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The Frazzled Catholic Mom’s Guide to Getting through Mass (Mostly) in One Piece

The Frazzled Catholic Mom's Guide to Getting through Mass Mostly in One Piece

I really should do an audio version of this post so reading passers-by really get the experience of being the frazzled Catholic mom {and dad, too!} in the pew! If you’re a parent who brings your small circus to church each week {if you aren’t, read this and come back}, you are probably nodding furiously right now in solidarity. ✊ 

You know – scratch that, audio really wouldn’t do the trick. If it weren’t so painfully humbling, I would totally have someone follow us to church, from getting out the door to arriving back home. Call it behind the scenes, if you will. 

I’m just going to invite you to use your imagination. ?

Whether you’re the mom who appears to have it all together during Mass (yeah right!) or the dad who desperately wants to get out of the cry room, or the narthex, or the little overhang outside where you’ve been banished from the cry room due to intense toddler tantrums, hopefully, you’ll glean a little hope and encouragement from my post.  

The Frazzled Catholic Mom's Guide to Getting through Mass (Mostly) in One Piece


STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS, YOU FRAZZLED MOM!

  1. PICK YOUR MASS TIME CAREFULLY. I learned long ago that 5:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday as well as 11:30 a.m. Mass times don’t work for our family. So 9:30 a.m. Sunday it is! The other times interfere with meals and/or naps – always have, always will. They are usually reserved for weekends when we have to go to what I call “splitskies” due to illness or some other extenuating circumstance. What time works best for you and yours?
  2. ATTEND THE SAME MASS TIME. Now that you’ve picked your regular Mass time, guess what? Make it…yep -regular! The consistency helps your kiddos with what the expectations are each weekend. I get it that families are busy and isn’t it awesome that you can pick whatever Mass time you want because of sports and other extracurricular activities, but I will challenge you on this. Consider strongly the message that can potentially send to your kids…church fits around our activities and not the other way around. I know, I’m mean. Oh wells…
  3. SET YOUR ALARM TWO HOURS BEFORE YOU NEED TO LEAVE. I know it sounds freakishly early, but whether you go to 5:00 p.m. vigil Mass on Saturday or 9:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday or any other Mass time, putting a ringing alarm in your phone will help you corral all your people to get out the door. If it takes you 10 minutes to get to church, then set your alarm two hours before you need to arrive at the church, NOT when Mass starts. 
  4. DRESS CLOTHES IN ONE CENTRAL LOCATION. This one is especially good if you have little helpers who like to stash their church clothes {and let’s be honest, uniforms, and other dress-up occasions} in all corners of the house, along with dress shoes and socks, lol. I like to keep kids dress clothes in my laundry room, hung up after they come out of the dryer and ready to wear on Sunday. This alone removes a LOT of stress. 
  5. NEED AN END PEW SEAT AKA QUICK AND EASY EXIT? Years ago, when our oldest boy became an altar boy, we made the family decision to be at church 30 minutes before Mass starts. We also quickly learned that our favorite section and pew to sit in {ok, it’s my favorite section – I doubt anyone else in my family cares, but I’m a strategist like that! It’s a big church and I want my kids to be able to find us easily!} is often taken! It was sincerely the most bizarre thing! 30 minutes early and STILL we were racing to grab that edge seat! It’s perfectly located to the transept, the cry room, and bathroom. It’s a strategist mom’s dream spot!
  6. ROUTINE. Getting to church early each week has provided consistency for our kiddos. We aren’t stressed looking for a seat. They know we have plenty of time to pray, get settled, recite the rosary with others in the church, and even visit our priest in the narthex as he welcomes folks in. It’s become a thing that we all know the drill. Kneel, pray, recite the rosary, visit our priest for a few moments and say good morning to fellow parishioners, ask if he’s celebrating Mass, and then we are on our way to our seat! 
  7. NO FOOD. NO, REALLY. Here’s why…you will regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not while your toddler’s face is stuffed with dull Cheerios and you are enjoying the maybe five minutes of silence the food has bought you. What I’m talking about here is the BREAKING of that habit {ask me how I know!} and how it will make you regret every single time you ever brought food into church. More important than a bad habit, you can potentially expose someone with food allergies. And that’s just not worth it, friends. It’s just not. 
