Done Asking the Questions

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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.

Not good.

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:

Bedtime Questions:

  1. Did I empty my backpack (trash, thermos, etc).
  2. Is there anything for my mom to sign?
  3. Did I put my homework in my backpack?
  4. Is my backpack next to the front door?
  5. Do I know where my shoes are?
  6. Did I lay my clothes out for tomorrow?
  7. Did I brush my teeth?
  8. 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.
  9. Are my dirty clothes on the floor or in the hamper?
  10. Did I make (or help make) my lunch?
  11. What am I thankful for?



Morning Questions

  1. Did I hang up my towel after my shower?
  2. Did I put my pajamas away or in the hamper?
  3. Do I have my homework?
  4. Do I have my lunch?
  5. Did I brush my teeth?
  6. Did I clean up my breakfast dishes?
  7. 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?


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