The start of the new school year or term gives us all a chance to make a fresh start, break bad old habits and adopt good new ones.
Get your children to set goals
This is a great skill to teach children, and a good habit to encourage. Remember though that these are the child’s goals for herself – not your goals for her. The idea is that the goals are inspiring, not pressurising.
Ask your child what a successful school year would look like for her. As far as possible, let her come up her own ideas. Don’t focus on excellent achievements or academics only. Your child’s goals might encompass things like making new friends or getting homework done more efficiently. Work with her to create specific goals that are achievable and reasonable.
Break a big goal down into smaller ones so that your child can see progress on a daily or weekly basis. So instead of “being the best netball player on the team,” she might have sub-goals like practicing her shooting every weekend.
Lastly, get your child to write down her goals and keep track of them. Evaluate successes regularly and build in rewards, as well as a system for re-working goals as the year’s events unfold.
De-clutter your child’s space
An organised bedroom and workspace cuts down on wasted time, reduces stress and helps the child focus. Get rid of anything you don’t need – clothes that are too small, toys that aren’t played with, broken stuff, tiny stumps of pencils, the lot! Together with your child, create a system for what remains: stationery all together, sports clothes in a particular drawer, and so on.
Check that everything for school is in good working order. Sew buttons on shirts that are missing them, get your child to sharpen pencils, check that everything is labelled. Give your child responsibility for maintaining this organisation, with your help, and at an age-appropriate level. Reminders, follow-up and positive feedback will help.
Start good habits
Set up a reminder checklist for the morning, for home time and for bedtime. This encourages your child to take responsibility for checking what needs to be done.
Agree on a daily schedule that suits your child. For instance, a snack when she comes home, with homework straight after and the rest of the day for play.
Of course, there needs to be some flexibility, but the beauty of creating this habit is that it takes away the daily discussions, and the pleas for, “After this programme ...” or “When I’ve had a swim...”
Discuss extramurals. Many parents and people who work with children believe that the extramural schedule is getting out of hand. Children are getting worn out, and there’s a lack of commitment to any of the activities.
You decide how many activities you think are reasonable, given you child’s age and energy levels, and let your child lead when it comes to choosing what she wants to do.
Make sure she realises that these extramural activities require a degree of commitment, in terms of looking after kit and attending lessons and practices regularly.
Now is also a fine time to look at your family’s health and happiness and see if there are good habits you can get into together. How about a family games night or a regular Friday night braai that the children can each ask a friend to?