The lowly checklist. So common you may have overlooked its power to save your sanity! Yes, it's true, and we can attest to this simple tool's ability to make your home a happier place. Be sure to listen to Episode 136 of our podcast for a few stories about how checklists have helped me become a "YES MOM" much more often, and that does't mean I suddenly just gave in to all my kids' whims. No, I found a way to actually help them want to do the things they needed to do, and had to do, but heretofore always found reasons to argue about. It was exhausting. I know it sounds too good to be true, but I hope you can use a few tips from our podcast and this blog to rediscover and supercharge checklists in your own home.
But first know your why - why do checklists work? I think it's because they put a sense of power back in your kids' hands. That means you may have to give up a little bit of your own power. In my case, I've had to let go of wanting things done right now, and giving some leeway by being satisfied if things on the checklist are done on a reasonable schedule of the child's making. I also had to recognize that checklists are much more effective if there's a meaningful reward at the end of that last check mark. Highly prized screen time is like gold to one of our kiddos. You'd be amazed at what he'll do for just half an hour.
The best part is - not only do important things get done, but less demanding communication means our arguments have decreased... significantly. That's my why. So after much testing and experimentation here's our ULTIMATE CHECKLIST 101 GUIDE:
TIP #1: INVEST IN SOME TOOLS OF THE TRADE
You want to make your checklists visible and easy for you and your kids to communicate with....and dare I say, adorable? Here's what we use:
White boards and dry erase markers in their bedrooms - For our oldest this board is used to lay out every detail of his morning and bedtime routine (more on how we break that down later in the blog). With other kids we use whiteboards to list out what the day will look like and a general breakdown, so they can plan for things like how to dress and when they'll have free time.
Cute checklist pads - These are for me and they've got to be darn cute. I put them by the bedside and, as I spoke about on our podcast episode 136, When I can't sleep at night with a million to-do's running through my mind, I jot them all down on this list to be organized on this checklist pad the next day. It does wonders for allowing my brain to shut off and finally get some zzz's.
Daily checklists - We love these daily checklist notebooks we got for the kids to use during the school year. They know their list needs to be checked off before they can earn screen time. I just fill in what else needs to be accomplished and cross off what doesn't need to be done that day. The space for them to fill in what they are grateful for, how their day was, and reminders to show kindness are bonuses as we ask God to heal our home and create a more kind and loving space.
TIP #2: CHOOSE WORDS THAT WORK
Short and sweet is the key, but here are two more keys to success - When you write out your checklists, start each line with an action word (you know, a verb), and break each task down into its steps. For example, instead of...
"Bedroom Cleanup" ... try
Make your bed
Gather dirty clothes- put in hamper
Vacuum the floor
It may make the list longer, but it keeps the expectation clear and a longer list gives kids a greater sense of accomplishment with every box they check.
TIP #3: KNOW WHAT WORKS
We say it often, but you are the most qualified and the best person to decipher what will work best with your kiddo. We are constantly a student of our own children as we study and learn how God created them awesome and uniquely them. What makes them tick? What prompts do they need to be able to accomplish a task? What reward will really motivate them without compromising your values? In other words, what works?
If your first few tries at checklists haven't worked then analyze to figure out why. Were they too long and complicated? Did your child feel overwhelmed? Have you taught your child how to do the tasks you're asking them to complete? Did you still nag to make sure they were staying on task, or did you try a strategy that many find works - give you child the list along with the reward they will earn, and walk away.
In some cases checklists are an acquired taste. You may have to build up their appreciation for the sense of independence and competence a completed checklist can give them in addition to a meaningful reward.
We hope these ideas work for you they way they have for us. Don't get me wrong, we still have our days, but they are far fewer and much less intense, and for that I'm grateful.
Disclosure: We only endorse products and services we personal use or come highly recommended by friends and family. If you decide to purchase anything using the referral link provided, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Anything we have provided a link for is an item or service we would recommend to our dearest friends, and that includes you.
We are also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. The small commission that is received is going toward our therapy farm at A Home That Heals.