Stroke of genius: A recipe for chores and cooperation

Recipe for Chores

I am neither a parenting expert nor a housekeeping expert, but occasionally I have a really good idea, and it works. Here’s the latest.

The most annoying question my kids ask me every day when I pick them up from school is: “What’s for after-school snack?” I don’t know what’s for after school snack! It’s frustrating that they expect me to have some kind of smorgasbord planned for their arrival when, honestly, they should be satisfied that I’m fully dressed when I pick them up. I got them breakfast before school. I make them dinner almost every night. Anyway, I try. I really do, but I usually don’t have anything spectacular for them to eat when they get home from school.

Today, after the kids were off to school, I walked from room to room in the house. I felt overwhelmed by the amount of work required to get everything tidy again. How can three smallish people make such big messes and so quickly? How?! I dreaded cleaning it all up, and felt like I shouldn’t have to. I didn’t make the messes. So I decided that instead of spending my energy cleaning up after them, I’d rather channel my energy into a plan to get them to clean up after themselves.

My idea: A treat. They love a home-baked snack. They also love to cook with me, but I don’t do it with them as often as I should, or even as often as I’d like to. So I decided to wrap all those “rewards” into one. I realize that this is not a good daily chore plan, but when you’re feeling overwhelmed about all that has to be done and you need to rally the troops to really chip in and help, this worked like a charm.

The plan:

I found a yummy recipe that had approximately as many ingredients as chores I wanted them to do. I cut and pasted the ingredients list into a Word document, enlarged the font and line spacing, then printed it out.

Recipe

Then I turned the paper over and wrote down the tasks I wanted done around the house.

chores list

Then I cut the papers into strips, with the ingredient on one side and the chore on the other,

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And rolled them up and put them into a bowl.

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(This is how helpful my cat was during this process.)

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I put the chore bowl on the table with some fruit for after-school snack and then waited for the kids to come home.

CAM00484I showed them the recipe and explained that they needed to do the chores to earn the ingredients. When everyone had earned all the ingredients, we would make the cake together.

It worked. They jumped right in and divided the papers among them.

CAM00489See? Magic. At one point, Clark said, “When there’s a really good reward, it almost makes the chores fun.” It’s like he knew I needed a slogan for my blog post or something. 😉

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They finished their work quickly and without complaining. They each had ownership for their own ingredients and, once earned, could measure them out and add them to the recipe when called for.

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We made the cake, ate it, and they were happy and pleasant. There was still a little bit of clean-up to be done, but it was way more manageable than my house was earlier, and now I can walk from room to room in my house and smile at the improvement.

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How about you? In a moment of “crisis,” have you ever had a stroke of parental genius that actually worked? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Sometimes we all just need a few new tricks to try.

My summer plans for sanity: schedules, plans, charts, and other coping mechanisms

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I am one of those moms that makes a crazy weekly schedule for summer. I thought I’d share it in case it’s helpful for anyone else or gives you ideas of how to tweak things your own way. Do NOT look at this and feel guilty if you never had any similar intention. *I* do this because it helps me know what to do with my children when they are out of school and suddenly back in my care 24/7. If I did not make a plan or a schedule, I would find myself fretting in bed in the morning while my children got a jump start on chaos. If you are the type of mom who likes to go with the flow and not be pressured by a schedule, then you probably won’t like these ideas, and that’s okay. We can still be friends. 🙂

Weekly schedule.  Here’s a link to my chart, but this is the general idea: chores* done by 10 am, then a brief devotional and “summer school” (30 minutes of workbooks, writing, etc.). Mid-day activities include:

Monday:  Money and Menu plan– Allowance and Bank, Plan lunches and dinners for week (this year I’m going to try having each child in charge of one day of lunch and dinner), Grocery shop

Tuesday: Temple, Treat, and Tech– Get a treat and visit a temple, Rent a movie or video game

Wednesday: Service and Play–Humanitarian or other Service, Fun ideas from Pinterest

Thursday: Travel– Day trip or hike

Friday: Library and lunch– go to library and meet daddy for lunch

(This schedule is way more flexible than it may appear. Times are approximate, and we also have swimming lessons and other random calendar commitments, so some days the schedule will get trumped with something else.)

Then we finish off the late afternoons with a “summer snack” (usually a Popsicle), 30 minutes of reading time** followed by some quiet play time, their 30 minutes of media time, then dinner and family time, and finally bedtime– except for Thursday nights when I’ll let them stay up a little later for neighborhood night games.

*Note on chores: I make a daily chart (you’re welcome to download and edit my document here) so that every morning, each person knows exactly what their jobs are that day. Each day as they pass off their work, I will give them some kind of voucher that they can collect and cash in toward their allowance on Mondays. It may be as simple as a labeled popsicle stick. If you have any questions about the chores we do around here, go ahead and ask in the comments.

