I had 3 kids in 2 1/2 years, then a couple years later we added our free spirit who balanced out the introverts. Involving my kids in every aspect of running a household was not from some genius parenting revelation, it was merely survival. Before children, you would hardly ever find a dish in my sink and my appointment book was wellorganized. After kids…well, I’m sure you know that story.
After a few years of chaos and being thankful we didn’t forget a doctor appointment, we started the family calendar. We freed up mental space and precious counter space in our little apartment. You know that place! The place where sticky notes that have lost their sticky reside? Where every piece of paper goes to be eaten by some mysterious monster?
My motto became, “If it isn’t on the calendar, it won’t be done.” I have found as my kids get older, the busier we become. No longer is our life busy in the house, but in the big, wide world where a car is needed. I believe including them not only alleviates repeating the same answer 4 times, but teaches them important skills they will need as adults.
Whenever we teach our kids a new skill or chore, we always introduce it in increments. If I just showed the washer and dryer to my 5 year old and said, “Do your laundry,” she would still be sitting in front of that thing sobbing. Instead, we show them an easy part of the process, let them practice for a while, show them another part, and so on. Our goal is always to build confidence and excitement that they can do something all by themselves.
With organizing our schedule, we started with a master yearly calendar that only the grown-ups wrote in, at least the man did when he remembered. When they started school, it was their responsibility upon walking in the door, to empty out their backpack and put all papers on the counter under the calendar. Once they could read and write,the clouds parted and the angels sung. No more questions about what day it was, or if we were busy at a certain time. When they would ask a question, I would ask right back, “What does the calendar say?” Sometimes the youngest will ask questions because reading is new for her, but the older three don’t even bother me about it anymore.
We have since moved to a big whiteboard calendar. The squares are bigger so it doesn’t look like we are going to a school program for 2 days any more. My oldest daughter is an organizer like her mother and has taken over changing the months. She puts down all our reoccurring activities, then I fill in planned activities that aren’t. When something comes up for a certain child, it is their responsibility to write it on our family calendar.
Again, “If it isn’t on the calendar, it won’t be done.” Most weeks a child writes the dinner menu for each day too. Don’t you hate that question, “What’s for dinner?” I know I do!
As you can see in the picture, there have been pens sacrificed. It isn’t clean and beautiful. It gets the job done and teaches my children. They are learning to respect other people’s time and the beginning stages of how to organize their own life. You can even see April was used as a countdown for my oldest son.
To get your kids on board:
– Remember it is about creating habits they will grow into, not perfection.
– Think about the different steps i.e. writing activities, writing meals, writing the dates if you have an erasable one.
– Ask each child what one task they want to be in charge of (these monsters want power so feed the beast). It could be simple like your 2 year old flipping the page every month, or your 1st grader writing dates. You could even have an artistic child in charge of making it pretty or guiding your toddler where to put picture stickers. The goal is just to get them involved in a way they can be proud of.
– At the beginning of each month, set aside 10-15 minutes with the whole family to set up the calendar for that month.
– If your child knows how to write, have them write their own activities.
– My favorite part: when they ask about what time or when something is, ask right back, “What does the calendar say?” You may get an eye roll and/or sigh, but eventually it gets better, promise!
After a few months you will start to feel some rhythm and morph it to fit your family’s needs.