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Back to School tips for sanity and success

Where did the summer go?

Transitioning from the lazy days of summer to the more regimented days of school and after-school activities can be stressful, from planning and packing healthy lunches and after school snacks to doing homework and starting nighttime and morning rituals earlier. What’s a parent, grandparent, or caretaker to do in order to ensure a smooth transition and success at home and at school?

In the working world, expectations are detailed, timetables are created, and the mice are encouraged to get to the cheese in the most proficient, efficient, and practical ways. You go to work, you do a good job, and in return, you are paid. Your paycheck is neither bribery nor a reward. It is earned. This is the kind of system you should set up for your kids. Learning this at a young age ensures greater success later in life.

Keeping in mind the age, personality, nature, and challenges your child may face before setting the expectations are important and here are some additional tips to help maximize success, peace, and happiness in your household.

5 Tips To Get and Keep Your Back-to-school Family Organized, Happy and On Track

Job / Chore Charts

The best way to teach responsibility is to make sure that everyone in the family takes responsibility for their own space – age appropriately. No three-year-old is going to do his own laundry and no fifteen-year-old should expect anyone else to do theirs.

Even toddlers can be taught to pick up their blocks, put away their crayons, and clean up their space before moving on to the next activity. Set up a chart of expected behaviors and go over it with each child to ensure they understand the expectations and rewards or consequences.

Various chores and activities may be acknowledged daily or weekly. (Homework is probably an everyday occurrence. Cleaning one’s room may be done daily, weekly, or in the case of teens, seldom. Just let them know what your expectations are and put it on the chart.)

Track and Reward

Whether it’s stickers, stars, or check marks, be clear on how tasks will be tracked, managed, and rewarded (or not.) Some parents may simply wish to count up the positive feedback and reward accordingly; others will add the positive and negative feedback, and reward the difference between the two. Again, keep in the mind age of the children. Little ones need rewards more frequently than teens. Rewards may be expressed monetarily (as in an allowance) or points earned towards something the child wants (i.e. a Lego® toy, an X-Box®, or a night off of doing the dishes). Be creative. You’re the boss!

Set the rules and sticks to your guns

It should be made clear from the start, especially for older kids, that negotiation is not part of this plan. If you do something, you get something. If you don’t do something, there are consequences. Most importantly, maintain control. (Ha! Easier said than done, especially the older the kids get. I had a child who would “filibuster” me into finally caving and giving in. My bad. I was just plain worn out and worn down. P.S. He’s a wonderfully successful attorney and I’m writing articles. Take it for what it’s worth.)

Homework Review

Whether you’re a single parent, a grandparent raising grandchildren, or very busy parent, this is tricky. TIME is a precious commodity -- yours, theirs, and the time you have to spend together may very well be the most challenging part of raising children and/or grandchildren.

Doing homework is one of the most important tasks, and YOUR commitment should be made apparent and equally part of the “deal”. As an interested and concerned parent, grandparent, or care-provider, the onus is one you. You should be required to be an available resource/consultant. While not always possible, the commitment should have rewards and consequences. If you can’t be available while the child is doing his/her homework, at least be held accountable for reviewing it (within a timeframe allowing for changes to be made). Oh, and turning it in. (I had a contract with my son to review his homework, which we did every night. At the end of the term, he failed. Why? Because he DID the homework, I checked it, and it was error free -- but it never got into his book bag and never got turned it. There are always unforeseen challenges. Keep your eyes open!)


This is one of the most integral and important parts of the plan. A system or plan is only as good as its manager. If you set something up and then neglect to keep up with it, you are doomed. If you set up a daily chart, make sure you evaluate it daily, in front of all participants. Whether it’s before bedtime, after school, or first thing in the morning, if the system is not maintained, the plan will not work.

Granted, this system is a challenge, but the rewards are high and the stakes are higher.

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