“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” Colossians 3:15
Peace and order are two words that describe my heart’s cry for my home! It rarely describes the reality of life with young children in the home, however. I believe the Lord is honored when we are at peace and when we are not consumed with the rat race that so easily entangles each of us. I long for a lifestyle that brings peace to my family and to our home. This does not happen without a great deal of intentionality and purpose!
When my husband and I married, I had ten years of teaching experience. My classroom had been run like a very tight ship. Everything had its place, we were on a schedule and the children knew set consequences for their actions. It was a place of grace, but it was also a place of planned peace.
Since I became a mom to three young children when I married my husband, I expected my family life to look as ordered and controlled as my classroom had for so many years. I had experience and training, and I looked forward to watching the Lord use those years to create an ordered and predictable lifestyle in my new family.
What I didn’t factor in was that children, like all sinners, are not a science. There is a battle for the busyness of their hearts just as much as there is a battle for my own.
It is also true that my children had been through a season of emotional survival and not much was asked of them for a few years of critical, developmental time. When I came on the scene, my children had not been consistently asked to do chores, homework, or eat green vegetables in quite a while. Order is never an adjective to describe a family in crisis-mode, so my children’s early years were a bit more out-of-sorts than most.
Teeming my love for order with my children who were used to entertainment and little structure proved to be very difficult in the beginning. (If I am being honest, it is still hard many days!) I found myself saying “Did you brush your teeth?” “Have you made your bed?” and “Don’t forget to hang up your towel” much more often than I heard myself saying “Great job!” “I love the way you are doing that!” I was a resounding gong of “Have you’s?” and “Please go and’s…” I didn’t want to be that way. I wanted to shower my children with praise and love and not a list of things to do. This was especially important as they had not had a consistent person in their lives require them to do such things for a long time. I certainly didn’t want to be the “new mom” that was a task master all of the time!
I quickly learned that responsibility charts for children work well in our home. (Disclaimer: I realize every family doesn’t function in the same ways, but this has been a very practical life-giving strategy for us.)
I began using my weekends to plan for each child in the week ahead. I printed a “responsibility chart” that I found online and began to list things for them to do each day. I attach it to a clipboard, and it is in the same spot each morning. In the beginning weeks, some of the items were “Brush Teeth, “ “Do Homework,” and “Eat Breakfast” so that there was little room for failure and much room for success!
In the weeks to follow, I began to list things I would like for them to begin working on: “Please make your bed,” and “Please wipe down your bathroom sink and countertop.” As I add a new chore, I take all three children with me to watch me do it the first time. That way, they understand my expectations and know how to do the chore well the first time, leaving little room for me to correct and ask them to “redo” it. Setting them up in this way has helped me ensure less nagging on my part and more praise! (Another disclaimer: just because I show the children how to appropriately clean a toilet does not mean they DO it that way each time, but it’s the goal!)
During the summers, we have more household responsibilities because we are all home much more. It’s the perfect time to begin showing them how to do new chores and keep them busy! Our five-year-old son has loads of endless energy. Put that in the mix with some foaming cleaner and a sponge, and he can clean a bathtub like a champ! He thinks it is fun, and I am grateful for the help!
During the summer weeks, I also pull resources from workbooks that are tailored to help each child where they are struggling in school. This gives us intentional time each day to work on math facts, reading comprehension, and other areas where we might typically have a hard time. We also have “read for 20 minutes” on our big girls’ charts Monday through Friday. This helps me rest knowing they are doing a good amount of reading and staying on track with their schoolwork.
If I did not use this system of clipboard work and responsibility charts, I would not be half as consistent in asking my children to do school work or reading assignments throughout the summer. One of our children even said last fall upon her return to school, “I didn’t like doing so many math facts this summer, but this is the first time I have returned to school feeling ready! We had a practice quiz today, and I knew them all!” What a blessing to see fruit from this disciplined practice!
I don’t ask them to do chores or school work on Sundays. That is our way of beginning to teach the Sabbath rest principle and show them the joys of rest after a long week of responsibility.
I have noticed much more peace abound because of this little organizational tool in our home. It makes me feel so much better to, occasionally, say, “How’s that clipboard coming?” Rather than rattle off a list of ten things each child needs to do each day.
The idea of asking children to help around the home brings up many conversations that are helpful in their spiritual training, as well. We talk about serving others and using our abilities to serve the Lord (1 Peter 4:10). It also allows the older children to help the younger children learn to do their chores well (Titus 2). My children have also begun to recognize, that when they want me to play a game or take them somewhere and I am in the middle of a chore that I, too, am serving our family and they might need to wait until I am through.
I hope this practical tip will help some of you the way that it has helped our family bring peace into our home.
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