The Parenting Breakthrough Plan (9 Chores For My Toddler)

Lists are near and dear to the heart of this house. I think it's because we get some kind of sick pleasure from checking off little boxes on printed paper.

When it comes to house organization, graduation requirements, work assignments, all those things have tidy lists to keep the project running smoothly and to reach success.

But what about raising a family? Are my children a project?

I just finished a book called The Parenting Breakthrough that challenges parents to make write up their "parenting plans". Author Merrillee Boyack, describes the craziness it is that people don't make parenting plans for their children. The children. The very people who are going to take over for us and be our lawyers and doctors and politicians and the people who will (hopefully) help us walk when we get too old to do it by ourselves. Boyack and her husband wrote up an "independence" plan to help kids be real adults by the time they're 18 or otherwise moving out of the home. I love them for it, because this is saving us a lot of planning grief in the future.

Children, generally, come with developmental stages when they're ready to learn new levels of responsibility. And let me tell you, I didn't learn many life-survival things when I was in high school. 

(To be fair, though, high school did teach me you can successfully bet someone $20 to eat a pig's foot. PRIORITIES, PEOPLE.) 

Some of book's recommendations are setting up hair appointments at age 11 and painting house exteriors at age 14. I've been reading their list and noticing how adult I am not. I don't know how to change a car tire. I don't know the difference between a Roth IRA or 401K. What the heck does "insurance claim" mean?

A person feels pretty darn good when they are entrusted to make big decisions. They feel even more fabulous when they succeed at that very thing. I want to give my kids those feelings of trust & success. That would be great if they knew the difference of retirement accounts and how to change a car tire. 

Plus, I really want those little miracles of life of mine to help out around the house more.

Are my children a project?

In a sense, yes, they are. Those adorable little souls that also rattle my nerves have been entrusted to Taylor and I to pass on the mantle of responsibility someday. I don't know if we'll do a good job at it. I hope so.

This list doesn't include teaching morals. Makes sense. I can never check off teaching "morals" to my children. That is ever growing, ever deepening in their hearts. But I can teach them the basics of how to get by in the world when they leave my home. They'll get by really well in fact, if we stick close to something like this.

As customized, this year we are teaching Arrow:

  • Dress self
  • Toilet trained (will this dream ever come true?!)
  • Pick up toys before bed (without constant reminders)
  • Say little prayers by herself
These are some "chores" she's got in the bag right now. These aren't scheduled, but things that she helps out with.
  • Unload utensil drawer from dish washer. I unload the knives and other child harming objects first, obviously. Then she goes to town with picking out one fork or spoon at a time and bringing it to me to put in the correct slot.
  • Clean up toys. Each night, we tidy Arrow's room before prayers and cuddles. It only takes her 2 minutes to put all the toys back into the toy box. In the past, this has taken a billion reminders and parental guidance to finish, but she's been adjusting to doing more of it herself. I love the clean fresh start we have to each day with clean bedrooms.
  • "Dump" ingredients. Arrow is thrilled each time I bring out the mixing bowls because she knows she gets to "dump it". It definitely lengthens the amount of time it takes to get the muffin batter into the oven, but this is sort of our "thing" that Arrow and I do together. (I'm not a very fun parent most of the time.) Stirring, on the other hand, is another story altogether.
  • Putting away dirty clothes. Arrow has her own small laundry basket where she puts her clothes every night. And also every time she pees herself. Which is often. We haven't started sorting her clothes yet, mostly for lack of caring on mixing colors.
  • Tossing diapers This is why you have more than one child! Because Child #1 thinks it's a game to pick up discarded dirty diapers by Child #2 laying around the house. As long as it looks like a game, then I don't have to collect them. That is genius. 
  • Watering the Herb Garden Before we killed Taylor's herb garden, Taylor and Arrow would go out each morning to water his plants. My grandma got wind of that and picked up this little watering can. It's sort of "in-the-way" to constantly fill up the can each time, so it doesn't come out every morning.
  • Sorting socks This is the only chore that she's starting to figure out isn't wildly fun. Or maybe it's overwhelming, since Taylor has approx. 4,319,048 pairs of mismatching black socks. His socks, by the way, defies my social expectations of men's socks. Don't men wear the same thing everyday anyway?
  • Setting the table This only works with plastic or paper ware (I once gave her a porcelain plate and that was a smashing mistake.) The worth of this chore is manifested in 1. Helping at family dinner and 2. Keeping her distracted so we can all be hangry in peace.
Some other 2 year olds can do these things, too. Some others can't. Some 21 year olds can hold a budget, have a retirement fund, and oil their car before they go on long trips. And that was not me when I was 21. :)

For more on that parenting plan, click HERE for the copy from their website. I think this applies for those who feel like they struggle at the adulting thing. (That was a complicated way to say HEY IF YOU DON'T HAVE KIDS IT'S 'KAY AND HEY IF YOU STRUGGLE AT LIFE HERE'S A LIFELINE.) 

Fingers crossed.

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