If anyone had told me at the start of this school year (Feb 1st – you know, sensibly following the *actual* year) that Mr Hare (aged 10) would be not only out of bed before us but have half his chores done before I had risen, that he’d have all his chores done by 6.50am AND that he’d very sagaciously say to me, “You know Mum it’s good being organised, then I get more time to play,” – I would have thought you were completely insane.
He’s had chores for a very long time. We’ve told him and told him that if he’d just get on and do things, he’d have more time to play. But no. Some mornings there’d be a few reminders and other mornings there’d be a lot. At times there would be an angry voice or two. Even Mr Owl, who is naturally more organised, would drag his feet. Thank-goodness, that is all in the past!
We have no stress mornings. We have boys who get up and get organised with no fuss. We often remind (in a normal conversational voice) Mr Owl of a few things, because he’s six – and his brain isn’t built for sustained personal organisation yet. Usually he’ll ask for reminders, which we happily provide. Mr Hare might get a prompt (more about this in a minute) but we don’t help him at all. It’s H.E.A.VE.N.L.Y.!
Want to know how we did it?
1.We set a non-negotiable time limit of everything done within 45 minutes of rising. We also have a 45 minute/1 hour time limit (depending on what needs to be done) on evening chores, including homework.
2. I wrote up the chores to be done morning and afternoon – none of them new, and put them where they could see them. We read through them together.
3. I told the boys that they would have a boring and practical chore to complete if they weren’t finished (weeding the garden mostly – one bucket full for every chore incomplete).
4. We told Mr Hare we would only give him one time reminder (the prompt) during the time-frame. Mr Owl is allowed reminders until he is aged nine-ish.
5. We did as we said. Without raising our voices. Without nagging. We said nothing – other than giving the prompts we said we would give.
6. In the afternoon, before we got/get home, I’d ask each of the boys what their first three things to complete would/will be.
7. We got on with our own morning/afternoon chores and paid them no attention at all, apart to say, Thank-you, when they had finished a task. And to speak pleasantly to them about other things, give them cuddles etc.
8. If they had a consequence to complete – it happened the same day.
It didn’t start well. It nearly killed our levels of frustration not to nag or cajole – or say anything. Mr Hare had a hissy-fit with the piano and bashed it with his hands and feet the first morning. Nine buckets of weeds that afternoon…
The first week was horrid. The second week was too. Then things began to change. Piano practises calmed. Chores were most often done on time. This week – week five with the time limits – and we have this magical household.
Why does it work? Simply because our words and actions now match one another. We gave them the realistic and manageable tasks to complete; then we butted-out and showed, through our calm non-nagging, that we trusted they would get things done.
We had lovely cuddles, the same as we always had. We had pleasant conversation, the same as we always had.
We just simply gave/give one time prompt to Mr Hare and gave/give Mr Owl the next chore (or chores ) on his list – often he asked/asks anyway. Otherwise we don’t mention chores.
The consequences are useful because they are boring – their intuitive/emotional brain has a chance to process, they are working physically – their cortisol/adrenalin levels (from being cross that they have to work) are reduced, and their reasonable/rational brain is put on hold because the first two things are taking up all the space in their heads.
So, this morning on the way to the bus-stop I asked the older boys how it felt to be organised with no fuss in the morning. They both said, “Great!” I could tell they felt better about themselves from their posture and the general happy noises/conversation.
They are more self-assured because they know they *can* get themselves organised. And that we appreciate their efforts.
How was getting out the door, in your house, this morning?