Parenting is the epitome of organized chaos. Continually working toward structure, even if all that means is 3 square meals a day and two snacks. With only toddlers it is easy to get in the rhythm of spending the day in pajamas and cleaning 10 minutes before the hubby gets home. You lose yourself in the monotony and craziness of a sleepless, on call 24/7 life. As our kids enter school age though, we are introduced to a whole new world. Suddenly it’s not about booger noses, dirty diapers and finding lost baby socks; it’s a world of children who need to be places and get homework done which becomes the story of your life.
My sons are aged 7 (second grade), 5 (Kindergarten), 3 and 1 (at home with me). My two younger sons have such a different rhythm to their days than my older two did. They have to be up and ready to go, ready to get brothers to school by 8:15. There isn’t time to lounge around in pajamas taking the average day slow.
As a mom, I do love order, but this hasn’t always come easy to me. It’s important to me that each of my sons learns a good work ethic and natural habits they can take into their teen and adult years, without having to actually think about whether they should make their bed or not (a habit I’ve only consistently taken up over the last couple years).
BUT, in addition to wanting order, I also want to diminish the need to nag at my children to get things done. I want them to be capable of accomplishing all they need to without the frustrated voice of their mother in the background continually pushing them on to the next thing.
With this school year, I have started chore charts. Now, I know everyone has heard of those and ideally they would be great until it all falls to the wayside. BUT… hear out me out, this is my encouragement o get around to having one.
Here is how I made chore charts work for me. First, I thought of all the things my kids need to do in the morning and afternoon, along with all the things I’d like them to do. Then I put them in the exact order I want them accomplished, to create a consistent habit/ pattern for them to follow on a daily basis. Here is an example of my five year old:
- Make Bed; 2. Go Potty; 3. Get dressed; 4. Put Pajamas away; 5. Pick up bedroom; 6. Bring backpack and school shoes downstairs; 7. Eat breakfast; 8. Wipe off table; 9. Brush teeth; 10. Turn off all upstairs lights; 11. Put lunch in backpack; 12. Ask, “is there anything I can do to help you?” (which lets me add in any extra requests if time allows and teaches them to be helpful); 13. Do hair; 14. Get jackets/ snow gear together; 15. Turn off downstairs lights (save living room for last); 16. Shoes on; 17. Has all school items together; 18. Turn off last light; 19. In the van to school
- Bonuses: Each morning and afternoon they can earn a bonus if they haven’t whined, complained or switched into hyper mode.
I have poker chips they can earn toward a Friday night slumber party movie night. They need 60 points for a dessert; 80 points for a dessert and movie; 100 points for a dessert, movie and sleep over in mom and dad’s room. They earn ten points each morning and 10 points each afternoon if they complete their charts, plus 5 points per routine, based on their attitudes. Any extra they can save to go toward a monthly prize store I have with a couple toys and game they want.
This structure has worked amazingly. I can say honestly, every morning I leave to bring my older two boys to school, my house is perfectly cleaned. For so long I’d leave with all the lunch stuff left out; food on the table and crumbs on the floor; pajamas left wherever they were removed…In addition to being impatient and annoyed at the ‘chaos’.
They even help me keep moving. Recently we had a snow day and I had been up early and ended up resting on the couch after a bad night of sleep. When my 7 year old got up, he went right into the kitchen and unloaded the dishwasher (part of his morning chores) without me saying anything. Seeing him up and moving helped me to continue through productively and not lazily.
So this is my encouragement to you! Start small and start even with your young ones. Pick 3 to 5 things, in the order you’d like them to do each morning, so it becomes a habit for them. And it may take more work for you, as you help the littlest, but in the end they will be helping you keep order later! I get my one year old up and he gets himself dressed, I only assist when needed. I take his blankets out of his crib and he helps fold them. Then we go down and eat. He gets his hair done and brings his shoes and jacket when it’s time to go. Those are simple things but they will make all the difference.
I hope this helps! And if you have any ideas that work for you then I’d love to hear them!