A, age 10 months
Do you ever find yourself trying to bribe your kids to do their chores? Do you have to nag in order to get the chores done correctly? Do your kids enjoy doing chores? Do you have young children who need lots of assistance with chores? Do you tend to try to distract young children so they aren't "in the way" at chore time?
"Chores" is a label that can be given to any number of tasks. Anything from laundry, bathrooms, and washing dishes, to brushing teeth, dressing, and cleaning the car can be classified as a chore. As many of you know, I recently read a book called "Managers of Their Homes" and began a daily schedule that has proven very successful. I also started a new chore system thanks to the book "Managers of their Chores." It is AWESOME. In fact, it has solved so many issues around here, I think I love it more than the schedule by itself. It uses an author-invented idea called a "ChorePack," that has been tested and approved by large families around the nation. Basically, you divide chores up into different parts of the day, and assign them to a member of the family (for simplicity, I will focus on children here). You then assemble a set of chore cards, specifically tailored for that child and time of day. Then, at the given chore time, you give the assembled chore pack to the child to wear as they complete their chores. When they are finished, they return the pack to you for inspection.
This system truly works wonders. I cannot testify to older children, although I have heard good things. However, in my family of younger children, who have a desire to help, but are still too young to do much, this has been a wonderful addition to our routine. I used to wake in the morning and spend 20 minutes helping/reminding the kids to dress, tidy their room (they played every morning before coming to breakfast), and despite the reminders, I gave up on requiring bed-making. I was also finding things my 4 year old would forget to do EVERY morning. As we went through the day, I would nag a bit to ensure toys were periodically picked up and tried to keep things tidy around the house--not always an easy task. No more.
Now, before I go to bed at night, I put the children's morning ChorePacks in their room in a designated spot. When they awake the next morning, rather than play, they eagerly put on their pack and set to the assigned tasks. Their tasks include things like dressing, putting away PJ's, brushing teeth and hair, tidying room, making beds, etc. Some tasks are assigned to both children, while others are given to only one child or the other. When necessary, M will come to me for help in dressing and switching to the next task, but JR works completely independently. He feels like such a big boy, I don't have to nag him at all, and he doesn't forget anything. When he is finished, he brings me his ChorePack and I go inspect his work. Their room is not messy in the morning because their tasks keep them busy. Having started our day off on the right foot, we can then start our schedule for the day. After lunch, I pass out their lunchtime ChorePacks, and they spend about 10-20 minutes performing those tasks. In the mean time, I am able to tend to the babies, clean the kitchen up, and do other odds and ends. When finished, I inspect their work. As the day progresses, we have a very small ChorePack for before dinner, a small one for after dinner, and a bedtime one. The hardest part is just remembering to hand them out at the given time. Our schedule helps here.
S has commented on how everyone seems happier somehow these days, the house is much cleaner at any given time, I do not feel as overwhelmed or lost, the kids love being useful and having jobs, and things are getting accomplished. We spent the first few days with the idea of "training" the kids to use them, but they caught on very quickly. M was actually the most difficult on day 1, due to her strong-willed nature. But with a little encouragement using "natural consequences" from another book I love (How to Make Children Mind Without Losing Yours), by day 2, she became a full and willing participant. I highly recommend this system for anyone who is even remotely chore-challenged, or if you just want a better way to do things. By using a system, you/the kids are kept busy, but you are all doing things that you enjoy.
I have to finish with just one example of what we have encountered this week. As I mentioned, on Day 1, M chose to be less-than-cooperative at first. When it came time to make her bed, she adamantly refused. While I don't expect a 2 yr. old to create a masterpiece, I did expect her to do her best to at least pull the covers up over her pillow. Despite the instruction, she still refused. I calmly explained that there would be consequences. Our schedule said that at x:xx time, we had to do (whatever), and if her bed wasn't made, she would not be able to participate. She chose to sit on her bed while the rest of the family went on with our day. About an hour later, she finally allowed me to help her make her bed. Done. At 7:00 a.m. on Day 2, M came running into my room, already wearing her ChorePack. She wanted some help flipping to the next card. I helped her and told her the next assignment was to go make her bed. She exclaimed, "But I already did!" Not believing her, I went to her room, and sure enough! Let me tell you, the quickest way to set a Mom's day right from the beginning is to allow her to walk in to her children's bedroom, and the two of them be standing there dressed, with teeth brushed, hair combed, beds made, floor tidy, and everyone in a good mood! Oh, if only I could capture that type of moment on camera!
"Make it your amibition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."
--1 Thessalonians 4:11-12