Yesterday I listed some different ways to set up chores. The most important thing is to figure out what works for you, keeping in mind that we’re all growing and changing so the program may need tweaked every so often.
In my house, I have to take into consideration how I set up each child’s chores. My son is very ordered, always has been. If his chores say to brush teeth and then make bed, that’s the order he’ll do them in. If he can’t get into the bathroom to brush his teeth right away it is difficult for him to go make his bed while waiting. For him I put extra thought into creating his list in a logical order. He’s getting a bit more flexible but still prefers an order to it. My girl on the other hand doesn’t get bothered by order. She can assess the list and decide what she has time for and when. She doesn’t necessarily put things in the order I’d like, but that’s where a mom has to let go sometimes and be happy the list gets accomplished. If it is important she does a specific task first, I’ll denote that for her.
One of the first things we did was the cute little pre-made chore chart pads that you can buy. It came with matching stickers, all in a jungle animal theme. I wrote the chores/responsibilities on there and away we went. It was all very exciting. They were preschoolers then, I think.
Unfortunately after a while it quit working. Hey, wait a minute! I thought you liked putting stickers on the chart! I felt like a failure. Had I failed to follow through? Didn’t I praise them enough? Was I expecting to much? Where had I gone wrong????
The thing is, I didn’t go wrong. I hadn’t really failed. Anyone with a preschooler knows that interests come and go. Attention spans are not particularly long. How had I forgotten that? I don’t remember any of those snazzy articles on chores telling me this would happen. I’m here to tell you it does!
At that point I quietly took down the chart and just reminded the kids what needed done. Sometimes it was a fight, but they were OK with getting their jobs done most of the time. When it seemed like I was constantly pulling teeth to get chores done, or even get help doing jobs, I knew it was time for another motivational system.
And so it’s gone for many years now. We use a system for awhile, until interest is lost. Then we wing it until a boost of motivation is needed again. Always trying to make the system easy to prepare and user friendly. Some of the things we’ve done are described below. These are just some of what worked for us. I’m sure they could be made more elaborate and the cute factor is endless. My goal, however, was just to get the job done.
Often with some of these “pick a job” systems I had a set routine for the basics: brushing teeth, making bed, straightening bedroom, etc.
Buddy System: When kids are young and learning it is important to show them what to do. Remember that this is a teaching phase…it will get to a point where the job is all theirs, but not right away. Younger children love to be mommy’s helper or daddy’s helper. When daily routines were established we would have each child be the “helper” or “buddy” for part of the day. Maybe one child in the morning and one in afternoon or rotate days. The buddy was then expected to help when asked. My kids really looked forward to this and it helped me spend individual time training each one. There were still things we did all together. I realize that it’s hard to just have one helper sometimes.
Chore Sticks: Jobs are written on Popsicle sticks and put in a cup. I think I had 6-8 in mine. Enough so that there were equal jobs for each child and not too many as to be overwhelming. After the morning routines were done the children would alternate picking sticks until they were done. Then they would do their jobs listed on the sticks. This is especially good for kids that can do the same level of chores. I had about a dozen different sticks but would choose just those chores that they needed to do that day. Some would be in the jar everyday, and some only once or twice a week. My kids liked that their chores were a surprise…sometimes the same and sometimes completely different.
Laminated Chore Cards by Day: These were index cards that I created. One per day with their daily routine on it. There were maybe half a dozen items, including the getting ready for the day basics. After laminating them I put a ring in the top corner and gave them a dry erase marker to mark off what they had done. At this point the kids were in preschool and early elementary (maybe 1st grade). I would also put a note on the appropriate days that said to pack library books or whatever else needed a special reminder. They liked being in charge of it and crossing off the completed items.
Daily Post-Its: We also went through a phase where they did a good job on the daily basics but needed help knowing what else needed done. During this time I would write them each a little list every day with two or three things on it. Again, the crossing off was fun. Throwing the completed list away was fun too. I’ve also used the white board on the frig to jot down jobs for the kids to do when they got home from school.
Rotating Lists: This one I started just recently and it is working out well. I created two lists of chores for the summer. They explain what needs done and on what days. List A and B. Each Monday morning the kids switch lists. The benefit of this is that each child gets enough days with a list to feel confident completing the tasks, yet don’t get tired of them too quickly. And when they don’t like something on the list, it’s OK because next week it won’t be their list any more.
With most things kid-related, a reward helps the task get done. I’ll be discussing rewards next week. Stop back and see what’s going on…I’d love your tips on chores. My guess is I’ll be looking for a new system in the future!