Neatness Counts: How to Get Your Child Organized

By Dr. Rick Bavaria

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Want a little additional boost in your kids’ grades? Here’s a small suggestion that comes from many years in the classroom and working with kids of all ages: Neatness still counts.

Yes, neatness. Old-fashioned, maybe, but I’d argue that it can teach kids to take pride in their work, to take their time, and to improve their organization skills.

Let’s be clear: Neatness won’t make up for a lack of knowledge. It won’t cover up ill-thought-out answers on the social studies test. It can’t turn a “D” book report into a “B+,” no matter how neatly it’s written or typed. But it will help a good effort look better. Teachers will appreciate that a student took an assignment seriously enough to make sure it can be read easily.

Have a child who could learn neatness? (Who doesn’t?) Here are a few tips to help get your child organized:

Use their best handwriting.
Encourage your child to use their best handwriting on school assignments and in-class writing. It’s so much easier to read a neatly written paragraph than a hastily scribbled one. If the teacher can read it easily, they’ll be more apt to grade it favorably. Typed papers need to be neat, too.

Check for errors.
Show how to check for misspelling, bad grammar, and missed words. Teachers can spot a rush job a mile away, and they grade accordingly. Proofreading an assignment before turning it in shows your kid takes pride in the work, a value that will help later in life.

Read out loud.
Encourage your child to read the finished assignment aloud. Slowly. Better yet, you read it, aloud, word for word. Does it make sense? Can it be said better?

Slow down.
Haste makes waste. How much time do we waste cleaning up tasks and assignments that could have been done right the first time? Show that taking your time and avoiding multitasking will save time and effort in the long run. We all know by now what a big lie multitasking is during study time. You can’t give 100% of your time to more than one thing. Simple arithmetic.

“A place for everything and everything in its place.” Neatness helps your child organize. It allows them to find what they need when they need it. Help them to clean out their notebooks and de-clutter their home study area. Don’t forget their backpack ─ no telling what’s in there!

Set neatness goals together.
Some kids take to neatness and order, and others don’t. For the ones who need reminders, come up with some neatness goals together.

Monitor those goals.
Make sure your child understands that they are important for you, too, and that you want them to be successful.

Check homework periodically.
Every night if necessary. Make them do it over if it doesn’t pass your muster. If it seems messy and sloppy to you, it will to the teacher, too. Praise good work. They’ll learn quickly.

Be a good role model.
You don’t have to live in a museum, but you don’t have to live in shambles, either. If you’re always looking for something amid clutter and chaos, chances are they’ll learn that this must be normal.

Don’t give up.
Neatness may seem like a quaint habit in today’s hectic, anything-goes world, but there’s no denying its value in school, work, and daily life at home. Set your child up for success.