How To Get Your Kids to Do Their Chores – Part 2

CHORE-TIME

Well, one thing is for sure, you have to keep track or you will have no idea what’s going on. Those little sneaky sneaks will tell you they definitely made their bed every day this week and you won’t have any idea if they are telling you the truth or pulling one over on you. You got to keep track.

However, I find that all systems begin to tire over time and stop working. They stop working either because you get tired of filling out the charts, or the incentives aren’t incenting anymore. One way or the other, it becomes old and boring, so you have to keep things fresh.

Here are some things if have tried over the years and liked. I will return to these periodically as we tire of the old system. Or if I start to slack off and then realize things are getting out of control, I will switch systems overnight to give us a fresh start.
Before I show you my sad little systems I have a few things to say.
1. You will not find any elaborate, crafty, Pintresty systems here. Anything I do has to be easy and duplicatable 5 times over. Five elaborate systems would take over the house so I don’t do them. If you are looking for something creative and really fun, try Pinterest, you will find a gazillion.
2. Please, if you take one thing away from this post let it be that no strategy is a permanent fix, we all fail at keeping up with these. So don’t get down on yourself, or your kids, when your strategy quits working. Just mix it up again and keep going. And if you need a pick-me-up or booster shot, email me and I will tell you that you have not failed, the system has. Get up tomorrow and start anew.
OK, now here are some of my chore tracking devices I have used, or am using now:
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1. Printable chore chart. This was my original plan, back when chores were new to my kids. I made these cute little sheets and printed a bunch out. I filled them out for each kid weekly. The pros, you make up new chores weekly. Cons, you have to fill a new one out every week. This works really well for those kids who like to mark things off. My older kids and my son are like this. Also, you can use crayon, markers or have lots of fun with it if your kids like stickers. Click here to download my printable chore chart.
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2. Dry erase chore chart. We had these from Board Dudes for a long time. They worked well for us. They come with magnetic stars that you put in the square when you have completed that chore for the day. The kids really liked these and they held up for a long time. The biggest problem with them was the smalls walking by and pulling all of the stars off so you had no idea what anyone had done that week.
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3. iPad chore chart. Our favorite is Chore Pad HD. I believe it costs $5.00. You can set up rewards inside of it, so when your kids do so many chores they reach awards. You can set up a different amount for each chore, so some are worth more stars than others. It allows you to go back and check their chores and deduct some points for sloppy work or give bonus points for a job well done. Also, it dings and applauds for you when you check off your chores. It’s quite the production. You will earn trophies when you have completed x number of chores and you can view your award chest anytime to see what you have racked up. Lots of fun and a good system. Chore Pad’s reign ended in our home when I found someone cheating the system by going back and checking off all their chores hey hadn’t completed in the past – giving themselves the highest prize unfairly. There’s always one.
4. No chart. Sometimes I abandon all tracking devices and pick a time of day when we do chores and I just divvy them up as I see fit at that time. I look around see what needs to be done and ask them to get to it. I use statements like this to make this work, “You are welcome to go play with your friends once your chores are done.” Lots of time this is instituted on a day when our house has been ransacked by a few or I’m in a bad mood and need some quick peace brought into our home. That’s just honest.
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5. Morning and evening five. These are little sheets I post on their doors with the 5 things they need to do before going to school and the five things they need to do before bed. This worked for a short time, when the kids were little, but I found I needed something more enticing than going to bed to motivate them to get the chores completed as they got older. You know what I mean? My kids would be more than happy to put bedtime off. But for the younger crowd it is a good visual to help them remember the few things they need to do to start and end their day well. Click HERE for printable Morning and Evening 5 charts.
As always, I would love to hear your ideas, please leave me a comment!

How To Get Your Kids to Do Their Chores – Part 1

CHORE-TIME

Bribes, threats, punishment, rewards, treats, money, toys…I have tried it all to get my kids to happily do their fair share of the household work. But the fact is, I don’t always do my chores with glee either. And, like my children, I have been known to procrastinate a less-than-exciting task hanging over my head.

So, we should understand when our kids don’t run toward the chore-at-hand with dancing feet and smiling faces.

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The goal is to teach them how to be a part of a family. We all pitch in to do the work that has to be done, so we can do the things we want to do. That’s why I do them. Because If I don’t have clean towels, I don’t enjoy my shower nearly as much.

I used to really dislike going to the grocery store. I had panic attacks in the snack isle and broke out with hives in the frozen food section. But it is a chore that has to be done. So I used to treat myself with a home magazine after I finished a big grocery run. After I had put all of the groceries away I would allow myself to sit down and peruse the pages getting inspiration for my next project.

Maybe my kids are the same way. And maybe they deserve a little treat at the end of their most disliked chore too. It doesn’t have to be food, just something to look forward to.

