Do you ever remember doing chores as a kid? Or do you ever remember feeling like taking a shower was a punishment from Satan himself? How dare your parents require you to bathe. You swam today, dangit. Didn’t your parents know that chlorine kills all the germs and that evenings were for playing, TGIF, and not putting the dishes away? Then, it happened. You grew up. You got a job, a home, and kids of your own and all of a sudden, you realized why your parents not only needed a little help (sorry, Mom), but that they were really trying to instill in you the importance of taking care of your home, each other, and learning important skills you would one day need when you didn’t have Mom or Dad there to hound you to do it all.
But what if the evenings don’t have to come with nagging? What if the activities leading up to bed put more ownership and responsibility on your kids and less stress on you after a busy day? Well, it isn’t a perfect world, so I can’t guarantee your evenings will be stress free with a magical system, but I can tell you that coming up with a system has helped all of us in this house tremendously. We aren’t perfect, and I still struggle inwardly when I look down the hallway and see my child playing with slime instead of brushing her hair, but I can tell you that I don’t yell at her for it anymore. Instead, I let her fail. She doesn’t beat her timer and then she’s a little down on herself. That’s when we have a calm discussion – after the timer has gone off. I go over her chart with her and I ask her to reflect on her behaviors. It goes something like this:
Me: “Adia, I noticed you couldn’t circle your clock tonight. What happened?”
Adia: “I don’t know.”
Me: “Let’s look at the behaviors you said you were going to try to commit to. Were you silent?”
Adia: “Yes, but I played and it got me distracted, so I couldn’t beat my timer.”
Me: “How does that make you feel?”
Adia: “Sad. I really wanted to beat my timer.”
Me: “What will you do next time so you can be happy when the timer goes off?”
Adia: “I’ll work harder during my chores so I can play later.”
I want my kids to see that their behaviors directly impact their success. It’s a reflective habit that I want to help instill in them now, even with something as small as being efficient with a nightly routine.
The following were key for us:
- Know what your children are capable of. They are capable of way more than what you’d think. There are some things I KNOW they are capable of doing at these ages because I’ve modeled it for them, watched them do it correctly, and have given them praise for doing so. For the things they have tried and haven’t done quite successfully yet, I still praise them for their effort and tell them we’ll keep working on some of those things together. For example, Isla can’t vacuum on her own quite yet. It’s still a little heavy for her and she struggles to work it correctly, so for now, we model it for her and let her have some tries each time we get it out. For a list of some ideas to model with your kids, check out this link.
- Create a system that supports a no nagging policy. When I made the chart below, I made it WITH Adia. Prior to doing this, I set timers for my kids and they had a list of responsibilities to complete and check off, but they often times were not completing all of their responsibilities or we were constantly on them, which made it way more stressful for both us and them. We decided to set a goal statement like this: “I will go from beating my night time timer on some nights to beating my night time timer every night.” Then, we talked about behaviors that would help her meet her goal. She named the behaviors below and we both agreed. I told her when I gave her this chart that I would not give her any reminders (other than verbal time like, “10 minutes left”) and that I would not yell or raise my voice at all. I will be honest and say that this isn’t always easy, but it’s important. I don’t want my kids to associate learning and hard work with feelings of inadequacy.
*****Level 1 prizes are things such as stickers, glitter pens, glitter glue, fun pencils, etc. Level 2 prizes are things like Dum Dum Suckers, a piece of gum, mints, small candies, etc. Level 3 prizes are bath bombs, nail polish, my old makeup, lip glosses. Star prizes are bigger things, but not necessarily expensive things. They’re also things we often times do anyways, but it makes the kids feel pretty special to know they “earned” it… stuff like making muffins with Mom, or Chick Fil a with Dad, or a spa day with me where I paint their nails and let them take bubble baths. *****
3. Follow through. If you show them that you value this process by reflecting on how they did with them each week and giving them the rewards they earn, AND you keep up with your end of the deal (no nagging, no reminders, etc.), they will learn to prioritize and value the system too. Goals will be achieved when a successful system is in place. If you have a goal that you aren’t achieving, whether it is with your kids or a personal goal of your own, you have to reflect on the system you’ve put in place. If there isn’t a system, it likely won’t take off. Systems require specific behaviors to take place, so we have to be willing to reflect on our actions. For me, I view this responsibility chart as an opportunity to teach my kids about goal setting, learning from our mistakes, and trying to help them develop a growth mindset. I don’t ever want them to feel like they aren’t good enough, but I do want them to celebrate their growth and always strive to keep growing.
Recently, I shared some about this on Instagram, which allowed some great questions to come my way. I’ve decided to answer lots of those questions below.
Q: How old were they when they started their night time chores?
A: They have had night time chores for a couple of years and right now, they are 6 and 8, but we have only done it with this system for about the past 4-5 months.
Q: Does your son have any chores?
A: Our son is 3, and he does have some chores, but not like the girls. He puts his dishes in the sink, trash from his meals in the trash can, carries his laundry upstairs, picks up his toys, etc. but he isn’t quite mature enough to do certain things on his own.
Q: How long do you set their timers?
A: Since part of the girls’ night time responsibilities includes showering, we set their timers for about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the volume of what they need to complete.
Q: Where did you come up with this?
A: I’m an educator, so I’ve done a ton with students with behavior charts, goal setting, and relationship building. A lot of this comes from my teacher brain, trial and error, and some training on the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution, which is a great book all about how to achieve the goals you set.
Q: What if they beat the timer and the chores are not done well?
A: Prior to ever giving them this list, we modeled the chores for them, we did them together, and then we had them demonstrate the chore or responsibility for us. I can’t expect them to do something to mastery if I’ve never taught them and allowed them to demonstrate their abilities to me (Hi there, Educator Mom). For this reason, I know how to respond. I know my daughter struggles to make her top bunk bed. It’s hard to do. Her level of ability (though not perfect at all) is ok. I know she puts forth effort and I know how hard it is for me to make her bed, so I don’t expect it to look pristine. However, I know she can clean off the kitchen table well. There have been a couple of times when we’ve noticed that she didn’t clean it well or there were several crumbs left behind (even though we saw her wiping it off). When she didn’t perform the task well, if the timer has not gone off and she tells us, “I beat my timer,” if we check and see that something is not done well or not completed, we will ask her to try again. If she tries again successfully before the timer goes off, she can circle her timer on her chart. If she doesn’t, or if we don’t notice until we check after the timer has gone off, we’ll ask her to clean it again and tell her she can’t circle her timer that night.
Q: What are their night time routines/chores?
A: Initially, we just made them a pictorial chart that we tucked inside of a page protector. They would circle their chores as they did them with an Expo marker. Eventually, it became so routine that they had them all memorized. Our issue was just time and efficiency. Here are their chores/routine:
- Pick up all toys
- Clean up their dishes after dinner
- Clean the kitchen island and table
- Help fold and put away all of their own laundry (including some of their bathroom towels)
- Brush and floss teeth
- Brush hair
- Shower (every other night, but pretty much every night in the summer)
- Put lotion on and get dressed
- Clean the bathroom sink
- Put dirty clothes in the hamper
- Occasionally added: cleaning out ears, clipping nails, sweeping the kitchen floor, putting away dishes from the dishwasher, etc.