  8. MASS BAG. I love these! We’ve been bringing a Mass bag for years. It usually has the same tattered books in it – well-loved from many slobbering babies and toddlers. Due to a string of miscarriages, we had a long enough age gap between #6 and #7. We are just now refilling our Mass bag. Some ideas can be board books, cloth books, a stuffy that doesn’t have a rattle, crinkle paper, or squeaker inside of it, and maybe a soft rosary. Definitely not the wooden ones that your child will chuck at your friends who sit in front of you and almost renders them blind. Also, consider adding…
  9. MAGNIFIKID! If you’ve ever seen or subscribed to Magnificat, then you may know about their edition for early elementary. These are perfect for early readers – parents and older siblings can help guide them in their reading, too. Magnifikid is a subscription of weekly booklets based on Novus Ordo readings. It follows the Mass and includes games and trivia as well. We recently made the decision to get a subscription for our five and seven year old and both of them LOVE it! Now, if they would just share the crayons. ?
  10. ALTAR SERVER. Once your kids are old enough, get them on the altar! Not only are they out of the pew, they are learning some pretty valuable life skills when they serve others and assist the priest during Mass. Do you have kiddos who balk at the idea of serving? This post may be for you. 
  11. SIT UP FRONT. UNLESS YOU CAN’T. THEN DON’T. This is pretty straightforward. Plenty of folks suggest sitting up front where your kids can see what’s going on. If everyone with kids did this, we’d all pretty much BE the front row, amiright? Or maybe you have that kiddo whose energy could light up several large cities and sitting up front may be the worst idea ever because you keep getting up to go to the narthex or cry room with all the screaming and crying, yours OR the baby’s. So, sit up front. Unless you can’t. Then don’t.
  12. ASSIGNED SEATS. We occasionally have to enforce this, but if you know who is oil and water in your family, strategizing your seating may well be one of the best, if not the best idea to lower that stress level. I have two kiddos who are thick as thieves. Cute as they are, they will be my undoing if we allow them to sit next to each other. 
  13. NURSERY. If your church offers a nursery, don’t feel like you’re a bad parent if you use it. Use it and abuse it! Well, don’t abuse it – you know what I’m getting at. There are seasons of life when it can actually be an act of charity to those around you to not subject them to the high-pitched wailing from your threenager. 
  14. THICK SKIN. Be prepared for the side-eye from people who aren’t used to your circus. Yes, it’s your circus, and yes, those are your monkeys. And, yes, someone may roll their eyes if you don’t pop up out of the pew and head straight to the cry room. I call it the “naughty room”  {ok, I call it that so my kids won’t want to go in there. It doesn’t always work, though!}, but take heart. The secular world tells us to feel “shamed,” but the reality is we can choose how we feel and react. We can choose to assume the best in others, even when we feel wrongly judged. Shake it off. People sigh and roll their eyes because they aren’t perfect either. They just don’t happen to have a screaming toddler clinging to their thigh to punctuate their frustration. There has to be give and take from those without screaming kiddos and those of us with the little noisemakers. My advice? Don’t even look people in the eye. I find it’s much easier to just look ahead or at the ground. My husband and I know what to do – no need to be distracted by the side-eye. 
  15. END WITH PRAYERS. After the recessional song ends, take a minute or two to say a final prayer of thanksgiving. End your time at church the way you start, with a quiet moment of gratitude for the living God Who makes all things possible.
  16. TREAT. Yay! You’ve made it to the end of Mass and most of your kids weren’t crawling up the pews during the announcements. People may have even congratulated you on your “well-behaved children.” In the rare instance that happens to us, I quickly thank these folks and then request they not follow us out to the car, whereby the time my children have crossed the threshold of the church door, have returned to absolute, and UTTER insanity. We try not to treat it like a bribe and our kids have learned along the way that Mom and Dad decide when to reward good behavior. It’s not an every Sunday thing. Sometimes it’s getting a Slurpee after Mass and other times it’s rewarded with my offering to make them hot chocolate with our homemade breakfast. It varies. 

