Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Family Responsibilities

You'd think with me being such a list-maker that I would have gotten down a system for chore lists for the kids a lot sooner. Instead, it's taken me years. And that's with me working on it off and on the whole time.

Within the last six months, though, I think we've finally hit on a system that works for our family, so I thought I'd share.
It is, of course, a series of lists. :-/

For the kids' "Family Responsibilities" (read: chores/jobs), they each have a daily and a weekly list. The daily jobs are done daily (bet you figured that out on your own), and the weekly list has a different job for each day of the week maximum (the younger ones have some days without weekly jobs).

Thanks to the magic of Google Docs, you can see the kids' (relatively recent) lists here.
- MS
- JW
- MA

The chart has no more than seven slots for daily jobs (which includes school work and putting away school books) just by virtue of the way it's set up. I like that, because it forces me to move jobs on down the line if I want to give the oldest a new responsibility.

The last job on each child's chart is "white board list." This has solved one of the issues that has plagued me with job systems: what to do with the jobs that are not needed on a scheduled basis. Once or twice a week, they have laundry to put away (from their baskets that I sort clothes into), but it's dependent on when I've had time to bring in and fold laundry. Trash builds up irregularly, and I don't want a half-empty bag being taken out, so we (read: MS) don't take it out unless it's full. I'm available to do laundry on different days, so it needs moving (from the washer to the dryer or to the back door to be hung out) sporadically. Etc.

Each child (and adult, for that matter) has a section of a white board with their initials for me to dole out these randomly-occurring jobs (see pic). Again, I am helped by seeing how many jobs I'm assigning to each child, so it's easier to balance (something I struggled with when I was just announcing that a job needed to be done; I more often gave it to my oldest than was really fair/necessary).

It took several iterations of the lists for us to settle on one that works (some wrinkles that needed to be ironed out), but we've had the same ones for a while now.

Then, one day it occurred to me that we were repeating the same things each morning and each evening getting the kids ready for the day and ready for bed: take off your pull-up and get dressed (we have bed-wetting issues), brush your teeth, clear the table, etc. And it dawned on me: we need more lists! :-P

So, now each child has a "Morning List" and a "Bedtime List." Do you know how much easier it is to say, "Bedtime list time!" than it is to say, "Okay, JW & MA put on pull-ups, MS put toothpaste on toothbrushes, everybody make sure your teeth are brushed, don't forget a stuffed animal and a water bottle..."?

And, yes, we sneak an extra chore or two onto those lists, but that's just because it's where they belong in the day, so that's where they go.

Two of my older children (MS & MA) thrive on lists. The other (JW), thrives on routine and stability. Our Family Responsibility lists and our Morning and Bedtime lists help everyone (including Mommy) make it through their day successfully.

ETA: In case you look at the lists and think I'm cruel for having MS clean my room for me, let me explain: our bedroom is twice the size of the other two bedrooms, and is only half bedroom, actually. The other half is school room/kids' computer area/my desk/puzzles/etc. That's the half that MS straightens. There, now I feel better.

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