Children and Chores: Part 4 - A System That Works
How to keep fun-loving young people on task.
Once children are trained to do chores and Mom has developed a chore schedule (refer to parts 1-3 of "chore" series), how does she keep them on task to make sure chores are actually done? Most young people are fun-loving, energetic and easily distractible. This makes life interesting, but it can be challenging to channel that energy in a productive direction!
Our pin-chart system really helped keep us on task. It's a simple system. Read to find out how it works...
Hi, I’m Madia. I have eleven children and one of the greatest privileges of my life was to know Dr. Leila Denmark. She practiced pediatrics for over 75 years and was my mentor for 32 years.
I can hardly express how much she helped me, both with the children’s medical issues and family life challenges. I would love to share what she taught me with you.
You will need: your list of chores for each child, a cork board to display the charts and push pins. The size of the cork board depends on the number of children who are involved. Each child needs their own chart. At one point, our cork board was huge, displaying pin charts for nine kids!
The children typically designed their own charts, personalizing them with original drawings or computer prints. The basic format was as below:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
1. Five Fingers (refer part 2 of "chore" series)
2. Clear and wipe dining-room table
3. Feed puppy
4. Take out upstairs trash
5. Bring down laundry
7. Put away yard toys
8. Help pick up den
9. Fill water glasses
10. Five Fingers (refer part 2 of "chore" series)
After a chart is printed (and decorated), mount it on a cork-board and position colorful pushpins at each vertical number. We used one color pushpins for morning chores and another color for evening chores, e.g., red pins for morning chores, blue pins for evening chores.
After each duty is completed, the child is instructed to move the pushpin to the corresponding horizontal number. At the end of the day, all the pushpins should be lined up along the top of the page. One glance at the chart can tell if all chores are done. After the chart is checked, or first thing the next morning, pins need to be repositioned on the vertical numbers.
Note: We never had any safety issues with the pushpins, but if Mom is concerned about her children hurting themselves with pins, the same type of chart can be set up using a magnetic dry erase board. Colorful magnets can be used in place of pushpins.
Morning chores were typically done right after breakfast. In the evenings, I would ring our "chore-bell" 30 minutes before dinner time. Evening five fingers came before bedtime.
We emphasized to the children that chores were really not completed until the pins were moved. I also had a serious conversation with them, pointing out that if a pushpin was moved before the chore was done, that was no different from telling a lie. (there were consequences for lying)
If all chores were completed the entire week, the child was eligible for a special treat or reward on Saturday. If one day was missed, a warning was issued. If two days were missed, the reward was forfeited, and the child given extra work to do on Saturday.
It works best if Dad is the one who checks the pin-charts at the end of the day and hands out rewards (or consequences) on Saturday. Whoever does it needs to be consistent, especially in the beginning when the routine is being established.
"Years ago, our three older sons shared an upstairs bedroom. They slept on a bunk bed which had a trundle below the bottom bunk. They also shared a dresser. Each of them had one large drawer for his clothes. In those days, I did inspect the children's bedrooms to see if they were neat, but seldom checked inside drawers. One day I happened to be perusing the drawers, looking for something. The top one was a complete jumble. Clothes were clean, but were matted up together and stuffed in along with a few forgotten toys. The bottom drawer was just like the top one. In contrast, when I opened the middle drawer, I found everything folded neatly, carefully stacked according to category: underwear in one stack, undershirts, pants ,etc.
"Seeing those three drawers taught me a lesson I won't forget. Here were three brothers in the same family, the same room, with the same mother, the same training. They were and are very different people. One was "naturally neat", the other two were not. Now that they are grown, I am very thankful to say that all three of them have learned to be hardworking young men. I'd like to think that the training they received as little children had something to do with their adult work ethic."
Steven, David, and Joseph
From Dr. Denmark:
"Children must be taught that work is truly a gift of God and is something to be thankful for, not something to be feared: something we should want to do. Work is a privilege and should be a pleasure."
For more of Dr. Denmark's insights, read Dr. Denmark Said It!