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN

WHAT TIPS WOULD YOU ADD?   |   HOW DO YOU SURVIVE MASS WITH LITTLES?

This post is part of our micro-series entitled “Amplify Your Mass Experience.” Stay tuned for the next installment and don’t forget to subscribe!

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Allison Homeschool Ink Slingers It Worked For Me

Boob Tube Homeschooling

Our Alaskan sun begins shining through the windows again in February and stirs desires for planting and prettiness that the still-deep snow squelches. Because I get a little burned out this time of year, I purchase Shiny Things for the children to plug into the television, then send them off on inspired, educational rabbit trails. This is not because I want to lock them in the den and do my own thing; quite the contrary. I watch with them. They love that part. It is because I’m tired of last August’s perfect plans. After math –I never renege on math– here are a few things I’ve purchased recently and some of the activities that sprang from them:

Fantasia 2000 spurred an idea to separate the kids into different corners with a sketch pad and colored pencils. While a piece of classical music played (not one from the film), I told them to draw anything that came to mind (not one from the film). Some drew designs, some drew scenes, and some drew monsters.

Reading Rainbow DVD on music got the kids creating their own version of Stomp. Loud but lovely. Also, the conductor from the orchestra segment said something profound about each musician holding back a bit of breakout talent for the ordered beauty of the orchestra. It made me think about reigning in a bit for the good of the family.

Liberty’s Kids spawned writing assignments and role-playing and hilarious British, German, and Scottish accents. Whom did you like the best ~ John Paul Jones? Van Steuben? Dr. Warren? Why? What was he like?

Schoolhouse Rock gets them singing all the songs. It’s awesome and it’s enough.

Beatrix Potter short films bring to life her little books. They are sweet, proper, mischievous, but never crass. I had the children do some nature journaling every day for a week in the same spot, hoping to foster some observation. Some drew bugs, some drew our farm animals, some made up stuff, and one cried that he didn’t see anything.

National Geographic VHS tapes to play on a 23 year old TV bomb with a VHS player. If you have a newer model, I guess you’ll have to stream! Find the place on maps and globes, draw the outline of the land and animal, and write three facts you learned.

Animated Hero Classics by Nest Entertainment are thirty minute sketches of heroes from across time and place that incorporate clear examples of a defining virtue, as well as important facts. The set includes downloadable activity books with crossword puzzles, secret codes, coloring pages, etc. Just too easy. *Now these are expensive. We homeschool under our state’s umbrella and are reimbursed for educational expenses.

So the boob tube helps me homeschool through May, when the snow melts and things turn green up here. Then I let the earth do its teaching throughout the summer.

 

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Deirdre Homeschool Ink Slingers It Worked For Me Parenting

Traveling Technology-Free with Children

My husband and I have lived far away from our families and friends for almost our entire marriage, so we take a lot of road trips with our young children. I’m not a fan of playing movies for my children and don’t give them electronic toys, so keeping them entertained on long road trips takes a little bit more planning and creativity. Here are some of my tricks and tips for keeping young children entertained on long road trips, without turning to screen time.

One of my best car tricks I learned from a dear friend when we lived in student housing in Austin: set up a store in the car, filled with various types of prizes: stickers, matchbox cars, magic invisible markers, books, special snacks and lollipops, etc. I try to have a variety of car-friendly activities and snacks/special treats in the store. These don’t have to be expensive, I try to find things on clearance or dollar aisles. I also have a set of toy money. My children are paid $1 for each half-hour or 1 hour they behave in the car, depending on their age and the length of the road trip, etc. In addition to normal expected good behavior, behaving in the car includes not asking “are we there yet?”, “how much longer?”, “has it been an hour yet?” or “when can I have my dollar?” I try to start the time on the hour, so it is easier for the children (and me!) to keep track of. Once they have behaved for a full hour, they earn their dollar. They can choose to buy something small from the store, or they can choose to save their dollar so they can buy something bigger from the store once they have earned a few more dollars. Admittedly, this game takes some planning: buying varying prizes for the store, having enough prizes to last the entire trip, and enough desirable prizes that different children will want, coming up with their prices, keeping track of the time and money, etc. But it also teaches them so much: they are learning about time, the clock, money, adding and subtracting, the value of saving your money versus spending it immediately, the varying prices of commodities, and adding and subtracting. I am also reinforcing values of obedience and good-behavior: if a child does not behave, they don’t earn their dollar that hour. I’ve also added in other incentives at times, like when my oldest son was learning to read, he could earn an extra dollar for every book he joyfully read to his younger siblings. This game has worked very well for us on various road trips, especially as the children get older. It’s harder to implement with young children but I will usually just reward a young child with a small prize when the older children are buying their prizes. There are many ways you could adapt this game to work for your family.

Certain crafts can also be great for road trips. We’ve had great success with stringing beads on pipe cleaners, stickers on construction paper, and pre-packaged craft projects from craft stores like foam letters and numbers to write things or make a picture on construction paper, or foam nativity pieces to put on a foam stable at Christmas time. With children as young as mine, I avoid projects that require glue or glitter or anything excessively messy in the car, but stickers and pipe cleaner projects seem to work well.

Coloring is another favorite for my children. I try to get them a new coloring book or small activity book for a car trip. Melted crayons can make a huge mess in the car so I bring colored pencils instead. But my new favorite coloring tool for road trips is magic invisible markers! The ink in the marker is clear, but color appears when the marker touches the special paper sold with the makers. These are fantastic because they don’t leave a mess on your car seats, clothes, or fingers, and the young children love using them and seeing a beautiful picture appear. This is a little bit more expensive of a road trip prize, but I have been able to find a package of 10-20 special pictures that the magic markers work on, and just buy one package and all the kids share it. They really love this road trip treat!

