Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Making it fun.

This morning after breakfast as all the kids were doing their morning chores (or rather they were supposed to be doing their chores) it hit me that somehow none of them were actually doing their chores...and they hadn't been for a while.  Well, that isn't all together true.  They had been eventually doing them...just not right away and with a cheerful heart.  As I thought about this, I realized that they had been slow to obey in other areas too.  How does this happen?  It's not like I had been letting them disobey...was it?  Hmmm.  It is amazing to me how I can be just going about my days and then, all of the sudden, I realize that we are pretty far off in one area or another.  It is a slow happening in our family.  It is like the frog who will boil to death, never realizing that he is in hot water, as long as the water is gradually turned up...slow over time.  That frog will just sit there and boil to death.  I am so glad that I am not a frog...haha.  But, all of the sudden, I realized that the water of distraction and disobedience had become pretty hot and I needed to jump out and pull the kids with me.  I was being distracted and they were disobeying.  I do have plenty of things to distract me and it is a real challenge to stay focused on each small interaction with each child but, somehow, I had to make the change.  Reminding them over and over to do their chores and obey immediately wasn't really making for a peaceful house nor was I winning their hearts in the process.  It was creating lots of stress.

At six, eight, and almost ten, my older three children should really be capable of being independent with their chores.  The chores are age appropriate and should take about ten minutes.  I even have a check list for them to refer to in the mornings (I'm a list person and they can all read.  When they are too young to read, I make a list by pictures.  Watch for a later post on this.)  Even my four year old is capable of doing a chore that is appropriate to his age.  (My little boys are currently buddied up with an older brother to start learning a chore.  It is fantastically cute to watch the older two boys teaching the little two.)  But, it wasn't working.  I have plans to order "Managers of Their Chores" by Terri Maxwell to see if it will help me manage their chores...haha:)  But, until then, something had to change...and fast!

So, it was time to sit everyone (the older four actually) down and talk about the change.  I told them that we needed to make some changes.  Kids were not getting their chores done or obeying in a timely fashion and mom was having to remind them too much.  It was making us start school later in the morning which, in turn, eats away at their free time in the afternoon.  They perked up at this point but, I could still see the fog in their eyes so, after explaining the consequences of disobedience in our home, I decided to make it fun.  Kids can accomplish SO much when you make a game out of it.

There are five basic things that I would like them to remember when asked to do a job or chore.

1. Smile at mom (or whatever adult is giving instructions)  This is actually very important because it causes them to immediately check their emotions and helps them to practice self-control in the physical.  Even if their hearts aren't there quite yet, it is about being polite.
2. Say "Yes ma'am, I'd be happy to".  Yet one more check that allows them to practice self-control in the verbal.  I am from Texas and really like for my kids to show respect to all adults by responding with "yes ma'am" or "yes sir".  This is definitely not one of the Ten Commandments or anything...I just like it.  It's polite:) We are not totally there yet, but we are working on it.  It also goes far beyond just obeying by speaking (the spoken word is VERY powerful) aloud that they will be happy to obey.
3. Go do the job or chore (obey) very quickly.
4. Check to make sure that the job is done completely and well.  We call this "Checkity-check-check-check".
5. Return to mom (they may have to find me as I rarely stay in one place very long...haha) and report that the job is done.  This keeps me from having to keep asking about chores which can wear on them.

We repeated these five steps together several times...over exaggerating each one.  You should have seen how big these kids can smile and how sweetly they can say "Yes ma'am, I'd be happy to"!  Even my eldest, who is shy and slightly above this sort of silliness, (in his own mind anyway) joined in.

Now comes the fun part.  Being that all of my children are still in the "front nine" they really need to practice this to help them remember.  I have found that they remember so much more with repetition and getting up and moving while they learn.  So...I called out instructions and they would go through all five steps.  We again, over exaggerated each one of the steps and they each got their turn to be silly and to laugh at their siblings being silly.  Smile.  "Yes ma'am. I'd be happy to.", run do the job, checkity-check-check-check, Report back to mom.  It went like this.  "Brennan, please go lock the back door."  Brennan responds with: Smile. "Yes ma'am, I'd be happy to."  Run lock the door. Checkity-check-check-check.  Report back to mom.  "Mom, I have locked the door."  I gave them quick jobs and some silly like "Go stand on that rug and jump ten times".  This is an especially great one to give to any little boys who are having a hard time sitting still...and I have five boys:)

We did this for a while so that each of them had several chances to participate and then, when I could see that they had it down, we switched it a bit and kept practicing.

We did it "Army style".  The boys especially loved this and it went something like this.  Mom says, "Private Abby.  I have a mission for you.  Take that webkinz and put it away in the loft".  Abby responds with: Smile.  "Yes ma'am, I'd be happy to"...saluting as she speaks.  Run to put away the toy.  Checkity-check-check-check.  Report to mom..."Sergeant Mom, I have completed the mission". 

So, we started our "academic school" very late today and didn't get everything done that was on my list before we had to leave for PE.  But, we had fun and laughed together, we worked on character and heart issues, and the kids now have defined steps to follow when I ask them to do something.  There can be no doubt of my expectations. 

*I did steal this idea from the Duggar's book "20 and Counting" but changed it to fit the situation for our family.

*If you are looking for a list of "age appropriate" chores for your children, I would recommend "The Homeschooler's Book of Lists" by Sonya A. Haskins.  Our local library has it...your may too:)


  1. So, quick question, what would be your course of action for those who don't get their chore done right away and get side tracked?

  2. Well...in our house it's really different according to the child. They each have their own currency. I find what matters most to that child and use that item or event...loss of legos (or whatever is cherished), extra job during free time, not having a friend over after PE, etc. Plus, they have to complete the job that they didn't finish before school during their free time. That usually takes care of it. We also focus on teaching and training in heart/character issues. We are definitely not perfect but we have a goal to strive towards:)