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After taking all of this into consideration I did away with the threats, and bribes and sympathetically approached this as a fact of life. These things have to get done and as a family we all pitch in.

First, I divided the house into similarly sized areas. Each child was assigned an area, or areas, they need to clean. One child has the front living room, another the family room, another the sitting room. Then I divided the basement, where all of our toys are, the same way. One has the kitchen area, another the dress up area, another the bins, etc. And each child is responsible for their own bedroom and bath.

Second, I divvied up the after dinner chores: everyone takes their dishes to the sink, one wipes the table, another sweeps and so on.

Now, here is how I ask them to get them done. While these techniques aren’t perfect, it enables me to stay calm while allowing them to take responsibility for their part.

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Chore Time. With the younger kids, ages 5 and under, I use a time technique. I tell them that 4:30 p.m. is chore time. And at 4:30 before I start dinner we clean up together. Since they require more supervision this gives me time before I am elbow deep in dinner prep. Often I will take the mail with me and sort through or read the latest catalog while I watch them cleaning. Otherwise, I help them out. Once they are done, and in order to keep my house from getting totally trashed again, I put a show on for them while I make dinner.

Chore Deadlines. With the older kids I give them a little more autonomy to choose when they do their chores. They have to have their areas clean before they can go out to play after dinner. This gives them all day to decide when to do them, but a firm deadline with incentive following the deadline.  For the ones that put off their chores until after dinner I like to use statements like, “feel free to go outside and play once your chores are done.” or “you are welcome to play with your friends as soon as your chores and completed.” So they have a deadline, but room to choose – now or later. There is incentive to complete them with the opportunity to play after dinner. And there is a consequence of not getting to play after dinner if they don’t get it done by that time.

Of course I always have to check, because they never get them done well, never. My husband and I share the checking responsibility and sometimes I will have them check each others work. If I don’t have time to check and they did a bad job, the next night they don’t go out at all.

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5 Minute Clean Up. There is one other technique I use now and then. I call it the 5 minute clean up. I use this when the toy room is really messy and no one wants to touch it. On these days I grab the kitchen timer, or the iPod and put some fun tunes on. Then we all clean as much as we can get done in 5 minutes. Then we stop – and leave it. We can make some decent progress in 5 minutes and the next day it isn’t as daunting. I just did this one the other day and we had the entire basement cleaned up in two evenings of 5 minute clean ups.

What do you do?

Chore List by Age

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Our second child was born only 16 months after our first. And I don’t have to tell you that I was stressed. But I will. With two babies I couldn’t get anything done and the dishes and laundry were piling up. I needed some help, somewhere.

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Around this time I was reading a parent magazine (probably in the doctor’s office because that was the only place I had the time or ability to read anything). Anyway, I ran across an article about kid’s chores. My stomach leapt with joy when I read that a 2-year-old could take their dishes to the sink after a meal by themselves. Seriously, I could expect #1 to help out that soon? This was good news. No, this was fantastic news. I had no idea I could expect them to do things this early. I read on. I asked friends. I found out all the things a 2-year-old might be able to help do and I started implementing them.

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I had visions of sitting on the sofa watching HGTV while my 2-year-old cleaned the house and made dinner. Well, it’s not quite like that but it is an important part of learning how to be a part of a family. Here you see #1 feeding #2 some of her water. A little for you – a little for me. Well, now I know she can give the baby a bottle in a pinch. I’ll take it.

So, here is a list of chores by age.

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TIP: I give “promotions” once in a while from one chore to another. The kids love it and it’s fun to see the pride on their faces when they realize they are being given a “higher” responsibility.

Click here for a free printable version of the chores list by age.

Table Talk

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It isn’t hard getting conversations started at our dinner table. In fact we usually have about five going on at the same time – with me alone. But sometimes we need some direction to help us share in one discussion. You know what I mean, the entire family all participating together, listening and only talking when it’s your turn. I was in need of some dialogue tools at my table so I went looking, online of course. I found lots of resources and compiled some of my favorites into little cards that I put in a glass jar and keep in the kitchen for nights when direction is needed. I have also created a printable for you in case you want them too.

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These are conversation starter questions. When you need to reign in the table talk at your house grab one of these and go around the table taking turns answering it.

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Click here to download your table talk free printable.

5 Tips for Traveling in the Car with Kids

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Summer is in full swing and most likely we all have at least one trip planned. When you are traveling with small children it doesn’t matter if you are going for a short weekend or a full week – there’s a lot of stuff to take. In no time you will have the entire back of the car filled and things stashed under each kids feet too.

