Written by Darcy Crociata – Brilliant Balance guest writer, CEO of Crociata Consulting, and master mom delegator.
I admit it. I love Sharpies, fun charts and a good checklist. And I have used these items in raising my kids (ages 12, 12 and 11) to appreciate a fresh start each morning and make order out of chaos.
This has not been an overnight project, but rather many years of utilizing a process called TALK, TRAIN, TRIAL, TREAT – teaching them HOW to do things, talking to them about WHY it’s important, giving them the space to LEARN these new skills on their own, and occasionally throwing in some incentives along the way.
When my kids were younger, I used a daily checklist that was so successful, it’s actually stuck with us throughout the years.
The morning checklist is called the “High Five.”
You may have seen similar ideas like this on Pinterest, and it really works. Before the kids were allowed to come downstairs for breakfast they had to do the five things on the checklist. These five things were posted at the top of the stairs and the stairway was roped off as a reminder.
Pick your own items, but mine were the following:
- Make your bed.
- Brush teeth and wipe sink.
- Flush, please!
- Turn off all lights.
- Get dressed and hang PJs on hook.
- BONUS: Find and hug your Mommy (of course)
Once my children mastered this level of responsibility, I was confident in introducing more “family responsibilities” in a chore-type chart.
I have to admit – letting go and delegating new tasks was painful. SO painful. But during the first few weeks of this, I hung in there and struggled through it, no matter how long it took to complete (or how WRONG the dishwasher was loaded!)
Some days I would offer extra incentives for a job done extra well or if they could beat a certain time-to-complete. I would always give praise, hugs and thank yous, but some weeks I would incentivize with extras. For example, a trip for ice cream if everyone did their chores without complaining, or $2 if someone did their chores before I had to ask.
You might be wondering about allowance. These chores were never part of an allowance, because, well, I feed them…and a lot of times it’s even organic.
So after many years of charts, checklists, praise, rewards (and a little bit of incessant nagging), the process of TALK, TRAIN, TRIAL, TREAT remains inherent in the depths of my children’s minds. They still have the same basic tasks, but they are far less regimented. If we start to slack too much, I will bring the chart back out and we’ll hit it hard for a week as a reminder.
But mostly, here’s where I currently sit and my words of advice:
Help each other (and find quality time in it). My son (Kid #3) gets on the bus later than my twin daughters. Although it’s only a few extra minutes, I love the time with him. He wakes up quickly, gets dressed, brushes his teeth and coiffs up his adorable 11-year-old hair. Then, we usually meet up in his room. “Let’s do a quick clean up…I’ll help you make your bed.” He picks up any items that landed on the floor and throws them in the hamper. We make his bed and he sweetly places his favorite stuffed animals (his “gang”) on his pillow and covers them with his blanket. Even when the morning is rushed or I’m not around to remind him, I always walk in to find his gang of stuffed animals well cared for and neatly tucked in for the day. If we happen to have extra time, he’ll often ask me if I’d like him to help me make my bed. Those few productive minutes of the day before we head down for breakfast is one of the highlights of my day.
Know your people (and be strategic). The aforementioned situation would NEVER (I repeat, never) happen with my 12 year old tween (Kid #2.) She springs up seven minutes before the bus to grab a breakfast bar and backpack before grunting, “Bye Mom…love you!” I’ve learned the hard way that “High Five” is not realistic for her. To add anything additional to her plate in the morning would cause a meltdown that would sour everyone’s day. So guess what? I SHUT HER DOOR when she leaves. She knows that when she comes home from school, she needs to pick up her room and make her bed. She’s allowed to have a snack first, but no screen time or playtime with neighbors until her room is in order.
Give them a break (but tell them you did). Occasionally, if it’s a particularly stressful or busy week, I’ll make Kid #2’s bed and tidy up her room for her. But I’ll make sure she knows that extra effort was made on my part. “I knew you were probably really tired after a long week of practices so I made your bed for you.” Or, “You worked so hard on acing that test! I thought you could use a little downtime this afternoon, so I put your clean laundry away so you can go play.” Her smile and hug are thank you enough, but a reciprocated gesture is priceless. Kindness always counts.
Find their strengths (and utilize them). My other 12-year-old daughter (Kid #1) is a master folder and could win a laundry folding contest hands-down. She’s efficient, precise and finds it relaxing to fold while she’s watching DWTS episodes on DVR. She is MUCH better utilized at this job than she is at cleaning up after the dog, dealing with the trash, or doing the dishes (“Eeewww…disgusting,”) so she has bartered with her siblings to trade clean-and-fresh jobs with the dirty-stinky ones.
Set the timer (the 10 minute pick-up!). It’s amazing what you can accomplish in just 10 minutes. During the week, my husband will text us to let us know he’s on the way home from work, and this is the perfect opportunity for the kids to do a quick 10-minute pick-up. It’s all hands on deck and everyone is responsible for physically touching the number of items that I ask them to tackle. Some days it’s five items, and other days it feels more like 50, depending on the condition of the house. Trash, shoes, dog toys, dishes, backpacks, etc. all go where they belong. It’s really quick, effective, and brings out a competitive spirit among the kids. It’s also an easy strategy for my husband to implement when I’m gone. Just set the timer and…go!
Keep it fresh (and make it fun)! As moms, we know that doing the same job over and over can get old. So even if Kid #1 is REALLY good at folding laundry, she should also know the importance of the other jobs. To accomplish that, we sometimes put the jobs into a hat to fairly share the load. It’s also fun to crank up some music, throw in some “free passes” or put Mom and Dad in the mix.
Let it go (at least some of it). Perfectionism isn’t perfect. It’s unreasonable. While we all dream of a spotless house and the peace it brings, it’s just not reality when you have little people on the premises. Take a look at what’s most important for you to maintain a reasonable level of order and make those tasks non-negotiable. Do dirty dishes drive you crazy? Are crumbs on the counter your nemesis? Does toothpaste in the sink send you over the edge? Pick what makes you nuts and prioritize those tasks for your kids to complete. Then strategically add other tasks into the mix as those become habits.
As a final note, remember that it’s never too late to explore and discover what works for your family. It’s important to hold everyone accountable for earning their keep in the family home.
You shouldn’t have to do it all…and your kids are in a great position to help you!
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