Of resolutions, chore charts, and really terrible mornings

Since it’s the New Year and all I decided it was time to get our morning routine a little more organized (and by our I mean mine and the kids’). Here’s the plan: I get up a little earlier each morning so I can exercise and shower before the kids get up, then I can focus on helping the big kids get ready for school while keeping the little kids from sitting in front of the TV all morning. Then I made a nifty chart for each older boy so they can see exactly what they need to do before school (including practicing piano and cleaning their room) and checkoff each task as it’s completed. I’d wake them up at 7 and there’d be plenty of time to get everything done with no nagging from me. I thought it was going to be great.

So we tried it today and it turned out to be the absolute worst morning I have had in years. Suffice it to say everything on the list did not get done, and 20 minutes before school started I had three of the kids in tears (two screaming in time out while a third cried because the other two were making him sad), another one in trouble because he’d just hit someone, and the fifth sitting at the piano plunking out “I am a Child of God” while I tried very hard to keep my cool. And no, the irony of this was not lost on me.

I won’t bore you with the details; I’ll just say that making a change that affects an entire household is hard, and maybe I should have taken it more gradually. Deciding the little kids suddenly can’t watch TV in the morning on the same day I try to get the big kids used to a new schedule was probably my first mistake. And I paid the price. We worked it out – I didn’t back down – and I’m standing by my guns. But as a result I got to hear my 4 yr old tell me that I had “broken his feelings.” That’s right, I didn’t just hurt them, I broke them. Ouch.

On the other hand, the big kids (who had been ignoring my reminders that they weren’t following their schedule all morning) jumped in to help, and when I finished my discussion with the 4 yr old I went to check on the youngest and found this:

Two very sweet big brothers cheering up their little sister. The day actually ended up getting better from then on out (due in part to a kind friend who called – I think she heard the screaming coming from my house on her end of the street) and we’ll try the new schedule again tomorrow – hopefully it will get a little easier every day until we’re just a well oiled morning machine.

And I had a chat with the big boys about their “morning tasks chart” (which I still think is a fantastic idea – we’ll see if it ever actually works). Here’s the deal: I will wake them up in plenty of time to complete everything on their chart, and then I will leave them alone about it. I’ll be available to them in the morning if they need help with things (no sewing before school!), but I WILL NOT spend the entire morning reminding them about what they need to do. If their tasks get completed before it’s time to go, they get privileges after school (friends and/or electronics). If not, no privileges. And that’s just how it’s gonna be.

(I hung up their charts right above the toilet in their bathroom, so they should be just about the first thing they see every morning.)

Now please someone give me the will to keep this up. Just getting up a little earlier is going to be hard for me, and I can’t tell you how hard NOT reminding the kids to do what they’re supposed to will be. Not to mention dealing with one child who doesn’t get to play with friends while the others do if some are better at getting things done in the morning. I’m convinced this will make things better in the long run…I just hope I make it through the next couple of days.

***ETA: Our second morning with the tasks charts went MUCH better. Apparently an afternoon without electronics made an impression, and all the boys stayed on task with no reminders from me and had a pretty good time checking off things as they finished them. I know it’s not going to work this well every morning, but I think it will help.***

By the way, I printed out the charts and then slipped them inside page protectors so the kids can mark on them with dry erase markers, then erase everything at the end of the week. Some of the kids have even started making notes to themselves on their charts:

(And yes, that does say “vacoom.” Maybe this will work after all.)

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  1. 1

    judith says

    After working in an Elementary school for 15 years, I can tell you that kids that are given chores and have a specific schedule to follow daily are the ones who have fewer discipline problems in school. One great tip…. have a set time that the TV, video games, computer, etc. are shut off at night. A set bedtime is essential too (even on the weekends) for everyone!!! Yes even the parents, especially if you are getting up earlier to workout, you’ll need the extra rest. So what if not everyone is sleepy… just read. That brings us to reading to your kids. Would you believe that Kindergarten teachers can actually tell in the first couple of weeks of meeting their students, which ones are read to regularly? If you aren’t able to read to your kids, have the older ones read to the younger ones and vise-verse, maybe while you are getting dinner ready so that you can be available for help with the big words. Speaking of big words, have all the kids read from books that are just a tiny bit harder… everyone benefits from a challenge. Good luck with your New Years check list… I like them, especially the voluntary vacuuming.

  2. 3

    Amie says

    Found you over at the Winthrop chronicles! .. Fun blog she has and same for you!
    I love this. I love that you Did it and that you shared it… Even the not so “happy blog” moments, if you know what I mean. I have been wanting to do this for our morning (& maybe evening) routine(s). I even made fun Pinterest inspired magnetic boards.. With magnets to move their chores to “done”. So what stopped me? Honest.. I know I’m going to have the kind of morning you did! But really… Is it any better than our mornings now? No. But we are in a routine of me nagging them to do the things they do every day and should be doing on their own. Also, I always get hung up on rewards for charts like this… It becomes to intricate and a stressor to keep up with. Like I said though, I love this. Thanks for the inspiration to revisit my idea . …. Btw.. How’s it going??

  3. 4

    autumn says

    It’s actually going pretty well. I just completely stopped reminding/nagging them, and one morning one child did all his tasks and the other two didn’t – so that day one child got to go to a friends house and the other two had to stay home after school. That was a serious motivator for the other two, so mornings have been much better. My kids are old enough (9, 9, 11) that they really don’t need me to remind them, so I’ve just stopped. So far getting friends&electornics taken away if they don’t complete their tasks seems to be working to motivate them to keep up in the morning – and mornings are much more pleasant as a result! I know we’ll still have tough days, but I’m feeling very optimistic. Thanks for your comments and encouragement 🙂

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