January 08, 2011

chores, chore packs, severity and fun

Do you live by a shedule?

Every day I seem to ask myself these questions: What to do NOW? What comes next? Is having a schedule really that important?

Probably.  I've just never been able to stick to one.  The sun will come out on a grey day and, well, you have to live in the Pacific Northwest to know that one doesn't let a sunny day pass you by.  A friend might call or visit.  The toilet will overflow. Suddenly, I see the neon flashing lights surrounding  THE SCHEDULE screaming that I am off.  Overwhelmed, I end up tossing the schedule out.

The closest I've come to living by a schedule is to have A LIST.  Mr. Santos usually adds to the list at his whim.  My job is to prioritize the list and check it off everyday.  Sounds easy enough.  Except that Mr. Santos sees cleaning the house as one item on the list rather than 10-20 items like I do.  It's taken a while to adjust attitudes and expectations.

Chores aren't just a big deal because of THE LIST.  They are necessary to training our children to be responsible and diligent.

Luke 16:10  He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much:

It is to love our children to take the time to train properly.  It doesn't happen overnight.

I say, "No toys on the floor."  To a child, that means the toys go on the dresser, the bed, the window sill, etc. Anywhere but the floor.

So, I adjust my words.  "All the toys go into the toy box."  This could also be translated by a child as "Everything goes into the toy box, including dirty clothes, trash and books."

When this happens, it is not the time for anger. It is the time to laugh, to enjoy the simplicity of children and to offer them patient and kind training.  I have learned this the hard way.  Anger has been my knee jerk reaction.  I was not trained in housekeeping and the concept of training another person was absolutely foreign.

One thing that brought about efficiency and happy attitudes at The Santos Times were Chore Packs.  We got the idea from the Maxwell family.

Each child had a pack that they clipped onto their shirt or dress in the morning.  A chore pack contains a stack of cards.  One chore is written on each card with the details on the back.  For instance, one of Sophia's cards was BATHROOM. The back of the card read: clean counters, wipe mirror, sweep floor, arrange the towels, etc.  When each card was completed, it would be put to the back of the pack and the next card done.  The last "chore" to land on was BREAKFAST.  Breakfast was at 8:30. 

WOW! The kids loved their chore packs.  Sophia liked waking up late and seeing how fast she could get her chore pack done.  Naomi liked waking up early and having guilt-free play time before breakfast.  Noah liked the independence. He didn't have to ask sister or mom what to do next.

Chore packs lasted through most of tree season.  How did such a great system disintegrate?

1) We did our chores at night, rather than the morning, to get to the farm on time.
2) The chore packs broke from constant use (and playing with).
3) The cards would get rearranged and, even with numbering them, took too much effort to put them in order again.

We may go back to chore packs.  It doesn't seem needful right now. But I am thankful for what I learned.

~ Knowing what's expected makes life run smoothly
~ Each member of The Santos Times works differently
~ Nagging is not required to get children to do their work
~ Children like to know they are FINISHED with work.  Seeing the end motivates them.

~ Severity and fun ~

But what if there is a job that requires team effort?  Say, a giant mess made by all the children?  How do we get it all cleaned up properly and timely?

Bickering was rampant and mess was left undone because of "Not Me" and "Not Mine" who apparently also lived in the house. 

Sometimes Severity is called upon to get things done. The children have come to fear MY BAG, and I am thankful for such a trusty friend.  My Bag picks up everything that is not properly put away and takes it to the garbage dump...no mercy.  My Bag doesn't care if it is a favorite t-shirt or an heirloom sent from Grandma.  If it is an item truly loved, it will be put away properly.  Severe, I know, but also effective.

Thankfully, it is not always severe around the Times.  We also have lots of fun.  For community messes, I choose a secret item, write it down, and then say "GO!" Everyone rushes around putting things away properly and quickly. They must work quickly because whoever puts away the secret item wins a prize (usually a small piece of candy).  I like this game because sometimes the secret item will be a button in the corner.  It is not revealed until everything is spotless.  Also, I like to hear "I'll put that away" rather than "That's not mine, you do it."

Tell me.  Do you have any thoughts on chores, chore packs, severity and fun?


  1. You are rearing responsible children, that is great.
    Love and Blessings,

  2. I do not create lists, if I have a list I tend to do the easy things first then left with the horrible bits last. I do things in quite a random way but it still seems to work. For example if I am cleaning the bathroom and walk past the laundry basket - I will take it to the washing machine to wash. Then back to the bathroom. all jobs are done this way!

    As for my children, when they were little they had boxes, many of them. And into these boxes they learnt quickly to place ALL toys before going to bed. My DH never liked toys all over the house so the children got into the habit of cleaning up. It didn't talke long to teach them.

    They have grown up to be quite tidy and clean up after them selves.

    Blessings for the coming week

  3. The other day I was sweeping the floor and in the pile was a couple legos (pieces that were potentially valuable to a set. I could hear in my head Mosely asking me to help him find the part someday), an unmatched sock, and something or other else that should have been saved, but i threw it all away. So liberating. Severity sometimes reminds you how little you really need.

  4. I can see how this little product would be a great incentive and very exciting for as long as it felt "new"...at least for my kids, anyway...eventually, they'd be losing the cards, tearing the cards, drawing on the cards, etc...ha ha.
    I LOVE what you write here about phrasing our instructions in a way that makes our expectations more clear!!! THANK YOU! I'm inspired!
    I also love MY BAG. My husband used to do something similar; and you have reminded me of how well it works...time to renew old traditions! GREAT POST MRS. S.!


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