That’s just the way it is.
Over the years we have tried this traveling thing every which way. Flying/driving, eating in the car/eating in restaurants, leaving before the sun get up/leaving after a nice big breakfast. You have to find what works best for your family. But here are five things I’ve learned over the years are must do’s when traveling long distances in the car with our kids:
1. Leave Early. We get up really early, grab the kids from a full slumber, plop them on the potty and then in their car seats with jammies on and take off. If we time this right we can get about 2 hours down the road before we hear from them. I pack a bag of clothes and shoes for the day and have it in the front of the car with us. They usually don’t get dressed, or need a potty stop until lunch!
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2. Pack Fresh Snacks. It is amazing what a little snack for the kids will do when the whining begins. It’s like magic. We pack a cooler in the back of the car with fresh food in it for the kids to eat from all day long. They can get whatever they want out of there any time they want. This is a huge departure from our normal snack routine at home so its a real treat. But if I packed junk food for car snacks we would all be so sick by the time we arrived at our destination we would need a day to recover. So to avoid that traveling all day crummy feeling take the extra time to prepare healthy snacks that won’t mess up your car. Some of our favorite in the car snacks are cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, carrots, grapes, apples, celery, broccoli, and energy bites.
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3. Bring Breakfast and Lunch. This is such a time saver, plus it breaks up the day and gives the kids something to do. Instead of stopping for breakfast or lunch we eat in the car. We only stop for gas and potty. We pack bagels with peanut butter for breakfast and some fruit. I usually make up little plates or paper bowls for each kid from the front seat and pass them back. The process takes a while and the anticipation of your meal coming to you is really fun for some reason. Beginning the prep for a meal will end any bickering you have going on. For lunch I make pb&j, turkey and cheese, or energy bits with pretzels, goldfish and veggies and fruit. Then for dinner we will stop and eat a good dinner out. Hopefully by is time we have reached our destination, for the day at least. Then we run around a bit.
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4. Maximize the Potty Stop. I detest using public restrooms with little kids, or without really. If you have ever been in a public restroom and heard someone saying over and over “don’t touch anything, don’t touch anything, don’t touch anything, I said, don’t touch anything,” it was me, hello! So all I have to say about this is that you have to stop when you have to stop, right? But make it worthwhile. Now is the time for everyone to get out of the car and stretch, for everyone to at least try to use the potty, top off the tank, and refill the coffee cup. And when you have really little ones, they may have to go to the potty one time, then walk around and try again. I find they don’t know how to do all of their business in one sit. I don’t know why this is but it is a joy killer to get down the road and hear “I need to go again” from the back carseat. So take your time and make sure you take care of all your business in one stop.
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5. Take Along the Movies (and game machines). I’m not one to let my kids watch TV or play games all day, but in the car it’s a must. So many family cars have DVD players built in now, but before we got all fancy with one of those we used to strap a laptop to the seat back for their viewing pleasure. Or now you can watch your own personal movie on an iPad. I try to keep the other toys to a minimum because there just isn’t room, but we do bring every hand held device we have to share!
My Must Bring List
– Bandaids
– Wipes
– Hand Sanitizer
– Potty Toppers
– Table Toppers
– Ziplock Baggies -I serve snacks in these for less mess
– Paper Towels
What have you found to be your saving grace on the road?

Energy Bites Recipe

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One of our favorite snacks right now are these energy bites. We first tasted them at our gym where the kids and I eat lunch periodically. Everyone was talking about them, so we tried them. And Yummy!

After we had them several times I went online to see if I could find a recipe for them, and I found plenty! But none of them tasted as good as the ones we ate at the gym. So I asked the ladies in the deli for their recipe and they were more than happy to share it with me. In fact they even wrote it down for me on a scrap piece of paper that I have taped to the inside of my cabinet right next to my dressing recipes for quick reference.

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Energy Bites

1 Cup oats

1/2 Cup peanut butter (I use natural peanut butter)

1/2 Cup ground flaxseed

1/2 Cup chocolate chips (I use the mini ones if I have them)

1/3 Cup honey

1 Tablespoon chia seed

2/3 Cup toasted coconut

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

Drop all of the ingredients into a bowl and stir. Then roll a spoonful size amount into balls and refrigerate.

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Enjoy!

 

Laundry Language

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Laundry. The never ending chore. I don’t dislike doing laundry…when I do it. It’s just a pain to stay on top of it. And then when it gets out of control it’s overwhelming. Unfortunately, this is something that can happen very quickly in my house.

With each additional child the laundry grows exponentially and it is not a chore you can consolidate. It’s just one, big, continuous chore. Some people like to do it all in one day, others have a weely schedule. I have tried it all. So here are some ideas that I have found work the best for this family of 7.

