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Challenge: Get organized!

Using Checklists to Teach Responsibility

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I have three children who have the word “teen” attached to their ages: nineteen, sixteen, and thirteen. With one at college and the other two relatively self-sufficient, my days of crazy mornings are gone, but they have not been erased from my memory. If you have never experienced a morning trying to get several little humans dressed, fed, and out the door, you have missed one of life’s true tests in patience.

In a short amount of time, breakfast needs to be made and eaten, lunches need to be packed, pajamas need to be exchanged for school clothes, teeth and hair need to be brushed, backpacks need to be filled, and shoes need to be put on the correct feet and hopefully tied. All of this multiplied by the number of little bodies that fill your home. Even on the smoothest of days, when the school bell rings, many parents are ready for a nap.

The million-dollar question becomes: How do we get our children to do their jobs without nagging them like a broken record or starting a battle that ends with anger, tears, or both? One answer—checklists.

Buy each of your children a small whiteboard and a dry erase marker. Write the jobs you expect them to finish before going to school on the board. Make sure you pick jobs that they can do by themselves based on their ages. Give them a dry erase marker for checking off the job once it is completed, and then, believe it or not, walk away. If the jobs don’t get done, let natural consequences fall into place.

What are natural consequences? If their breakfast plate doesn’t get cleaned, have them unload the dishwasher when they get home. If they don’t pack their lunch, know that they will be a little hungrier after school. If they don’t brush their teeth, remind them there will be no sugary snacks. If they don’t brush their hair, well, they are going to look a little disheveled. Natural consequences are the best way for a child to learn, but you need to be okay with the outcome.

There will still be bumps in the road, and it won’t be smooth sailing all the time, but it will take a few jobs off your plate and begin instilling responsibility in your children. And at the very least, take it from me, this too shall pass, and your crazy mornings will become a distant memory.

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