I remember when I was 10-11 years old my mum decided that I needed to learn to work from lists. She arrived at this decision on the heels of a moment of frustration with me. It was a Saturday morning, our job day, and we were in the laundry; I walked out of the laundry with three jobs to do, but walked half way up the hallway and I had no idea – no idea what mum asked me to do! As a mum myself these days, I can appreciate how frustrating that must have been for my mum. I was more than able, and even willing to do the housework but I simply did not remember what she said to me.
When mum introduced me to lists she was recognising a weakness in me and finding a system to help me out. That is what lists are – simply a system to help with our weaknesses.
Do you see weaknesses in your kids? Have you found a system to help them? Your preferred system that you use for yourself may not work for them, but there will be some strategy that will click with them – you just have to find it!
Your child may need this system for the rest of his life – like me and lists. Or there maybe some things that your system teaches your child, that will then become a habit and he won’t need the external reminders any more. Like learning to clean our teeth – when our kids were little it was a family outing – we cleared the table and then all moved into the bathroom to clean teeth. It was a pattern (a system) that we used to establish a habit. These days everyone is responsible themselves for cleaning their teeth – we don’t rely on the system, we rely on the habit.
Lists, picture charts, rosters, schedules, routines, posters, diary – paper or digital are all systems to help us with getting the job done. But we have many areas of weakness and we need a system to help us overcome. Is your child forgetful – does he need a system to look after his belongings when he leaves the home. Is your child disorganised – does he need a system to file papers away. Is your child always running late – does he need a system to help him be punctual.
Some systems that work for us:
- Everyone has their own backpack or bag for when we go out. This gives them a place to put their shoes, water bottles etc.
- We used to say (when the kids were little) “Click Clack” as the kids put on their own seatbelts – giving me a verbal/audible checklist that everyone was strapped in.
- Everyone has their own diary where they write not only their study list for the day but any other responsibility they may have to specifically remember
- When we are changing our routines I post a large A3 size family routine in full sight so we can all refer to it.
- We use timers to keep ourselves on track when timing is important
- We use page protectors and binders for filing work so that the children can file their own work and it doesn’t stockpile for me to file away.
- We have a chore roster which means people know what is expected and they can get in and do it
- When clothes are clean the laundry worker folds them and places them on the rightful owners bed. It is then their responsibility to put them away.
- When serving the meal at the table we pass the food around the table – to the left – so we don’t have plates and dishes criss-crossing all over the place.
When we teach life skills to our children it is all too easy to make everything an obedience issue but we have to look broader than that (though obedience is important). Considering the child’s weakness and finding a strategy or system that will help them achieve will be more productive in both leaning the life skill and in your relationship!
Love this. We are working on systems for our home. I used to get so frustrated with one of my children – then he was diagnosed with AD/HD – inattentive type. Ah! Lightbulb clicked on. It wasn’t disobedience; it was his brain! Lists, reminders, timers, a family calendar all are helping us. It can be a long process to find what works.
Another system that I have remembered in our home is that of ‘out of sight – out of mind’. Or rather a system we have developed because we recognise (Peter and myself) that this is how we function. We have organised our desk with desk-top files for our projects. We would both love to have our files away in a draw but we recognise we are people who need to see what we have in front of us. Instead of accepting a pile of mess though we have organised our files where they work for us. We are helping Joshua with this very process at the moment too.