I remember looking forward to the day that I could create a chore chat that my kiddos would happily complete. I thought it would be a game changer for me. The kitchen would be quietly cleaned while I sat back and watched Wheel of Fortune (yes, I’m an old soul). Funny stuff, those dreams of young motherhood.
But, what actually happened as they became old enough to take on some household responsibilities was that the ‘I have arrived’ feeling I was expecting morphed into a ‘done is better than perfect’ mindset. Because a 2-year-old and 4-year-old learning how to wipe a bathroom sink without flooding the entire room required my teaching them, working alongside them, and sometimes, cleaning up the mess they made (while ‘cleaning’) when they weren’t watching.
At some point, I bought into the chore chart fury that is modern day #momlife.
I bought the Melissa & Doug set and slowly started to lose the magnets. It was the perfect storm of my not following through and the magnets being so darn fun to play with. I implemented the Dave Ramsey money system and could not, for the life of me, remember to actually give an allowance. I created a long list of possible chores that they could do to earn tickets and…geez, who knows what happened to that?
Recently, though, I finally landed on a system that works for us.
It’s less like a chore chart and more like a checklist. It’s simple enough for me to keep up with and straightforward enough that they can work on their own. And, it was born out of necessity, so that always helps with the follow-through. Do or die, baby.
My youngest hopped off to kindergarten this year and with that came some epic morning and evening meltdowns. It’s been SO.MUCH.FUN. Our mornings had become a fluster cluck of my barking orders and the kids scurrying to get their shoes on before the bus arrives. Mind you, the bus comes at 8:50am and my kids wake up at 7am. So, really, time is not of the essence, here.
What was happening was that the responsibility of getting ready for school was resting squarely on my exhausted, defeated, nagging shoulders.
They knew that I would remind them 100 times to brush their teeth, so there was no skin in the game of needing to do it on their own. It resulted in power struggles, emotional exhaustion on my end, and my wondering if I were actually the only mother in America whose children could not remember that we brush our teeth every day. Spoiler: I’m not.
In a fit of desperation, I created daily checklists that included the tasks that need to get done before they leave for school and before they head to bed.
For every morning and evening that they complete their list, they earn 15 minutes of tablet time over the weekend. For us, this works because tablet time is the currency of the little guy and following and checking off a list is basically the funnest thing ever for a second-grade girl.
So, what’s on ‘THE LIST?’ It’s a great mix of tasks, reminders, and chores. There is a literal breakdown of everything they need to do before leaving for school including getting dressed, making their bed, unloading the dishwasher, wiping the table, vacuuming under it, brushing teeth, and yes, more.
Each Friday, we tally up the amount of tablet time that they’ve earned. And, each Sunday, I print out a new checklist for each kiddo. The real beauty is that there is no more ‘reminding’ or yelling. Instead, each kiddo has their own list and they know that those activities are their responsibility. And, they’ll need to own the consequences of not doing them if that’s what they choose.
Didn’t pack your school snack? Oopsie. We’ll hook you up when you get home.
Forgot to put your lunchbox in the dishwasher? No worries. You can wash it by hand in the morning.
Chose to play and not pick up your toys? No problem, buddy. I’ll pick them up (and put them in a bag and stow them away).
Plan on piddling around all morning and not getting dressed? PJ Day at school!!!
I’ve definitely shifted my mindset to recognize that the actual achievement of tasks is not the end game.
The focus is on their learning that they are accountable for their actions…or inactions.
They are learning how to independently DO WORK. They sometimes work together and remind each other of what needs to be done. Is every morning a glorious moment of family time? No way. But they are learning that we’re all in this together, no one is going to create their own success, and as members of this family, we all pitch in to do the work that needs to get done.