Today I have three simple parenting recommendations to share. All are no-tech and require only pen, paper, and a sharpie marker. Here are three parenting things that I'd love to recommend:
Write a chore checklist
A while ago I shared that we were using an app called Chore Pad that lets you customize chore lists for different kids and accumulates star rewards when chores are checked off. This worked really well for a while and did accomplish our goal of nagging the boys less in the morning. Instead of asking, "Did you brush your teeth yet?" We could just say, "Chore check in at 7:30!" and let them manage their time to their own benefit or detriment because the boys couldn't leave for school until everything was checked off.
Anyway, what worked less well about the app was that only I had it on my phone (I'm sure Chris could have downloaded it and logged into my account but we just never made a point of it) plus the boys had different chores so the points accumulated unevenly and managing rewards felt tricky. So we slowly abandoned using Chore Pad.
But lately Chris and I noticed our morning nagging increasing which makes for a less pleasant morning for everyone, including us. And so I took up old fashioned paper and a pen and jotted down a simple morning checklist for each of the boys. And this week I made a simple one for Maeve as well which actually was amazing. She ran to go get dressed instead of spending many minutes resisting my requests to change out of her pajamas. Win!
What I love about a checklist, digital or handwritten, is that it removes the obligation of morning chores from me (since I was reminding and checking in) and puts it on the boys where it belongs. The checklist also makes morning chores objective. It's not me asking the boys to get stuff done, which can invite a power struggle if they are in a mood. Instead the expectation from me is straight-forward: when your checklist is done you can leave for school. Luckily the boys both want to leave as early as possible for school and usually bike with friends which works in our favor.
So far I have written the checklists but I might create a simple typed table and print one out at the beginning of each week. I introduced the checklists with no offers of rewards. That feels right for their ages. The reward is that you're ready for school on time and have the satisfied feeling of doing it yourself. But if you wanted to implement this with kiddos who would be resistant then a reward could be tied to completing the checklist so many days in a row. Rewards I have offered previously include a cash reward (adjusted to be age appropriate) or a small toy or going out for a treat.
Write a letter to connect with an upset kiddo
For dealing with big outbursts, meltdowns, and bad behavior with our elementary-aged boys, what we've found to be the most effective is to stay calm in the moment, help the upset kiddo disconnect from whatever was triggering the outburst, and then connect with them later to talk about what happened and how things could go differently next time. We try not to assign consequences in the heat of the moment (which is hard as a parent!) and instead issue one later (if needed) when we talk. We don't assign many consequences outside of natural consequences, such as, "You threw all of the toys so please pick them all up," etc. although sometimes we will ask for an apology letter to be written.
However, one of our boys doesn't love talking about emotions so reflecting on a meltdown doesn't seem to go very far. Recently this kiddo had a big, drawn out meltdown. Chris and I stayed super calm throughout and tried different tactics that sometimes help him calm down but nothing was working. I had to leave for my evening workout class but continued to fret over the upset kiddo. I knew that trying to talk about what happened would likely not be very fruitful. But during class I had an idea: I could write a letter sharing my thoughts and trying to connect. Reading a letter could help him engage in emotional reflection in a way that didn't feel embarrassing.
So, that night, I wrote a letter sharing a couple of reflections on what situations are very upsetting to this kiddo and also wrote out some ideas of things that could help, and asked him to add any of his own ideas. I gave the letter to him in the morning and said, "I'd love to get a letter back from you." A couple days later a letter was waiting for me on my bedside table. It was addressed, "Dear Kelsey" which made me laugh and was signed, "Your only, Name." The letter was short and sweet. Since then I've written both of the boys letters and received answers. While I'm sure there will be more big meltdowns from them both I do think finding ways to talk about them in productive ways makes a difference. I'm so happy to have found this sweet way to connect.
Draw a heart and star on little hands, and yours
Seemingly out of the blue, Maeve has had tearful drop-offs at daycare again (after months of happily going right in and getting to playing). A couple of weeks ago I remembered the idea of drawing a little heart on the hand of your little one and on yours as a way to remind your little one that you are connected even when apart. And so a new little daycare tradition has been born.
Not satisfied with only a heart, Maeve requests, "Heart and 'tar," (the dropped "s" in front of words melts my heart!) and occasionally also requests that I draw a cookie. One day a pickle made an appearance. Do you know how hard it is to draw a cookie or a pickle with a sharpie on a small, pudgy toddler hand? But of course Maeve doesn't care at all about my sharpie drawing skills.
When I pick her up at the end of the day she'll show me her hand and announce, "Heart and 'tar!" and "I was thinking about you today!" and then I'll show her my hand too. Now the "heart and 'star" request has become part of our drop-off routine and I love the sweetness of it.
I'd love to know if you've tried any of these or what simple parenting recommendation you would share.
P.S. If you enjoyed this post you might like some of my other parenting posts such as 8 tips for parenting energetic kids, No recipe baking activity for kids, and What are you most proud of as a mother?