I unveiled my new plan for the kids a couple weeks ago.
We had an impromptu family meeting where I explained the paper I was holding in my hand. Then, to make sure it wasn’t too low for our teenager or too high for our first grader, I had them both come over to the wall and pick the spot to tape it up.
The paper is divided into two sections: Bedtime Questions and Morning Questions. I explained to the kids that I will no longer be asking them over and over (and over and over) if they have brushed their teeth, emptied their backpacks, or hung their towels after a shower. Each of them is old enough to be responsible for their chores and daily hygiene.
Looking for a left shoe can make everyone late in the morning, I told the kids.
Also, I announced that from now on, driving to school is not the time to hand me your papers I need to sign. We have spent many a red light searching the glove compartment and floor of the car for a pen so that I can sign a permission slip or a graded test on my lap before the light turns green.
I have smelled odors from backpacks that definitely violate the EPA’s clean-air standards.
We have taken the saying, “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today” and twisted it into a new version, “Never do today what you can put off until your mom is yelling at you tomorrow or the next day.”
Something had to change.
My solution? Start a self-check system, in which the kids ask themselves questions. Rather than being a windbag in the background to tune out; I could once again resume my role of a loving and supportive mother.
Here is what is currently hanging on the wall in our kitchen:
- Did I empty my backpack (trash, thermos, etc).
- Is there anything for my mom to sign?
- Did I put my homework in my backpack?
- Is my backpack next to the front door?
- Do I know where my shoes are?
- Did I lay my clothes out for tomorrow?
- Did I brush my teeth?
- Did I do at least two of the following chores: Take out the trash, sweep, put away laundry, wipe down bathroom counters, empty dishwasher, load dishwasher, mow lawn, vacuum.
- Are my dirty clothes on the floor or in the hamper?
- Did I make (or help make) my lunch?
- What am I thankful for?
- Did I hang up my towel after my shower?
- Did I put my pajamas away or in the hamper?
- Do I have my homework?
- Do I have my lunch?
- Did I brush my teeth?
- Did I clean up my breakfast dishes?
- Did I hug my mom and dad?
It’s been a few weeks, and it has reminded me how kids really do need structure. For the most part, we have had success. But, it’s a work in progress. I am far from being done asking questions. A new one, “Have you done everything on the checklist?” has become part of our daily and nightly routines.
One night, I told Wyatt to get to bed and he answered, “But Mom, I still haven’t done two of the following things.” Not sure if this was him being conscientious about his chores, or using the list as a tool to assist his going-to-bed stall.
But, I do get more hugs from my teenager these days. (See No. 7 on the Morning list.)
Parenting, like anything else, is something we can keep improving. The first step: Ask ourselves a question: What is working here and what is not?