As a parent, you want to be able to teach your children practical skills they can carry with them throughout their lives and that encourage them to be resourceful and independent problem-solvers. When it comes to academics, the best thing that you can do to set your child up for success at school both today and throughout their education, is to teach them how to think like a project manager.
Some tasks in life are just too big to complete in one sitting. There is a reason construction project managers build in stages and have segmented deadlines throughout a project. Often, focusing too heavily on a final result – and all the work needed to get there – can be overwhelming and actually impede both productivity and quality of work. Just as you might cut your child’s food up into smaller bites that are easier and safer to eat, help them break bigger projects down into easier-to-digest chunks. Invite them to approach these projects strategically by looking at the rubric, determining which parts of the project are most important, deciding how much time is appropriate to dedicate to each component, and formulating a realistic schedule for completing all the individual components. When possible, save the more challenging parts for the end. Starting with simpler tasks “breaks the inertia” and makes it easier to get started.
Teaching and developing these skills will be especially important when raising or working with children with developmental disabilities, who often find big projects even more overwhelming and need more help with tasks that require good executive function skills. Children with developmental disabilities frequently lack effective executive function skills, thus it their parents’ and teachers’ responsibilities to teach them. It is a good idea for parents or teachers to sit down with these children and break projects and assignments down into chunks, assigning due dates for each one. This system helps encourage more linear, organized thinking and makes daunting projects feel more doable. Setting due dates for each individual component of a project can also give kids a sense of accomplishment with each part’s completion. This helps keep them motivated all the way through to the final due date!
As kids age and their school projects become more demanding and complex, it is essential to strengthen their executive function skills in this way. Eventually, transitioning from high school to post-secondary school will be much easier if they have had help honing their time management skills and becoming self-starters. The idea is that the child will be better able to plan out their work for the week all by themselves by university-age. When these skills begin are nearly solidified in middle and high school particularly, parents will feel they have to “police” homework completion less, putting less strain on the parent-child relationship overall.
To make things easier, we’ve created a weekly homework planner and an assignment chunking sheet that you can print out and try! Just email us or comment and we’d be happy to send it to you. For a digital option, we recommend an app like ABCnotes (available at ABCnotes.com), where you can create desktop sticky notes – make each sticky note a new assignment component, and have your child work their way through the sticky notes in order of difficulty. It might take some figuring out to determine what will work best for you and your child, but the skills they gain will make it all worthwhile.
While these skills are useful for any child, they are particularly necessary for those with developmental disabilities. When parents do not feel they have to micromanage their child’s assignment completion because they have already laid out a plan with them, this decreases any potential tension between them and makes room for more quality time spent together.