1. CREATE A SCHEDULE – And stick to it because if you get behind it’s going to hurt. Here’s mine:
Monday – towels and sheets
Tuesday – towels and sheets
Wednesday – small’s clothes
Thursday – big girl’s clothes
Friday – rags/whites
Saturday/Sunday – husband and I
* This leaves room over the weekend for any extra loads needed. There’s always at least one.
My schedule is posted in the laundry room for all to see. This keeps everyone on the same page and has eleviated many laundry arguments.
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2. GET HELP – I find that the folding and putting away of the laundry is the most time consuming. So I did some active researched on my kids and found out that at the age of 3 they can help put away their own clothes and they can help move it from the washer to the dryer. By 4 or 5 they can help put things on hangers, 6 they can help you fold and 8 they can do a load by themselves. By the time my oldest was 8 she was capable of putting her clothes in the washer, adding the soap and turning it on all by herself as long as the soap was within reach. At this point I have the two oldest do their own laundry on their day.
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3. KEEP IT SEPARATE – In my house each bedroom has it’s own dirty clothes hamper. Each hamper get washed and dried together and taken right back to the room it came from. This eliminates a lot of sorting. The only mixed load I do is the whites. But I find this to be a huge timesaver.
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4. DON’T PUT IT AWAY – As another idea, I have a friend who has two clothes hampers in each room. One for dirty clothes and one for clean clothes. No one ever has to put clothes away, just take them from their dirty clothes hamper, wash them and dump them in the clean clothes hamper. This technique is often used in my sons room. If you kept the two bins in the closet it looks the same as putting it in your dresser. No one knows the difference. And think about it, no folding, no putting away, no hanging. Simple and fast.
5. MAKE IT ENJOYABLE – I like to put on music while I fold, or treat myself to a break when I am done. Also, I enjoy having the kids work with me. It makes the time go faster and it gives us time to talk.
If this is a chore you don’t like to do either, please share your laundry secrets – I would love to hear them.

 

Left in the Dust

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This story is really too embarrassing to tell you but it is such a positive story about #1 that I am going to put my pride aside for a minute and do it anyway.

There are few times when you really get a glimpse of who your child is becoming. Like who they are at their core. What makes them tick. What drives them. But when you do get to see it – its really fun.

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Number 1 was in a running club at school this past year. The hunky husband runs, a lot and I used to before I had 5 kids. Now, not so much, it just doesn’t work out the same. But anyway, number 1 was really excited about this club and every time she came home husband would quiz her about how far and how fast. Her response always sounded a little slow to me, although it’s always a little hard to decipher their stories at this age. You are never sure if you are getting the end of the story first or the middle was left out. But either way, she didn’t sound like the fastest cheetah in the coalition.

At the end of the session the girls were to run a 5K and parents were encouraged to run with them. This sounded like a good job for the husband but I think he was afraid it would be to slow for him, based on her descriptions of her running. Plus she wore long pants and long sleeve shirts when she went to the running club meetings in the springtime when it was in the 70s. How hard or fast could you be running in that gear?

So he suggested this might be a race I would like to run with her. And I thought that sounded totally do-able for me. I wouldn’t even need to train at all since it sounded like she was going to peter out after about a half of a mile. So I signed myself up with all the confidence in the world that I would cross the finish line with my hair in place and a smile on my face.

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Race day comes and we are ready to go. Number 1 is fully decked out in her long yoga pants (a wardrobe staple) and two shirts while I have my running gear on with special moisture wicking fabric to keep me comfortable. I’m going to be just fine, piece of cake. I figure I won’t even be breathing hard.

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So we start out, number 1, her friend and me. We are running together and having fun for the first mile. Just when I figure we should start taking walking breaks number 1 takes off. Her friend was starting to tire so I slowed up with her. Number 1 came back. Odd, running backwards in a race, but ok. We reached the halfway mark and number 1 took off again. Figuring she would come back like she did the first few times, I kept the pace. Her friend was really starting to drag. I couldn’t see #1 anymore. I started to panic. What if she didn’t come back, what if she really took off? What if she got lost? Yea, that one went through my head, I know its unlikely in a race with 1500 runners all going the same direction, but I’m a mom. So I did what you would have done, I picked up the pace so I could catch up with her. A mile later, I had not caught her and I was huffing and puffing from the crazy pace I was maintaining. Realizing I was not going to catch her I settled down so I could finish the race, alive.

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When I crossed the finish line I saw my daughter standing on the other side of the corral with a drink in one hand and a half-eaten snack in the other. She had beaten me by about 3 minutes. ouch!

I wanted to scold her for leaving me in her wake. I wanted to save face among the other kids. I wanted to make excuses for why I was so far behind her.

Instead I asked her what she was thinking when she took off without a word to us about what she was doing. She replied, “I was trying to get in first place.”

Well, OK then.

I couldn’t say anything after that comment. She saw the goal, she could taste the victory, and she put it all out there trying to reach it. And she did really, really well.

No matter what she was wearing.

I love her fire, determination and drive. It will serve her well in life. And I love to see what’s deep down inside that little heart and mind. It’s beautiful, really beautiful. Keep it up baby girl, keep it up!