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First Things First: Helping Kids Prioritize at Home and School

written by: Deb Killion • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 7/31/2014

In the previous article, we addressed time management, creating a reasonable to do list and other techniques to help kids prioritize their schoolwork. In this article, we delve into the topic of prioritizing more deeply and offer some ways kids can benefit from putting first things first.

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    What Makes Something Worthy of Putting it First?

    Helping Kids Prioritize at Home and School Before we decide to make a list of what is important, we must decide what is most important and why. Business leaders decide what is important based upon what is most likely to increase their revenue and they spend most of their productive time on these tasks. Since money and revenue creation is not the goal of your child’s study and schoolwork habits, we have to look for other reasons something should take precedence over other things.

    Here are some criteria/questions to ask yourself to help determine what should be considered the most important when organizing your child’s time for home and school:

    1. Will it affect my child’s grades?
    2. Does it help teach a valuable skill or habit?
    3. Does it increase social skills or confidence in school and life?
    4. Is it something that will be evaluated (tested)?
    5. Will it help with my child’s career or life goals?

    You could ask yourself many questions regarding various tasks to help determine whether they are important enough to take priority, but these are all important questions to ask. Let’s go over them one at a time to analyze them further.

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    Will It Affect My Child’s Grades?

    This is important because tasks that are directly related to the outcome of a grade should take priority over those things that do not influence grades. Grades are important, and although it has been argued that too much emphasis is put on grades, the fact remains that report cards will follow them through school and into college, so grades pave the way for options that you want your child to be open to in the future. Therefore, one very good “litmus test" of whether something should be focused on is, is it grade-related?

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    Does it Help Teach a Valuable Skill or Habit?

    Things that are not directly related to grades but teach important life skills should also take priority. For example, a student may not be graded on his or her ability to play basketball, but if this skill can improve their chances to get into a college or help them understand the value of teamwork, then perhaps it is worth spending time on.

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    Does it Increase Social Skills or Confidence in School and Life?

    Tasks that are directly related to getting along with others or interpersonal skills are important. These should take priority over menial tasks that are just “busy work."

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    Is it Something That Will Be Evaluated?

    Parents and teachers alike often frown upon evaluation and testing. The fact remains that tests are an important part of your child’s education. Anything that your child is going to be tested on in the future (including in both class assessments and state standardized tests) should also make the priority list.

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    Will It Help with My Child’s Career or Life Goals?

    Special attention should be given to things that increase the likelihood of a child’s success or can provide valuable opportunities for further growth. Even if a teacher does not assign such tasks, it is a good idea for parents to help them spend some time on such tasks that promote this sort of activity. Examples of this might be attending a lecture on a career your child is interested in, visiting a local store to learn about retail sales, or even shadowing a job in a career your child wants to study.

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    One Disclaimer

    We understand that schools have their own priorities too, as do the teachers who teach for them. Often you may run into some conflict when your priorities are based on the above list and the school’s are not. However, we are just providing this as a list of important areas which we feel are important to your child’s personal and school success and you should just follow this as closely as you are able to do. Of course, priority has to be put on the requirements of a school in order to keep in step with your child’s responsibilities. Apply these as closely as you can to move toward helping your child with their life and career goals, as well as their immediate school responsibilities.

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    About Home Schedules

    It is up to you how your child’s home schedule is handled. You may have specific chores or home responsibilities that you want kids to do. Write these into his or her schedule and let them know you expect them to get these things done but priority should be first with their schoolwork.

    Some business executives make a daily “to do" list that varies, based upon what is going on the night before or is expected to happen later in the week. This is a better idea that planning the same task every day, since we all know how life happens. Plans can sometimes change.

    The key is to be structured, but open to change and flexibility, so that, when the unexpected does happen, you can adjust without too much of a problem.

    Best of luck and remember, put first things first and the rest will fall into place.

    If they do not, at least you have the most important tasks done!

Getting Ready for School

This three-part series discusses getting ready for the new school year as well as starting off with the right habits and priorities.
  1. Getting Your Child Ready for School Again
  2. Developing Good Study Habits
  3. First Things First: Helping Kids Prioritize at Home and School





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