No. I'm not kidding. It was that simple.
When my soon to be 3rd grader started school we were a mess. Every day felt like endlessly screaming into the void. "Put on your shoes! You need to wear a coat today! Where is your lunch!" For a details person like myself, it was hell.
How was I supposed to remember every little thing for myself and for my kid?
Then, one day I visited a close friend and I noticed a lovely framed item sitting low on the wall. A list. A checklist. I swear that it glowed and angels sang.
What she did and I later repeated to a degree was use a framed a sheet of paper with a list printed on it. Then she attached a dry erase marker to it. Simple.
When I asked her about it, she sort of waved it off and told me it wasn't working for them. Upon closer inspection, I also found that her checklist was tied to money (studies show this does not work). So I was undeterred. Where she'd seen struggle I saw unmitigated potential. And in turn, this is what I created.
There are two lists. One for the morning:
Good Morning, Josie! Did you…
...brush your hair?
...brush your teeth and clean your retainer?
...pack your lunch?
...pack a healthy snack?
...pack your red folder?
...pack your backpack?
...shut off your bedroom light and fan?
...feed the dogs?
...give the dogs water?
....lock the back door?
And...one for the afterschool/evening:
Good Afternoon, Josie! Did you...
...put your red folder on the counter?
...empty your lunch box?
...rinse out your lunch dishes?
...put your lunchbox in the freezer?
...do your homework?
...pack your backpack?
...pack your lunch?
...empty the dishwasher?
...pick out an outfit for tomorrow?
...set your alarm clock?
...check the weekly chore chart?
Sure, there are some limitations. Like, it isn't quick to update. And I still need to remind her to do things, but instead of naming off and struggling to remember about a billion little things on my own I instead get to say, "Did you finish your checklist?"
What about when she checks something off that she hasn't actually done?
Truth be told, it depends on how I'm feeling about it. This system isn't infallible, and she's just a tiny human learning about life. So if she forgets or crosses something off once in a while without doing it then I might let it slide on occasion or settle for a reminder. However, if I start to notice it happening routinely then I will crack down. I either add on additional tasks as a consequence or she loses a privilege (TV, screen time, etc.). Also, if it seems like a time issue, ie. she's struggling to manage fitting things in, then I have made her chose between things. Time management is a thing, people. I don't want her to be lazy, but I don't want her to over commit herself either. It's all about balance.
Furthermore, in our house, we have clear definitions of how each of us is to contribute and reach household goals. Academics first, household tasks second, and extracurriculars last. That goes for kids and adults. I want my kids to understand that our family and our household is a collective unit that must work together. It helps each of us be accountable and teaches them the value of giving someone their word.
Checking off something on the list is a commitment (her word) that she has done an acceptable job of completing a task.
How often do you check that she's actually done the work?
Honestly, not a lot. Because I'm out living life. That my friends is the very definition of helicopter parenting. Don't be that guy. No one likes that guy. Also, I'm fairly consistent when it comes to discipline. So, although she might "get away" with it, she also understands what will happen when I discover her deception.
What if my kid can't read?
In that case, you still make the checklist. And every day you walk your kid through it. You model how to use it. You take the time to show them how to complete each task correctly. So in the future, when they are doing it on their own, they will know what your expectations are. Routine is an important and useful tool that your child needs in order to succeed within the public school system. Teaching them how to make one will help them in the long one.
What about one-off activities or short-term activities?
That, my friends, I'll cover in a separate blog. How I get my kid to do sh*t, pt. 2.