When our kids are young they are dictated to by our directions. A routine may help them expect the next thing to do, but they generally wait for us to lead. This is something that our kids have to move on from – they need to start showing initiative, get in and do what is right without being told. Our children can only do this if they know the general expectations of the day otherwise they will constantly make the wrong call and all sense of initiative will be killed.
How do you tell your kids what they have to do today? We use two main systems – a routine and a list. An individual routine is printed out and laminated and sits on their desk. This tells them what is normal, usual and most likely but then we have those days that are just not like that – days were flexibility is the main character trait of the day, for these days I give them a list. We are in a season of lists at the moment!
The list simply indicates all the things I want them to achieve today.
Daniels list for today said: Morning Routine, 9.30 Speech Therapy, Photo Album 1 hour, 12.30 lunch/chores, 1.30 Reading, 2.00 Blogging, 5.00 Responsibilities
Naomi’s read: Morning routine, Album 1 hour, Piano, Blogging, Reading 1 hour, 12.00 lunch prep, Sewing, 5.00 Responsibilities
For each of them I listed some specific times that I wanted things done, other things I’ve listed how long I want them to work on it for, and other areas I’ve just listed as reminders and they can choose time and duration. There are a few skills I want them to pick up from our lists:
- That they are aware of the time and keep their commitments – punctuality
- That they keep working on a subject, maintaining focus – diligence
- That they use their free time wisely – responsibility
- That they are ready for their job time at 5.00, instead of packing up at 5.00 – punctuality
At the moment the list is working well for us. Mind you, when I had 4 kids working like this, it seemed to take me forever to write the list for each of them, so instead we had a 15minute family meeting where everyone wrote their list in their diary as I talked about our day. I like the kids having a diary as it is yet another good time management skill to develop but at the moment we are using lists on loose bits of paper.
The other thing to note is that just because they have a list does not mean that things will get done the way I would like! They are in training – otherwise they would have written their own lists (like my older two are). The list (or routine) isn’t a magic wand making our kids do good – instead it is simply a training tool. It will only train our children if we too remember throughout the day what was on their list, to check in with them to see how they are doing, to catch them being distracted so we can redirect them and to catch them being diligent and focused so we can praise them. A list does not move my need to be involved – it just gives the kids a bridge towards initiative and independence.