Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Chore Lists: Best Parenting Win Ever

I really, really hate that hour or so right before bedtime. It’s not just that bedtime doesn’t come fast enough (although it doesn’t). It’s that the kids are invariably bouncing off the walls. They can be little angels all night long, or little terrors from the moment they walk through the door. It doesn’t matter. Every single day, that hour before bedtime is a cacophony of noise and hyperactivity and me fussing at the kids until I’m blue in the face trying to get them to listen. 

These poop. A lot.
Chores? Yeah. Right. But, somehow, it has to be done. The house needs cleaned. The dishes need to be washed. Cats need to be fed, litter boxes need to be scooped. There’s no getting out of it. So how do you find time to fit it into your day?


No, really. It takes a combination of discipline and rewards to get the kids to do things they don’t want to do, and to get them to do it every single day. They don’t want to. They’d much rather watch tv or play video games than do the dishes and clean the litter box every day after school. They’d much much much rather go to their friends’ houses than scrub down the bathtub or run a vacuum in the kitchen on cleaning day.

So what happens? I ask the kids nicely. The kids ignore me, procrastinate, get distracted. I have to ask a hundred times before something gets done. Eventually, I snap and send them to brush their teeth. The rest will just have to wait until tomorrow, because I’m going to have an aneurysm if it doesn’t.

All I want is a little bit of efficiency, darn it. More importantly, I want to be able to do what I, myself, need to do before bed without having to hover over my kids like some black mother angel of death to make sure they’re doing their jobs.

Flying Free

The solution, for me, was to take a page out of my boss’s book. Every morning, I get to work and get handed an assignment list. My morning isn’t over until that assignment list is done.

So, we created the Chore List. Every night, I sit down out write out a list of chores for each kid. Some of those chores stay the same from day to day. They clean their rooms every night, put away their laundry, take their medicine and brush their teeth.

Other chores rotate around, so unless I need someone for a special project or somebody’s sick no one has to rinse dishes or empty out the litter box two days in a row. If there’s something specific I need them to do, like vacuum the front hallway, I add it to the list.

Before bed, the kids get the lists and a time I expect them to be done. Now they know what they have to do and how much time they have to do it, and they’re responsible for everything else after that. No more telling them what to do, or nagging them to get it done. They’re responsible for themselves, and I can hand them their list and move on to doing the laundry.

Oh! Right. The rewards. Each kid gets a weekly allowance for helping out, which was as much a sanity saver for me as it was to give them some money-“Mom, can you buy this for me?”  is almost never said. It seemed like if I was going to shake up the system, however, I should find something else to add to the bag. Before we started, I sat down and put 63 erasers into a bag. When the kids finish their chore lists, they get to take an eraser out of the bag and put it into a little jar we have sitting on top of the bookshelf in the living room.

Once all of the erasers are in the jar (which is the rough equivalent of three weeks of doing their chores every day), they get to celebrate with a movie night, complete with Chinese for supper. Then we start all over again.

It works because Chinese is a favorite for all three of them, but getting Chinese for the five of us is ridiculously expensive. So it’s something we save for birthdays and special occasions. Doing it once a month as a “thank you” to the kids for stepping up to the plate is worth it, and evenings are much less of a headache these days.

And, every once in a while-not often, but once in a while-the house actually stays clean for a few days in a row. What do you know?

The only real pain in the rear is having to sit down and write (or type and print) the list out every night. I haven’t found a good solution to that, but I’m working on it. I’m thinking some kind of magnetic board…

Anyway. Chore lists. Best sanity saver ever when it comes to kids and housework. How do you keep things sane and efficient at your house?

No comments: