Despite an organized chart with chores listed and stickers handy, I was still repeating-repeating-repeating instructions to my 6-year-old to do his basic daily activities and chores, including his own hygiene and pet care.
A few weeks ago, I started rethinking the workability of this chore system. I sat back and watched him go about his daily activities for a bit. And I realized the problem lies in FOCUS.
How could I get my young child to focus on the tasks I needed him to do?
He can spend hours playing video games, watching a movie or playing with his LEGOs. I knew he COULD focus. The answer appeared to be his desire (WANT) to focus. He didn’t want to brush his teeth or do basic chores because, well – they were CHORES, not games!
Duh! I needed to turn his chore list into a game that inspired him!
I sat down with him and got his agreement on the chores and actions he was willing to do each day. We divided these activities into morning and night checklists, added cute clip-art to each point and a line where he could check off each activity once done.
I changed his allowance system to pay him only for completed checklists – not partially done checklists. If he didn’t complete his morning checklist, he wasn’t paid for it. Ditto on his night checklist.
We did the checklists together until he gained enough familiarity to run with them on his own. And then we did timed races. How fast could he finish each point?
This was FUN! It was a game. He had a piece of paper in his hand that focused him on each activity to be done, and he got rewarded for doing it. Win win.
I keep a tally of how many points he finishes each week. If he has more than the week before, he gets rewarded with ice cream or a sleep over or something he wants; If he has fewer points for the week, no TV after school or some other fair penalty.
The whole experiment opened my eyes to the keys to helping a child focus:
- Understanding of the task at hand – why it’s needed and how to do it
- Short, concise statement of each action to be taken (checklists for regular routines)
- A child’s desire to get the action done (make it a game)
- Reward for completion, or penalty for no completion
Whew! I’m so glad mom’s have the Super Power to creatively inspire their kids!