Wednesday, July 29, 2009

WFMW: Chores and Routines

A couple thoughts of note before the nitty gritty.

One, I just noticed I haven't posted to my blog since the last Works for Me Wednesday...and even then, my last entry was links of some ideas I wanted to try. Which really means I haven't actually sat down to blog in over a week. Bad me.

Two, not having blogged in over a week means that I have a lot of extra words stored up and ready to dump bless others with. Nevertheless, I shall try to be direct and to the point. You can stop laughing now.

Works for Me Wednesday

Chores and Daily Routines

Why is "chores" such a dreaded word? I've pretty much banned it from my vocabulary. Call it what you will, but no one likes doing those regular, day to day, housekeeping type tasks. And yet, the garbage needs taken out, the table needs wiped off, the garden needs watered, the beds need made, etc, etc, etc.

Oh sure, you can make a blanket rule of getting chores done before school or getting afternoon chores done before free time. And I highly recommend both of those rules. I have these sorts of rules in place myself. But, to quote Mary Poppins, a teaspoon of sugar helps the medicine go down.

Here's my teaspoon of sugar when it comes to our daily chore lists. It adds an element of fun to getting our lists done.

Each child has a list of chores, morning and afternoon, posted on the refrigerator. Though the chores are different, each child has the same number of chores. I didn't do this out of a sense of "fairness", but because its an important part of the game. Beside each chore, is a space for each day of the week. Our list is saved in a computer file, so I just print a new list each week. (That makes it easy to change the list if I need to add, subtract, or substitute a task.) At the end of the week, the lists go to our scrap paper file, and the backs either get used for grocery lists or get drawn on by my 6-year-old. So, I don't feel like I'm wasting paper to print a new list every week.

Yes, yes, well and good, you are thinking, but tell about the game. I mentioned a game, and a little bit of fun in getting chores done. So far a printed list isn't sounding like much fun, is it?

Well, here's the fun part. As each child completes their list, they use a colored highlighter to mark each chore done each day. At the end of the week, we count up how many colored dots each child has. The child with the most dots gets to pick a fun family activity that we all do together. (As long as the activity is free, or close to free, and its one that everyone in the family can do.)

Here's why this works so well for us:
--Everyone loves to feel special. Being the one who gets to pick the family activity during the weekend is an extra special treat.
--Everyone participates in the family activity, so everyone benefits from the game. --Even if one child doesn't have as much points as the other child, everyone gets to watch the movie and have popcorn, or go to the park, or play Wii....or whatever the selected activity is. So its a win-win situation for everyone.
--If the children tie (or even come within one or two points of each other), they BOTH get to pick an activity, and we have TWO fun, child-selected, family activities that weekend. So, there's a great incentive to get all the chores done every day...and even an incentive to perhaps co-operate instead of compete. If they co-operate and help each other complete tasks, its double the fun on the weekend.

Here's what the game isn't:
--It isn't optional. The lists have to be completed anyway. You can't decide, "I don't care what we do" and just select not to do your chores. The morning list has to be completed before nine on a school morning. Anything not done by nine has to be finished up during our lunch break, before any kind of playtime happens. Likewise, the afternoon list has to be finished before free playtime as well. Getting the dots for the game just helps make it a little more fun.
--It isn't a mean competition. There isn't a "loser" and there isn't any teasing (or comments) about who has more points than who. My kids know that if I overhear a comment of that nature, Mommy will start taking points away from the offender.
--It isn't a bribe. There is no "if you do x, Mommy will give you an extra point". We all get our lists done because those things need done every day. We're a family, and we help each other out. We don't pitch in just to see what we can get out of it.

Here's other ways in which we use the points:
--When I was in college, doing student practicum, I heard of a system called "caught being good." A teacher could reward "tickets" to a child when she caught him or her going out of their way to do something especially nice or helpful. In this case, the child put their name on the ticket, put the ticket in a jar on the teacher's desk, and then the teacher drew out a few tickets every week for an extra treat. Our points work as a "caught being good." Sometimes, when I notice someone being especially helpful without being asked, I say, "good job, go give yourself an extra point." HOWEVER, this does not work if the child ASKS for the point. If the child asks for a point, the answer is no. We help each other to be helpful, not to get something in return. Mommy rewarding an extra point is just an extra occasional treat, not a payment. (Sweetling is reading over my shoulder and comments, "A good deed is its own reward.")
--Points can be lost for irresponsibility. I don't use this often, because I don't want our point system to be a reward and punishment system. But I have found it helpful when there is an ongoing pattern of "forgetful" behavior that is bugging the snot out of me (like forgetting to flush the toilet, leaving the tv on after you've left the room to do something else, etc.) After calling the child back into the room, again and again, to take care of the same forgotten thing day after day, I finally say, "The next time you forget to do Z, you must go cross off one of your dots." That's usually the end of the forgetting. I don't ever, ever, use this as a punishment for a mess or spill or other accident. Messes and spills just get cleaned up. That's just part of life. I make messes and spills too, and then I just clean up after myself.

