Chores pt. 2: Why Continuity is More Important than Clean

Chores pt. 2: Why Continuity is More Important than Clean

“How can I have my kids on a chore routine when they go back and forth to my ex’s house all the time?”

My friend Lucia is one of those ladies who looks polished and arrives places on time, with well-behaved children and snacks. She has things together and it shows. So, it’s not surprising there would be some disconnect between the way she expects her girls to act and the way they act when they are at their dad’s house. Let’s just say, Dad isn’t quite as organized.

Most children are not raised solely by one adult. There are the kids in traditional, two-parent homes. Some spend time at grandma’s or have a sitter after school. Considering the little village raising your child, a large first step in creating a viable chore routine is to get all involved adults on board as much as possible.

Last week you thought of your motivation for assigning chores. This week I have some practical ideas for you and for my friend, Lucia, to get your chore routine rolling this summer.

Whether your kids spend time in two homes or with multiple care givers (mom, dad, sitter, Nana), create a List of Family Expectations, (This attached example is for toddlers. It’s from our house circa 2008) and print and display a copy in both houses.

For elementary children, here are some examples of expectations you could include in your family’s list:

  • When someone is talking, try your best to wait until they are finished with their idea.
  • When you are asked to help someone, respond with a level head.
  • Helping each other makes the whole family better!
  • Screen time is earned by doing all of your chores for the day
  • Piano practice happens every day
  • Getting clean happens every day
  • Flossing happens every day

It is possible for divorced parents to share a list of family expectations. You have to find some common ground and emphasize it for the kids’ sake. It is also possible for your children to do their chores when someone else is watching them. That’s where fostering good habits comes in.

For all types of parents

No matter their living situation, it helps kids to have a sense of continuity. Lists or posted reminders are good ways to foster continuity. And if you have a hard time remembering a new habit/chore that’s added to the rotation, a posted sign will help you as well. Speaking of continuity, here’s a parenting tip from my esteemed colleague Standolyn Robertson,

“I made chore cards for my boys when they were little. Each card had step by step instructions for the chore. The expectation was always the same.”

She had a more elaborate chore schedule, but this idea of chore cards is a good place to start. In any case, pretty much anything Standolyn says, I try. She is just that kind of awesome. So, my Sweep the Kitchen chore card has ten detailed steps which are very specific: from #1- move the barstools out of the room, to #10- return the barstools to the counter. Keep each card near the place where the chore happens–stuck to the wall or inside a cabinet door (like our bathroom card shown above). Laminate the cards with clear packing tape or a fancy-pants laminator. You can even type up a list and add graphics for Pinterest points.

“I had them do each chore rotation for 2 months.” Standolyn adds, “ It takes time to get good at it– to develop pride and take ownership. If you are watering plants, you do not want plants to die on your watch.”

Other ideas for keeping it consistent:

  • Designate a chore day/time that happens each week.
  • Use a wall calendar for each child. They get an X for each day they do a chore. The Xs create a visual chain.
  • Post chores in the same place every time. (all kinds of chore charts, bells, and whistles next week. Stay tuned!)

Any tricks you can share with us? Please comment below.

Also, to get you started, here is a list of some age-appropriate chores to consider.


Kids and chores pt. 1: How to answer “BUT MOOOOOMMM! WHYYYYYYYY?!”

Kids and chores pt. 1: How to answer “BUT MOOOOOMMM! WHYYYYYYYY?!”

Memorial Day means summer, which is a perfect time to change up the family routine. What better way to spice things up than to ADD SOME CHORES to your children’s days?

Assigning chores is a lesson in delayed gratification if ever there was one!

The first few times you ask them to do something new can be pretty ugly, or maybe exciting (if you have birthed an angel).

But once the chore becomes a habit, you as a parent get to bask in the glory of your diligence for years to come. The idea behind this first post about kids and chores is to find your motivation.

Why do you want to have your kids help around the house?

Here’s my motivation:

It came to my attention long ago that there is something different about the generation of young adults leaving home in the 2010’s. Two important generalizations I’ve noticed:

  1. their lack of mastery in the art of homemaking and life skills in general
  2. their parents’ interest (bordering on obsession) with helping their children avoid unpleasantries (read: avoid real life)

One story I heard about a freshperson whose mother got herself a hotel room near campus for the first 2 weeks of class sent me straight to my computer to create a chore spreadsheet. My kids were only 3 and 4 at the time, but I would be damned if they were going off to college not knowing how to handle their own personal needs!

My chore sheet was great! For two weeks.

Then I had to add rewards.

And then a new chart that was more exciting.

And while that worked for my self-motivated child very well (parts of it still work 6 years later) my other child is not a chart kinda guy. So I had to find different options for him.

So, before I start writing a series of posts about kids and chores, I’d like to give you two things to think about.

