Monday, June 2, 2014

Busy Boxes

So, I am going to assume that every family struggles with keeping their kids motivated and on top of chores, schoolwork/homework etc. Don't disagree with me, I need the comfort of the Sisterhood of Mothers Trying to Get Their Kids to do Anything Besides Stare at Us Like We are Speaking Klingon! 

In another attempt to breakthrough the blasé, we have implemented another new system of organization! 

And this one is definitely going to work! Forever!! 

Bahahahahahaa! (Wiping away a laughing tear...)

Ok, probably not forever. But for a long while let's hope.

Here are the kiddo's Busy Boxes:

Busy Boxes are the whole days scheduled activities in a box. It is divided into sections, Morning, Afternoon, and Night. Each section contains index cards with jobs written on them. When the jobs in a section have been completed, then a privilege is earned. This is primarily for the big kids, and sort of a training ground for Kit. 

This big kids each have five morning jobs that must be completed everyday. These cards stay in their box and are always the same. When both kids finish all five things, then they can watch a movie. We encourage Kit to complete her morning jobs, but we are keeping it only positive right now, no consequences if she doesn't feel like cooperating. But with the momentum and encouragement from the big kids, she had been happy to participate in at least a few of her "jobs".

Giving Kit some "real" jobs has proven a fantastic way to help her move through her day, hold her attention, and build in sensory diet activities and OT breaks right into the routine in a way that makes her more excited to participate! She makes her bed by pulling her weighted blanket up and straitening it out while climbing all over her bed. Carrying a big cup of water over an over to fill the dog bowl is great heavy work and focus activity. And I also put together a little cleaning caddie, just for her! I got a sectioned basket with a handle, a small spray bottle, duster, and mini-sweeper/dustpan, and cut up a towel into little cleaning clothes. All from the dollar store. She now cleans her mirror, dusts her toy drawers, and helps "sweep". She goes and gets her caddie herself from the bathroom cabinet, and puts it away with equal independence! The jobs provide her a focus, and allow me to accomplish more without her shadowing me, whining 'I need you to hold meeeeee!'

After their movie, they move on to their afternoon jobs. These cards vary from day to day depending on the jobs that need doing, some occurring only once a week or once or twice a month. School assignments are included in this section. The kids can pick and choose from their cards in their box and do the jobs in any order they chose, unless we request a certain job first, like taking out the trash for example. They have all afternoon on most days to accomplish their tasks. When all their jobs are done, they are allowed to have up to 2 hours screen time, not to begin before 3pm, and ending precisely at 7pm regardless of how little of their time they may have utilized. It's a use it or loose it system. It does not get carried over or saved up. Grace for example, dawdled a bit in getting all her jobs finished yesterday, she ended up not earning her screen time until about 6:30, which meant she only got to play for about half an hour. 

The cards are color coded. Red is for Kit. Blue for Grace. Black for Zak. Green is for jobs that anyone can do. In an average day, the big kids have their five morning jobs (one of which is breakfast), two to three school assignments, and two to three afternoon chores, along with going outside. A few days they have several little jobs, and a few days they have one bigger job and only one or two very little jobs. Showering around here counts as a job, because neither of them ever want to do it, so it has to be assigned!

Their  nighttime jobs are getting ready for bed in a timely manner. If they finish on time, they get their full amount of reading time, if they dawdle, they loose minutes of reading time and, depending on why they are running late, may owe cleaning time the next day.

Throughout the day, as jobs are completed, the cards are moved behind the Finished Fish in their boxes. Before bed, we examine the boxes to see if all the jobs have been completed. If they have, then the kids each earn their token, a specific laminated shape that they get to stick onto their chart. 

At the end of the week, we will count the tokens. Anyone who earned at least five gets to pick a prize from the Goodie Basket. If they earned all seven, they get a prize, and a special freezer treat. If they all earned at least five, then a blue fish token is velcroed to the Goodie Basket. at the end of the month, depending on the number of fish earned, we will do a special activity, like a trip to see friends, or a visit to the water park or beach.

I love this system so far! It is uniform for all three kids, yet flexible and personalized to their jobs. It fosters their independence and personal responsibility for keeping on top of their stuff. The consequences of not participating are natural and built in, so I don't look like the bad guy for enforcing the rules. Everybody knows what they are and knows what is expected, if you don't comply, that is your choice and your consequence. And the incentive to finish is also motivated by the fact that if you don't do it today, it will still be in your box tomorrow along with tomorrow's jobs.

It takes me less than five minutes a night to organize and fill in the cards for the next day. And no matter what time the kids get up, the boxes are ready and waiting. The kids don't need to ask what they are supposed to do, they just go check themselves, so I am not having to nag either. I do offer gentle reminders at times, but leave it to them to execute. 

I have noticed an immediate drop in squabbling between Zak and Grace, and Grace and Kit. Because they all know what to do, they are busy minding their own business trying to earn their rewards instead of rolling around on the couch annoying each other while I shout reminders from another room. (Grace still needs occasional reminders to let Kit take care of her own jobs, in her own way.) 

And bedtime has also become almost instantaneously smoother, which is a 99% reduction in my stress levels at that time of night!!

I'm sure we will run into snags, or that the novelty will wear off. But I'm going to be a blind, raving, optimist and say that this is going to work for YEARS!

And the system is super easy to set up and implement. I bought almost all the supplies at the dollar store, except the laminating sheets (the most expensive part, but also optional. I chose to laminate our tokens and token boards because my kids are rough on stuff and I really wanted these to last for a LONG time, so I viewed it as a worthy investment), the Velcro tabs to attach the tokens to their charts, and the patterned scrapbook paper which I lined the inside of the boxes with to make them unique an pretty! This system could be elaborately more personalized and prettied up, or simplified even more for cost savings. And it can work for one child to a dozen or more, since it is sort of a cross between classroom organization and Supernanny home routine/reward systems.

Happy Monday!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Excellent plan. I think it'll work great for a long time also. You have given it much thought. I love all the colors you used to keep things lively. :)
    I think I will try that with my kiddos. Thanks