Sometimes we get stuck on what the “right” system or structure should be to support our kids. I talk with parents all the time frustrated that their kids won't use a planner, or a calendar, or a watch, or a timer. They're partly annoyed that their kids won't follow their idea. But most of all, they're frustrated that their kids don't seem to be taking ownership of their lives.
If you want to help your kids take ownership of their lives, remember this: just because something seems like a perfect idea to you doesn't mean it will work for your kids. If you try to force a system on your kids, not only are you likely to end up trying to put a square peg in a round hole, but you take away the chance for them to learn by using their own creativity.
So instead of getting upset when they won't use your idea for a great structure, help them figure out what they want to accomplish, and then set up a system for themselves that they think will work. It doesn't have to work perfectly the first time, or even at all. What's important is that they start looking for possible ways to manage themselves.
Our kids are super creative, probably more than many of us grown-ups. Maybe they will use a special ringtone on their iPod as an alarm, or a chore chart decorated with flowers and bright colors that they drew themselves, or a photo of their homework assignments rather than writing them down in that dinosaur of a planner.
If it works (even sometimes), it's theirs. Let them make it, let them own it! and take the pressure off of everyone to do things just one 'right' way.
Rinse and Repeat
And if it doesn't work, avoid the temptation to say (or even imply), “I told you so.” Simply help them learn to “Rinse and Repeat,” identifying what part DID work, what part didn't, and what they want to do differently when they try again.
That's the heart of helping them take ownership!
Thanks to one of our clients for sharing her 12-year-old daughter's creative organizational skills in creating her own system and structure. She made a system for reminding herself in the morning whether she needs a shower or not. She has it pinned to her night stand and flips the card over depending on what she needs to do.