far with this system is that we allow them to get a mark erased by doing something nice for someone else in the family. The result has been a surprising number of “nice” deeds being reported to me even when they don’t have a mark on their chart to be erased.
I know it seems a little complicated, but it really seems to be working. Since we have implemented it, Dallin has only forgotten to write down his homework assignment once which is a huge improvement. He also seems to be taking school more seriously. I have also noticed improvements with Layton and Mandy. The threat of getting a mark on their chart is VERY serious to them. I have also noticed improvements in their cleaning skills! And they are all very much more aware of time and how long it takes them to do things.
The system isn’t perfect and I am thinking about changing a few of the steps in their routines, but for the most part I really like it. It doesn’t work as well on weekends as it does on weekdays, but we’ll keep trying it. The hardest part for me is remembering to go put a mark on their chart when I have to remind them of things. I am lacking in a number of executive skills myself :)