Monday, July 8, 2013

Pillowcases and Cans of Food

Since our most recent move and then move back episode, along with our lives being turned upside down... I have found myself feeling like this:


And especially THIS:

Anyone with me? Last week was the worst! I found myself losing my temper so easily... My kids were OUT of control! I felt so frustrated and irritated at what was going on here. I felt panicky .... "HOW did this happen?" I kept asking myself. I was so grateful to have stumbled upon this quote on pinterest:

Apparently Miss Jeanette Winterson is a British writer... I'm not sure about the content of her books - but this particular quote has had a great impact on me.

Unselttledness..  this word described my family to a "T".  I felt that among the absolute chaos, I had turned into my children's slave. They seemed to have no respect for me and would fight to the death if I asked them to do anything to help. - This quote made me calm down and stop worrying that I had raised monsters and to realize that they are human just like me. They truly are entitled to their own feelings and I needed to recognize that. I knew that of course, but this is what made it real to me. They were feeling unsettled and unsafe as they were unsure of the expectations and boundaries we have for them. (and so were we) 
One night, I was talking to my husband. I was sobbing on the couch thinking that this was all a reflection of my parenting... and I had obviously failed (I become somewhat irrational past 9:00 pm after a hard day).  Mike kept telling me, "I am so sorry honey, that has to be so hard" ... when I said "Sorry doesn't fix it, I NEED advice, WHAT should I do??" ... (poor guy.. really.. some days I don't want him to just fix it, other days I don't want sympathy, just a fix to the problem.... any one else super grateful their husbands put up with them? :) ) We talked and talked and came up with "The Plan." ... it is simple and won't fix everything, but I really feel like it's a start. And let's be real, you can't get anywhere without first starting. 

Wake up before the kids .. they wake up SO early and after a night of beeping oximetors and a screaming baby... I have sunk into the habit of letting them rummage around the kitchen for cheese sticks, apples and gogurts while watching Bubble Guppies as I tried to get in a few extra winks before Ben would wake up.
Get as ready as possible (if possible) and make breakfast.
Now, here is the kicker:
Wake up the kids at 7:00 am. Say Wah???? Did I just say wake up the kids???? Crazy, I know.. but hear me out... I wake them up together at 7:00 am. Before they can have breakfast, they have to say their prayers, make their bed, go potty, and wash their hands and face. Okay- I know it sounds like a LOT. Especially at 7:00 am.... but it really doesn't take that long and it really is a great habit for them to be in.... and to be honest... te hehehe, for some horrible reason it gives me pleasure to wake them up when they are asleep... it's like payback. Mwa ah ah ah ah..... (don't tell them I told you that...wink... and the fact that it makes for an earlier bedtime doesn't hurt either! :))

Along with these decisions, we decided that the kids needed to have some responsibility and asking them do help on a whim here and there during the day just wasn't working.... and looking back, I don't blame them! When I'm really in the middle of something and they are constantly asking me to do things unexpectedly, I get bugged too!

Well, a few weeks ago, I ran across this great idea from

Isn't it beautiful? I loved the idea of having a "to do" and "done" area for them to visualize what they have to do and what they have accomplished.. and to have it posted for everyone to see how hard they have worked.. I loved how simple it would be to change up the chores to keep them from getting sick of one or the other....
So! I started thinking of how I could make this work for my family. I knew I needed to have pictures instead of words. As much as I love the magnets and beautiful frames... I knew I only had a certain amount of time. This is where I struggle. Sometimes I get this perfect picture in my mind and can't get it off my mind until it's done... so... to be real in my circumstances right now... it turned out like this....

(mind you, they are the ones moving them around all day :))

It's not quite how I had planned it, and it certainly isn't the trendiest of decor to have right in the dining area of our home... but! My kids have loved it! I simplified down from cute painted wooden nickles with magnets to clipart, construction paper, lamination and tape.... I've had to bring myself to reality to see that my kids don't need their chore chart to look fancy. They just need to know what they are expected to do. I don't say this to belittle all of the beautiful creations you can find on pinterest- it's just where I'm at in life right now.  The point is: They know what is expected. They know from the moment they wake up and come into the kitchen for breakfast. They each have their specific "chores" that they do every day: prayers, make bed, brush teethe, hair, get dressed.. etc.. Then I have general chores (the yellow cards) that rotate. I only give them a few a day to keep it from being overwhelming,but they do have to be done before the tv gets turned on and the toys get pulled out.

