Make Every Day a Happy Day With Your Kids

Filed under: Cabin Fever, Chores

Routines are the glue that stick together the hours and activities in our days. On a good day, Cabin Fever only has to remind her children to do things once. (On a day of amazing fabulosity, I'd never have to remind anyone of anything at all; but that day has yet to come). On not-so-good-days, I'm repeating the same instructions over and over and over, as if I am a crazy person talking to myself, and no one is listening, and we are going to be so late, do you hear what I am saying to you?

This is the usually the point at which I hear myself yelling the following: "Why do I have to yell to get your attention?" Sigh. Not the best way to start the day.

Mornings are when a family most craves and needs routine. Mornings set the tone for the rest of the day. Here is our chance to connect with each other before we set off on our day's separate ventures. Yet there is much that needs doing, in the morning.

Are school bags packed and ready to go? Has homework been completed? Who is dropping off the toddler at nursery school? Is there an unusual appointment on the calendar? Do you want peanut butter and jam on your toast, or cream cheese and apple butter?

We are leaving in nine minutes. You're still wearing your pajamas? Gah!

Cabin Fever has the organizational key: a Happy Day checklist.
Our Happy Day checklist is simple in the extreme. On a piece of colourful construction paper, taped to the wall near the breakfast bar, we find a short list of everything that must get done in the morning. (We have an after-school checklist that has proved to be somewhat less useful. It is harder to be consistent at that hour, when every day offers a unique scheduling quirk: unplanned play date, or music classes, or swim lessons). But the morning rarely changes. Get up. Get dressed. Eat. Everyone has responsibilities. Not complicated ones, mind you. But important nevertheless.

Our family's "Happy Day checklist" was born on by a particularly difficult evening. The house was in a crumb-cluttered, toy-tossed, almost indescribable state of yuck. We'd suffered complete pandemonium after supper, both parents too tired to rise from the table to staunch the inevitable tragedy-in-waiting. (Nothing too terrible happened.) But, crikey, it was loud. You could have called it downright chaos. Anarchy.

Eventually, I rose. A quiet idea was forming in my mind. We needed a clear way to assign responsibility and express expectations--but more than that. When we were rushed or tired or frazzled, it was too easy to lose track of something important. To forget what was working. To drop the ball.

After dish-washing and lunch-packing, I asked our two eldest offspring to fetch paper and crayons: "Help me plan our new morning and evening responsibilities." In fact, there was nothing new about any of these. What was new was that we were writing it up and posting it on the wall under the saleable title of: Happy Day AM! and Happy Day PM!

(Chores, duties, and other words of that ilk did not ring with inspiration. But rest assured, this is not a case of Orwellian doublespeak. The checklist has indeed made our mornings -- and therefore our days -- much happier).

Months into the experiment, our eldest continues to check the list faithfully every morning--and to announce what we've yet to accomplish. Our pre-readers still need direction, but the list helps out the adults, too. It's a visual guide that reminds us how to start another Happy Day.

Your checklist may contain different items. Ours looks like this:

Happy Day AM!

- get up and get dressed
- eat breakfast
- vitamins
- brush hair
- brush teeth
- check agenda / calendar
- lunch + water bottle in bag
- kids pack snack on Mondays and Thursdays
- hugs!

Make your own Happy Day checklist: Get creative! Turn this project into a craft. Use cut-out pictures or drawings instead of words. Have each family member make an individual checklist. Put checklists on a magnetic board and personalize magnets to keep track of progress. But whatever you do, keep the items on the list itself as simple -- and doable -- as possible.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.