A few of you have asked me how we organize our chores, or what we like to call our “to-do’s”, so today I thought I would share.
When our fourth child was born we had four children ages five and under in the house. I remember feeling just a wee bit overwhelmed. Around this time, my friend gifted me a life-saving book for organizing our home called Large Family Logistics: The Art and Science of Managing the Large Family. This book was filled with many useful and helpful ideas in how to organize and manage our home.
Let me first begin by explaining why we changed the name from chores to “to-do’s”. Merriam Webster defines a chore as “a dull, unpleasant, or difficult job or experience”. In creating our to-do list, I wanted a comprehensive list so I included items such as “act of kindness”, “playing outside” and “time with Jesus”. I don’t want my kids associating these things or any of their to-do’s as something rather “dull and unpleasant”. I want them to learn that in doing their to-do’s, they are giving a gift to those who live in or visit our home.
I have my children say “Yes Mom, I would love to” when they are given a task. I do this for two reasons. First, I want to know that my request was heard, but more importantly, I want to ingrain into them that in doing these jobs, they are saying “I love you” to someone. After this conversation with my oldest, “But Mom, why do I have have to say ‘I would love to?’ I don’t love cleaning the toilets and I don’t want to lie” I realized that maybe I didn’t explain myself well enough. So I asked him if he loved me. He said yes 😉 and I explained that he wasn’t saying that he loves to clean the toilets. When he said “I would love to” he was telling me that he loved me and because he loves me I know he’d love to help me. I shared with him again the story of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples and how we are to be like Him. I want our kids to learn that when we do our work, we are doing it for those we love and for Jesus.
I have to also remember that my children are led by my example. This scares me. If I am annoyed and complain each time I clean the toilet or vacuum the house, they are seeing me do chores instead of to-do’s. They are seeing me perform a “dull and unpleasant” task rather than giving a gift to those I love. The job has to get done. It’s up to me to choose what attitude I do it with. No, it’s not fun cleaning the toilets or washing a thousand dishes a day, but it is a lot more rewarding when I know I am doing it as a gift for those I love. Am I always cheerful when doing my to-do’s? Of course I am! (wink, wink). I am so thankful for children who know how to forgive and give grace.
I believe that in training my children in their simple, mundane, daily to-do’s, I am ultimately building a foundation of integrity and success in their future career. I believe that cleaning a toilet can develop discipline and form habits that will carry over into all aspects of their life. I want my children to learn to perform their to-do’s with four main qualities. I want them to do their jobs cheerfully. Attitude is everything. If they can learn to perform tasks cheerfully, life will be so much more fun and enjoyable. We often listen to stories or music while working or try to create a game out of the to-do. For example, who can find the most sock matches in 30 seconds. I also want them to perform their tasks efficiently. They often dawdle and can soooo easily get distracted. I have found that setting a timer helps with this. They love working against the clock. Setting a timer also helps them work together as a team. It is them against the clock. I also want them to perform their tasks thoroughly. Sometimes their efficiency can work against this so I have to remind them often to do their job well. Instilling in them the importance of a job well done forms the character traits of trust and dependability. I want to raise children that people can rely on, even when no one is watching or evaluating their work. I also want my children to be helpful. I want them to remember the golden rule and to always have their eyes open to seeing ways in which they can help others. If we remember the golden rule in everything we do, we focus less on ourselves and more on doing for others. Learning to work well with others is essential in living in this great big world.
We use the buddy system in our home. I have assigned Caleb (age 10) to be Andrew’s buddy (age 6) and Sophia (age 8) to be Olivia’s buddy (age 4). As a buddy, their role is to help and teach their younger sibling. Does this cause fighting? Oh yes it does. So often the older kids expect too much from their younger siblings and I have to remind them that it wasn’t long ago that I was helping them. And sometimes they have to be reminded that it is called the buddy system, not the bossy system. But overall, the buddy system’s benefits far out way the possibility of a little extra bickering, at least in my book. Each week, on the day we get to babysit their younger cousins, Andrew and Olivia will get the opportunity to be a big buddy to them.
I have the kids begin helping me with jobs around age 2-3, depending on the child and their readiness. They “help” me with dishes, making meals, folding laundry etc. At this age, work is play and fun. I assign them age-appropriate jobs and increase their responsibility as they get older. This makes life very busy and creates more work for me as mom, to be sure. It would be easier just to do the job myself. Teaching small kids how to perform a task takes focus, and a lot of time and effort. But I hear it pays off in the end so we will stick with it. I think I’m almost there. I am almost to that moment when the kids are all working while I can sit and orchestrate with my feet up eating bon bons. That moment when I realize that I have worked myself out of a job.
When teaching my children how to perform a task, I follow four steps I found in the Large Family Logistics book (p.48):
1. Show them how to do it.
2. Observe them performing the task and offer suggestions when needed.
3. Allow them to perform the task unsupervised and check it for thoroughness later.
4. Allow them to work independently, doing spot checks once in awhile. If the job is not being done correctly, then start again with #1 and repeat.
When the kids were little, Joey and I made a chore chart. We made one similar to one I found on Etsy and I would love to give them credit, but I couldn’t find it anymore. At the time, none of my children could read, so I wanted to find cards that showed the job that needed to be done. I love Eloise Wilkins illustrations so I found some on google and pasted the job title onto it. We printed them on card-stock and laminated them. They have held up surprisingly well over the years. And the system has worked well in decreasing the need for nagging and helped us establish a routine. All I have to say is that it is time to do their to-do’s and they know what to do. They love moving their cards over to the “done” section.
This year, I will be trying a new to-do list for my older two children. I made two lists of all of their daily and weekly to-do’s. Some of the jobs overlap and some jobs are only listed once between the two cards. For example, on one card I have mop the floors and on the other card I have vacuum the floors. The cards will be rotated each week between the kids. So one week, one child will mop and the other will vacuum, and the next week it will be flipped. I want to make sure each child is very comfortable with both mopping and vacuuming. I hope to one day win the “mother-in-law of the year award” with my kid’s spouses. 🙂 The cards are printed on card-stock and laminated so the kids are able to check them off as they are completed. I have children that love checking things off of their list (it’s genetic). I found little memo sized clipboards for the lists. Here are a few thoughts on how I organized the lists. I made a list of daily to-do’s. These are a list of jobs that must be done daily without getting a commission (or allowance). They are allowed the opportunity to help out in the house because they live in it. The weekly to-do’s get paid a commission of two dollars per week. I assigned a few weekly to-do’s each day to teach them how to pace themselves. We have decided to give our kids a commission so we could teach them how to handle money; saving, giving, and spending. We’ve gotten some great tips from Dave Ramsey.
Sophia and I decided to decorate her clipboard and add a little bling. So we modge podged a piece of scrapbook paper onto her board. Then we put a small piece of velcro onto the clip and added the other side of the velcro onto the embellishments. This way, she can change out her bling with the seasons. Caleb says he wants to paint his blue so we’ll be working on that shortly I’m sure.
Even though they have lists and their own jobs to do, we stress the importance of working together and helping each other to get the job done. I cannot stand hearing, “It’s not my job” or “it isn’t my turn”. We all work together until all the to-do’s are completed.
I know this is probably waayyy more information than anyone was asking for, but here it is. Now y’all know what my kids are doing every morning. This is what works for our family. I’d love to hear what works for yours?