Sunday, January 9, 2011

Tackling Kids' Chores With Chalk Wall

When is a kitchen cabinet more than just a kitchen cabinet? When it does double duty to help a family stay on top of homework, chores and kids' behavior. 

Let me back up a little. At the beginning of the summer I happened a upon a scheme to reward my kids with stars for playing nicely, doing their chores, making good choices, and all those things I was constantly nagging them to do. Each morning, I posted a handwritten list of tasks on the refrigerator and they crossed each task off as it was completed. For this they received a star or two on my scribbled "star chart," also stuck to the fridge. 

All of a sudden, my nagging stopped. If they wanted to do something and their chores weren't finished, I pointed to the "Jobs List" with a sad look. They knew what they needed to do. And if they decided to misbehave, or fight or hit, or do one of the other things that erodes my patience, they might find their hard-earned stars disappearing with a flick of my eraser. The kids know that when they fill up their stars, they'll get a new toy or a special outing, and they can also use stars to "buy" certain privileges. Things like a special treat, extra screen time and sleep overs with each other can all be purchased with stars. Of course, if they wait too long to start their homework, they might also have to purchase a "Finish Homework After Dinner" pass.

Over the next few months, the star chart became a regular part of our days. I made sure not to overwhelm them with too many tasks or ones that were too difficult or time-consuming, keeping in mind each one's age, ability and attention span. They enjoyed crossing things off their list and watching the stars accumulate, and I realized that I had stumbled into a good tool. So I decided to make the "Star Chart" and the "Job List" a more prominent fixture in the kitchen, and get the scribbled lists off my refrigerator at the same time.
I turned, of course, to Uppercase Living Chalk Walls. Because my kitchen doesn't have a lot of wall space, I decided to use the unused space inside a cabinet door. This particular cabinet is large, and low enough to be accessible to my kids. I used one of our plain Chalk Wall Rectangles (a fantastic value at just $14.95, it's also available in Dry Erase) and cut it in half to get two narrow rectangles. Then I took on the fun task of jazzing up the plain chalkboard with fun lettering and embellishments. Using our MyDesign Suite, I chose a playful font and bright colors for the kids' names and the words "Do this....Now Go Play!" With our Chalk Pens, I can keep track of each child's stars (and easily erase them when unfortunate choices are made) and change out my list of tasks as often as I like. The ugly list is off my refrigerator and has been replaced by a fun and attractive addition to our kitchen (that hides as soon as I close the cabinet). Best of all, I've been able to significantly decrease the amount of nagging I had to do to get my kids to help out with chores. They've realized how quickly these tasks get done and love the feeling of accomplishment that comes from a fully crossed-off list. Of course, they're kids and no system can change that. All of us have good days and bad days. But I'm happy to report that the good seem to outnumber the bad in this instance. Chalk one up for Mom!

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