**Note on reading: You know how a lot of schools have a take-home reading program? Well, I modify that plan and run a similar system at home during the summer. My children like to read and will often pick up books during down-time and definitely at bedtime, but what I love about take-home reading is the assigned content. Sometimes I’m a big fan of forcing things on my poor children, especially when I know it would be good for them to step out of their comfort zone a little and expand their minds by trying a new genre or subject matter. So I did a lot of research about good books for my kids to read, and I went and checked out a lot of them from the library. Then I created big gallon Ziploc bags with their names on them and made a form (here’s a blank one you can download) that lists their “assigned” books. During their reading time every day, they read the book in their bag for as many days as they need to until it’s done. Then I sign it off, and they move on to another book on their list. I love this part of the day because it makes me feel like a children’s librarian, one of those jobs I’m just sure I would love.

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So there you have it. It’s kind of like comfort food for the psyche; it makes me feel better to have a summer strategy. Here’s wishing you the best in your own summer preparations. What are some of your favorite strategies?

Payoff.

Actually, I do have a post that’s not about my book.

And two posts in one day? Cue the apocalypse.

The last few weeks have been very, very busy, plus my husband has been out of town. In all this chaos, I have made a marvelous discovery. My children have actually learned some of the things I’ve taught them. I have spent years and years repeating the same things over and over to them.

“Do your chores and homework first.”

“Finish what you started.”

“Clean up after yourself.” or the common, “Don’t leave Clark tracks.” 🙂

Etc., etc. You’re no stranger to these things, so you know what I’m talking about.

Now, I’m not saying I’ve arrived, but it dawned on me that they are starting to get it. Finally! They are doing their chores and homework and actually earning their privileges, with less and less complaint. Grant is suddenly taking a lot more personal responsibility for his homework. Natalie will sometimes come and report to me that she finished doing a task that I don’t even remember asking her to do. This morning, Clark stuck his face in my room while I was still in bed and told me, “I’m starting on my chores early so I don’t have to do them after school.”  Seriously? There must have been an alien abduction. Or an angelic visitation. Something.

Anyway, I just wanted to offer hope. If you find yourself saying the same things over and over and over again and wonder if they will ever get it…. well, they just might. And won’t you be surprised?

Yesterday, Clark walked into the office while I was on the computer and I could immediately tell he was hiding something in his hand. “What do you have?,” I asked, “Hands up! Drop it.” He did, and it was a napkin, folded up. I opened it and this is what I found:

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(written in yellow highlighter: “I love you.” and a little heart)

“Oh. Thank you,” I said.

I think I like these kids.

Mourning, money and the wonder of window markers

dscf2000 This weekend we had a death in the family.  Clark threw Grant’s beloved St. Bernard Webkin, affectionately called “Giblets” on top of the fireplace.  His paws and half his face melted off.  May he rest in peace in the office trash can.  This was a tragedy beyond Grant’s capacity to endure.  He cried and cried.  He’d settle down for a little while and then the memory of his loss would bring another round of tears and sorrow.  When he came into the office and saw Giblets languishing in his garbage grave, he flung himself upon my lap and sobbed.dscf1999 (That lovely lap is clothed in Frosty the Snowman pajamas.  Don’t judge.  It was snowing.)  Finally we determined that Clark will do chores to earn money and buy Grant a new Webkin.  Grant, who is anxious, and also aware that Clark’s not the most industrious kid in the world, volunteered to help out with the chores to expedite the savings.

In the van on the way home from preschool yesterday, the boys discussed their money-making plans and were trying to guess how long it would take them to earn the money and how many Webkinz they would be able to purchase with their jackpot.  Clark declared, “Mom, I’m going to work and work and work all day.”

“That’ll be great, Clark.”

So I wrote up a handful of chores on the living room window with these fancy new Crayola Window markers I purchased as a late-conference distraction.  While Natalie happily scribbled on the window (and surrounding window frame and wall), the boys wrote their names next to the chore they wanted to undertake first.  Clark chose “clean off table.”

dscf2002Well, it only took about 5 minutes before he changed his mind and declared that it was the most boring job in the world and he didn’t want to do it.  He moaned and wailed and insisted that he should be able to choose another chore because he didn’t like that one.  (This has been a pattern lately.  I refer you back to the Angry Mom sign.)  I said, “Sorry buddy, you need to finish that one before you can start another one.”  He wanted me to do it.  I told him that if I finished the job then I would earn the money.  He whined some more about how he really wanted the money, and finally declared his true intent:  “I want you to do the work and I get the money.”

Um.

Nope.

Wasn’t it Elder Oaks who talked about entitlement?  How we somehow think we deserve things, but aren’t willing to labor for them?  I’m probably stretching his context, but I was not giving in.  I taught high school and I know what entitlement looks like when it grows up.

After much wailing, and a broken record stuck on phrases beginning with the words, “But I don’t waaaaaaaant to…,” Clark decided it would be easier to do his chore.  (Incidentally, I decided it would be easier to move to a desert island.)  Then for a short while, they both worked quite peacefully and even Natalie got in on the action with some Lysol wipes.

dscf2001And for anyone keeping track, there is now $1.25 in the Webkinz fund.  (Yeah, I don’t really care about minimum wage laws.)

In other news, before 7:30 this morning, sweet little Clark who is FOUR AND A HALF years old pooped in his nighttime diaper (nothing brings on more morning rage for me) and Natalie removed her diaper and peed on the living room floor.  There may be another death in the family by the end of the day.