Some examples of chores are:
Vacuuming (they love this)
Setting the table
Washing the table after meals
Straightening the bookshelf
Making sure the dog has enough food and water (Claire's favorite)
Laundry duty: Switching out laundry when asked, but especially making sure all dirty laundry is in laundry bins
Garbage patrol: This person is in charge of keeping our house free from garbage other then in the garbage cans. My kids are too young to bring the garbage bags to the garbage bins outside, so it's just a matter of keeping the garbage off of the ground.
Helping me make dinner
Putting toys away (the both get this one every day)
I also have a picture of a bucket of cleaning supplies... this is basically what ever I ask them to do like cleaning the baseboards in a room, or sanitizing door handles and light switches.

You know what your kids can handle. I especially like how easy it is to change them out every day. They may hate washing the table after meals, but, it's just for the day. like I said, I only give them 2 or 3 other then their personal chores (getting ready for the day)

(If you are at all interested, I'd be happy to email you the document that I have the images that I used, but I just used google images and can't cite every single image.. so I don't feel comfortable posting it here.)

But how do you actually get them to do the chores? You might ask..... well... this is where the pillowcases and cans of food come into play..... I got this great idea from Parenting in the Latter Days at 

Before introducing the chore chart to my kids, I took all of the little cards I had made and taped them onto cans of food. There were quite a few of them. We all gathered our pillow cases and I had the kids take turns identifying which chore each can represented to be sure they knew what each picture meant. Then I had Sammy come up with his superhero pillowcase and gave him "his chores" for the day... which ended up being every single chore. With each request, I placed the can in his pillowcase. When it was all the way full, I told him to go and do his chores! Surprisingly he was really excited about it and said "where should I start?!" .. I was really surprised. - But then he tried to lift it all up. 
He couldn't get it to budge.

 I let him try and try and try. Finally, we discussed how difficult it is for one person to do all of the work around the house. We talked about how much time it would take to do each chore and asked when in the world he would have time to color, read books or play with his super heroes! ....... 
We then emptied all of the "chores" onto the fireplace and split them up between us and the kids. Each of us were able to easily carry our bags. I went through Claire's pillow case and talked about how after each can or "chore" we do, the load gets lighter and soon we would have time to do the fun things. I talked to them about wanting to spend more time playing with them and that if we all did our part, we'd have much more time to do just that!
I couldn't believe how well it worked. I could see it click in their minds! It was a really good experience for all of us and has really helped our family out. Obviously, they are little and most of the work they are doing is just to show them that they are a part of the family and that families need to work together. They are no longer bribed to do anything... they just get the satisfaction of moving everything to the "done" side. 

We are still at the beginning and I am positive the novelty will wear off and they will start to dislike it for a while, but I'm determined to be consistent.  It is so much more then just a list of chores...... the whole "Plan" is to get them into healthy habits: waking up early, keeping their room tidy, taking care of their bodies, and being contributors but most importantly - giving them the expectations and boundaries that they crave to feel confident and secure. Giving them the experience of satisfaction that can be found through hard work and consistency. Giving them responsibilities without material gain because in REAL life, there are things that we do just because it's the right thing to do, not because there is something in it for us.. even though they will see the real prize that will be found in discovering their amazing capabilities. 


Jenny Gamboa said...

This is awesome. I don't know about other parents but I have definitely felt this same way about kids and chores and life. I really like how you call it "the plan," it sounds just like what my husband and i would call it. :) and I'm totally with you on the sometimes needing things fixed and sometimes needing him to just listen. Parenting is hard but I think your ideas sound great! Thanks for sharing.

Barbara Scoville said...

Love this post Cara. I especially like your featured quote. I'm sure it resonates with a lot of people. Thanks for sharing you inner thoughts...the ones we all have but think we are alone.