As crazy as it can be sometimes, I do love the daily structure of the school year. Get up, get ready, go to school…come home, do homework, off to ____ lesson, dinner, shower, bed. It’s predictable and organized…and exhausting! It’s a lot to pack into one day. However, I have found that having to hound my kids about every little thing they need to do just adds to the exhaustion and stress level, and that’s no fun for anyone. We found a solution when my oldest was in kindergarten that works really well for us.
Are you ready? I should trademark this, really. It’s so ingenious. Ready? (I can’t wait to tell you! It’s so brilliant!) Here it is:
I know! Isn’t that fantastic?!?
Here’s how it works: Each child has a paper posted on the refrigerator. Each paper has a table/chart with boxes for each checklist item and each day of the week. I have sections labeled “before school,” “after school,” “evening” and “before bed.” They are responsible for writing a check mark in each box after they complete the associated task.
B.C. (Before Checklist): Have you brushed your teeth? Where is your folder? Do you have your lunch? Did you bring your laundry basket down? Do you have your shoes?
A.C. (After Checklist): Have you checked your list?
B.C.: Have you done your homework? Will you please take your toys upstairs? I need you to bring me your lunchbag. Where is your folder? Go practice piano, please. You need to read for 20 minutes and fill out your reading log.
A.C.: Go check your list.
B.C.: Hang up your towel, please. Did you put your dirty clothes in the hamper? Have you brushed your teeth? Do you have clothes out for tomorrow? Have you emptied your dance bag?
A.C.: You need to check your list.
I love it. My kids are responsible for getting everything done that they need to do, and I don’t have to hound them about every little task. They love having control of their responsibilities, and we all love not hearing my increasingly loud and exasperated voice so often.
I tend to get very Love-and-Logic on them, too – which, again, has saved me so much anxiety. For example (I love this story), Tuesday at our house is Laundry Day. The kids are responsible for bringing down their dirty clothes before they leave for school so I can wash them. It’s on their lists. So one Tuesday morning, Meghan was ready to leave for school, and I noticed that her basket was not downstairs.
“Have you checked your list?”
“Yep, and I’m done.”
“You’ve done everything on your list?”
“Mmm-hmm. I’m ready to go!”
“It’s Tuesday. You’ve done everything?”
“I sure have!”
“OK. Have a great day!”
And for the next week, Meghan did not have clean clothes (or at least the ones that were in her basket). Now that may sound really harsh, but the next Tuesday morning, do you think she forgot to bring down her basket? Oh, no ma’am! I don’t think she’s ever forgotten since then. She makes sure that basket is downstairs every single Tuesday morning.
For most everything else, if they don’t do it, I put an X in the box where the check mark should be. On allowance day, they are docked for every X on their charts. That works well for them and is pretty motivating, though a friend of mine said that when her son doesn’t want to do something, he tells her, “Just dock me, Mom.” She and her husband are currently brainstorming on other consequence alternatives. : )
So there is my secret to a happier mommy and happier kids. I also think it helps a whole lot with this. My kids are learning to take responsibility for themselves, and they are learning that actions (or non-actions) have definitive consequences. In setting high expectations for them, we are allowing them to build their own self-worth and confidence because they know they are capable and responsible kids.
If you are interested in creating your own checklist, please email me (jenniferhunt73 (at) verizon (dot) net), and I will be happy to email you an attachment of our lists. Spread the joy!