What is your motivation for having your children help around the house? Write these reasons down on a little card or piece of paper you can go back to to be motivated when enforcing the responsibility is more sucky than doing the chore yourself.

Getting kids into the habit of helping is definitely worth the effort it takes to get there. Make your intentions and your reason(s) for doing this for your kids clear, at least to you. And hopefully to your parenting partner.

Next, keep in mind that most of these ideas will not work for all children. You have to be committed to finding one or two that work for your child(ren) and be willing to stick with it.

Everyone is going to mess up and forget one day, or let it go for a week. Don’t beat yourself up about that. DO get back in the saddle and let everyone know that the game is still on. If they are old enough, ask them for help reminding you. If there are rewards involved, they will want to be able to earn the rewards again.

Take away: What is your motivation to have your kids do more around the house starting this summer?

This is real-ly awesome

I’m blaming it all on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

With their song “Thrift Shop” playing on every station every five minutes for the past few months, my heretofore ignorant-of-bad-words children have turned into little cuss monitors.

Jeff and I go through phases where we say a lot of curse words. (Jeff especially. I’m just trying to keep up, really.) But, we save the potty mouth for our friends and never let anything slip in front of our kids. Honest to goodness, we never do.

Well, maybe Jeff did once but who cared? Not Darla and Zane. They didn’t notice.

Now! They notice. Oh boy do they notice every time someone says even a pseudo-bad word, or the radio beeps out a bad word, they notice. Yesterday, for instance, they heard Jeff on the phone with a friend. He didn’t realize the kids were within earshot so I  guess, from what they told me, he was letting ’em fly like gang-busters.

That was embarrassing.

Which has led us to our newest family challenge: can we, including the grown-ups who love to swear, give it up completely? Could you? As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” If we can’t handle this challenge ourselves, how can we expect our children to?

My angels are old enough now to be hearing bad words at school and on movies and radio. Therefore they feel they are old enough to use them. However, we’ve been explaining to them that it isn’t a question of age which allows one to spout profanities. It’s more of an image issue: classy vs trashy.

I give them alternate colorful words to use, like Samuel Jackson. (Not as in copying his diction, as in saying his name in place of a swear word. “SAM-U-EL JACKson!” Good, right?) And instead of just saying nothing during the f-bombs in “Thrift Shop” while your brain clearly thinks the word. I told them, just sing “This is really awesome” instead. It helps. Try it:

Now you have the idea, do you have some other stand-in lyrics for the other potty words?


PPS: check out the tags on this post. Epic.

Keep it at kid level when organizing for children

Get Organized Already just organized another child’s room in Altadena. So much color! I love it.

This little guy is 4. So, he was away at pre-school while Mom, my rock star assistant Michelle, and I worked a little organizing magic in there.

Important to this story are Mom’s goals for the room shown b4 over there –>

•organize the closet with storage solutions
•improve the flow of the furniture

Also of note, they have a den with lots of kid stuff in it. They were amenable to moving things from one area to the other if needed.

She definitely wanted something different for the books because they were hard to remove from the wicker shelves in the b4 picture above to the left.

So, we pulled in a black storage piece from the den (which was a little too crowded anyway) and set that up for book storage in the same corner. Everything is at 4-year-old level.

The closet was so spacious and underutilized! To remedy that I brought in hanging sweater bags, the only extra cost for this project, at a mere $30 for both.

And look at the storage space we gained for his clothes–again at his level.
(Higher compartments are filled w out-of-season things for rotation later.)

A big lover of stuffed animals, now when he opens the left side of the closet he find a toy store’s equivalent of fluffy animal love!

We also put all linens for this room in the closet, labelled of course.

The dresser in the Murphy bed nook was broken. Bye bye!

The toys are organized and stored in there now (Ikea storage you probably recognize) and there is room there by the lamp for a glider, or a desk, or table as he grows to need it.

This was really fun! No big price tag, but lots of WOW factor for Junior.

On red: Loosen up already!

Pasadena organizerMost elementary schools I know of have that god-awful color chart for behavior wherein the kids’ missteps are publicly displayed for their peers in rainbow form. Lovely! If my life were set up this way I would be in the nurse’s office non-stop from stress.

My girlfriend, Nona, is the same way. We love perfection. We follow rules. We are on green. And we happen to care what people think.

So, when our kids landed on red a couple of times it gave us a start. We bemoaned the blight on our families’ names for a while. And then I said to Nona, “On the other hand, how much would I love to be able to be in an official(ish) situation and just BE ON RED. Just forget it–I’m on red!

“To hell with perfection!

“But I can’t. And you can’t. We are too uptight and conditioned to please. So, we have to embrace our children’s red-ness. Enjoy the fact that they don’t give as much of a damn.

“Good for them–fewer ulcers and better parties!”