“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibilities on their shoulders.” – Abigail Buren
I don’t get into the habit of offering advice on the subject of raising multiples. For the most part, I feel like we are all just doing whatever we can to survive and just when we think we have a routine established, they throw another wrench into our plan.
There is one area that helped me along the way that I feel confident enough to pass along. It is the subject of chores…and starting them early.
I began realizing that my girls were capable of “helping” me around the age of two – and yes, I purposely put quotation marks around the word helping. At this age the days were long and many times felt very much like Groundhog’s Day. The girls would wake up and it was off to the races. I would get the girls dressed, make them breakfast, brush their teeth, make their beds, pick up their toys, lunch, toys, dinner, toys, brush teeth, toys, pjs, toys, and REPEAT day after day after day. It took so much energy to constantly repeat myself and often I found myself threatening them with punishment when they wouldn’t assist me. I needed a new technique. One that felt more positive and motivating for the girls and that was not mentally exhausting for me to follow through with and stay consistent.
I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out but I decided to make a “chore chart.” I wrote out a list of my daily routine and began thinking of age appropriate tasks in which the girls could participate without making my life more difficult in the process. I chose tasks that they could complete daily and in which they would feel successful. Their chores began very simply with putting their dishes and sippy cups in the sink after meals, placing their clothes in the hamper in the morning and in the evening, picking up toys two times per day, and brushing their teeth (they started and we finished.) Once the chores were established it was time to put my chart together. There were many choices of charts for purchase, but in order to save a buck, I decided to make my own. My chart was a cookie sheet from Walmart with a piece of colorful tape to divide it into two columns. I labeled the sides “To Do” and “Done.” For each chore I printed off pictures that represented the task (ie. a picture of a shirt and shorts for putting clothes in the hamper, a picture of a plate and fork for putting dishes in the sink, etc.) I glued these onto something more rigid like a square cut out of a cereal box or a piece of cardboard to make it sturdy. On the back of the square I glued a strip of magnetic tape and the chart was complete.
When I introduced the chart to the girls they could hardly wait to start “moving their magnets” which for me translated to completing chores, learning responsibility, doing their part for the family, and of course taking something off my plate. Instead of getting frustrated and talking negatively, I could say “I guess you do not get to move your magnet today.” Suddenly their reluctance to pick up toys was replaced with their desire to move the magnet. With the chart there was no reason to reward their good behavior with sweets or gifts. They got the reinforcement they wanted through their own accomplishments.
The chore charts can be modified as your children grow and develop. Tasks can be added and removed and words can replace the pictures as the children begin learning to read.
Mothers of multiples face specific challenges in balancing life with at least two children who are often reaching milestones and accomplishing developmental goals at the same time. This is a blessing, no doubt, but also brings along with it 2 times, 3 times, sometimes even 4 times the amount of work to keep it all together for some semblance of order. It’s always helpful to have an extra tool in your mom tool belt. Maybe this chore chart idea will make it in yours.
Janae Huffman is a mom to twin girls Audrey and Eleanor (age 5) who started kindergarten this year. She is the VP of Events for FWMoM and is a practicing occupational therapist.