Other tips about THE GAME.
--The lists aren't in effect over the weekend. This is a Monday through Friday deal only. But Saturday is a day of rest. On Sunday, I print a new list, and Sunday has its own set of chores that need done. Plus, if Daddy is home from work on a vacation day, that's a vacation day. No list needs done. (of course, an ambitious child is always welcome to do the chores anyway, and award themselves the dots.)
--Each child has one "pass" a week that can be used on the afternoon lists only on any day they choose. I put that in because there are days that I don't feel like doing anything either. We're all human.
--Monday is our pj day. Getting dressed in the morning is on the kids' morning lists, but they can skip this on Monday morning. Why? Because :)
--We decorate our fridge with a "theme" and change our theme every other month or so. (The kids tell me when its time to change the theme.) We've had a space theme, a 911 theme, a Mario theme, etc. The kids pick the theme and make the decorations for the fridge (a couple of pieces of art). Then I change the font and title of our lists to match the theme. Currently, we have a Mario Party theme, so Sweetling morning list says "SuperSweetlings Mini-Game Tent", her afternoon list is "Bonus Mini-Games" and her Sunday list is "Sunday Star Battle". Having a theme that the kids choose, make, and control gives them more ownership over the list and helps hold their interest. (We also have a paper calendar on our fridge, and the kids also make event decorations to mark special days on the calendar. This is done by tracing a milk jug lid, drawing an icon in the circle, coloring it, cutting it out, and taping it to the appropriate day.)

I asked Sweetling if there was anything else I wanted to say about this. She adds that this system is "expert-approved." So there you have it.

We have been using this system for over a year now, and it really, really works for us. I've tweaked it along so that it fits our family and our needs. I hope you find something useful in it for your family.

(In case you're wondering, here are the lists I expect my children to get done each day.)

Sweetling (age 11)

Morning:
Make bed
Feed fish
Vitamins and devotions
Brush teeth
Brush hair and get dressed
Clean off bedroom desk
Renew library books (thursday only)
Done by 9am (extra dot)

After lunch:
Brush teeth with blue rinse (before recess timer goes off)--3 points each day

Afternoon:
Clean floor of bedroom
Pick up living room and any "projects"
Clean off schoolroom desk
Take out compost and wash hands
Take lids and tubes to school supply bucket and put on hand lotion
Refill and refreeze waterbottles, unpack if needed
Check tomorrow's schedule and pack anything needed for any outings
Water garden (not on Thursday)
Handwriting
Put away laundry (Tuesday only)

Sunday:
Pick up schoolroom
Change bedroom trash
Sort laundry
Pick up bedroom

Toa of Boy (age 6)

Morning:
Make bed
Clean off white table in living room
Vitamins and Calendar
Brush teeth
Get dressed
Devotions with Mommy
Clean off bedroom desk
Water Garden
Done by 9 am (extra dot)

After lunch:
Brush teeth with blue rinse (before recess timer goes off)--3 points each day

Afternoon:
Pick up Bedroom
Pick up living room and any "projects"
Clean off schoolroom desk
Take recyclables to bin
Refill and refreeze waterbottles, unpack if needed
Check tomorrow's schedule and pack anything needed for any outings
Handwriting
Water garden (Thursdays only)
Put away laundry (Tuesday only)

Sunday:
Pick up schoolroom
Change bedroom trash
Sort laundry
Pick up bedroom

Check out more great ideas at We Are THAT Family.

2 comments:

Terri said...

I think that is a great idea! I've tried doing this with allowance but then it turns into, "Do I get an extra quarter if I do this or that..." That doesn't work. I may need to think along the lines of what you're doing!

Thanks for the comment on my blog. I do love that laundry detergent!

Becky said...

What a wonderful idea! I'll have to remember it so I can share it with others.