The season of school vacations is here! The past couple weeks, students have adjusted to going to back to school after either a very relaxing and “chill” winter break, or one that was packed with activities, travel, and overstimulating events. (Sound familiar, adults?!) Just as students get back into the swing of things from winter break, they have a three-day weekend, February break, Spring break, and more.
As they return from each break, the reality is going to show up and we are going to be scrambling to get ourselves and our children back on a productive path after fun time away from the classroom. In the book “The 7 Habits of Happy Kids” by Sean Covey habit three is “Work First, Then Play.” While time doing homework has always been a struggle for children, fitting in time for extracurriculars as well as fighting against their yearning for screen time over homework time can be a tricky thing to navigate. In the midst of this, grasping habit three will be essential so they stay on track with completing school assignments and homework.
When it comes to schoolwork, children often find ways to avoid it for various reasons, and parents often label this behavior as laziness. But let’s be honest…children have different priorities then adults do and the last thing they want to do at home is schoolwork. The reason…children are still developing executive functioning, so they don’t have the skills of organizing and prioritizing that they need to be successful in this area on their own. In addition, children with neurological challenges, such as ADHD, have even more difficulty with this.
The best way to help children learn the “Work First, Then Play” habit is by implementing the following steps.
1) Clarify Benefits: Children flourish when they feel involved and in control of their life. The sense of autonomy that they develop will lead them to being more cooperative. Parents should teach children the basics of planning and organization. It’s also important to focus on the positive qualities the child already has and use those to help them overcome any obstacles with work. And since children often overestimate their parent’s expectations, clarifying these things in relation to completing schoolwork and homework is essential.
2) Organize Workspaces: Since children are still developing executive function, parents must help them organize their workspace while also giving them input as to the set up. Whether it’s a space for digital learning or just for homework, having a designated location, with minimal distractions, is critical in successfully completing work. Ensuring they have all the necessary supplies in this space will minimize interruptions to look for what they need. It’s also beneficial to conduct weekly cleanup sessions to reorganize in preparation for the next week.
3) Manage Time: Once expectations are set, and the workspace is organized, parents should help children set a schedule to follow. And while many schools will have a certain schedule to follow for digital learning, parents should help children plan their day accordingly. Breaking assignments and homework into manageable sections and setting deadlines will help children not feel so overwhelmed. Emphasizing the importance of “Work First, Then Play” will help children stay on task and complete assignments promptly. Scheduling in “recess” and “free time” will give them something fun to look forward to.
In the SKILLZ program, a progressive child development method, the class layout follows this method. The schedule for each class is set so the students know what to expect. Each class begins with a mat chat to prepare the students for what they will be learning, goes through the “work” for the day, and then ends the class with a fun game. This format helps the students stay on task and learn the new information quickly in anticipation for time to “play” once the work is done. In addition, the instructors build intrinsic motivation in the students and give them choice class so they can develop autonomy.
Doing schoolwork all day can be exhausting. But if parents instill habit three, “Work First, Then Play,” early on, children will develop organizational and time management skills while also increasing their intrinsic motivation. This skill will be even more helpful to children as they go through the different stages of their life, into adulthood.