Books can be another great activity on road trips. Older children can obviously read their own books, and I strongly encourage this (as long as they don’t get car sick!) but my children also enjoy being read to. Our home school curriculum usually has a chapter book that we’re supposed to be reading for family read-aloud anyway, so I’ll bring that in the car and read that to the children, which they really enjoy. Another educational option is to bring library books specific to the area you’re going to visit (we brought some great books about the Grand Canyon and the dessert when we took a road trip out west. The children loved having new books to look at and learned a lot in preparation for the sights they were about to see). We tried a book on tape for our children on our most recent road trip, and it was not a huge success, but that’s mostly because our children are still too young. The 6 year old was very into the story, but the younger children were not. It was still great for the 6 year old and I’m sure the other children will enjoy it more as they get older. Favorite picture books for the younger children or a new book older children can earn from the prize bag are always a hit.

Of course classic car games can still be a lot of fun, for children who are old enough: My Mother Packed a Bag and the License Plate Game are essential to any good road trip! Spot It is small and easy for children sitting next to each other to play in the car. The Magna Doodle is another favorite for long car trips. Children of all ages can use it to draw and practice writing, but it can also be used for tick-tack-toe, hang man, Pictionary, and other drawing games.

The car can also be the perfect place for some home schooling lessons, especially group history and geography lessons relating to the areas you’re visiting. My children enjoy school workbooks, so I bring those and encourage them to do a few pages of phonics and math throughout the trip.

Snacks can be a good distraction and special road trip reward. I try to buy special snacks that we don’t usually have, while also bringing snacks that are healthy, aren’t too loaded with sugar, and aren’t too messy.

For younger children, I rotate through several of their favorite toys and books, but this is by far the best road trip toy I have found for my babies and toddlers: the Manhattan Skwish. It is amazing, trust me.
Obviously, pulling off a successful technology-free road trip with several young children takes a bit of extra planning and packing, but I think it’s worth it. My husband might joke about how much extra stuff I bring in the car to entertain and educate the children on our trip, but I’d prefer that to the mind-numbing hum of electronics in the car any day.

What are some of your road trip essentials for children?

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Discipleship Faith Formation Ink Slingers It Worked For Me Martina Parenting Vocations

9 Ways to Cultivate a Servant’s Heart in Your Child

9 Ways to Cultivate a Servant's Heart in Your Child

A question I hear from time to time is how to raise your kids Catholic with the undertone of really, how do you get your kids to stay Catholic?

As a cradle Catholic who is a married, homeschooling mom to six kids – the eldest getting closer and closer to 20 and the youngest just three – I finally feel like I can look back and see some parenting trends that through the years have worked for us and I want to touch on one of them today: cultivating a servant’s heart.

Recently, I participated in our parish MOMs group annual experienced moms panel, where this very question came up. As I started to answer the question, I felt the need to preface my response with the following:

You can do all the “right” things and your child may fall away from the Faith, and you might do all the “wrong” things and end up with a child who is completely devoted to the Faith.

You Can Do All The Wrong Things

What I was really trying to do was ease the minds of the mommas present. While there are things we can do to help foster that love of the Faith in their formidable years, in the end, they may stray from the Faith. We know we can always make our prayer to place the care of their soul in God’s hands and ask St. Monica for her intercession. Oh, how I wish there were a way to know for certain that they’d remain Catholic!  

MODELING THE BEHAVIOR WE WANT

Kids can pick up on hypocrisy a mile away, whether it’s in matters of the Faith or everyday stuff. At the root of this question of how to raise and keep our children Catholic should automatically include self reflection:

♦ How is our relationship with God?

♦ Do our daily habits reflect what we want to see from our children?

♦ How often do we speak about Catholicism to our children?

♦ Do we talk about it as a series of goals and bullet points, or do we talk about how it is integrated into our inner being and how that translates into our daily actions?

♦ Do we talk about our spiritual weaknesses honestly with our children?

♦ Do we make sure we have an open line of communication with our kids? 

♦ Do they know they can come talk to us about their problems as raw, broken people and know that we, as their parents, will be there to hug, cry, pray with them, and walk them through their problems instead of brushing them off or simply telling them to only “go pray about it” without giving them a game plan to work through their problems?

The task of creating rich foundational soil for our kids to grow and thrive in starts with us. If we are spiritually running on empty, not making time for God in our own lives, it stands to reason that we cannot properly model the actions we wish to see from our kids.

This is not to say that we won’t have our own spiritual rough patches to work through, but kids often need a tangible, real, honest living example to see, especially and particularly if it isn’t the spit shine perfect example we’d like to give them. I personally think it can be beneficial for kids to see and know we struggle from time to time. It makes living the Faith real for them, and when they face their own dark days as they get older, they will know the Faith isn’t always rosy or fun. It’s hard work. But it’s worth every ounce and pound of hard work we put into it.

HOW TO CREATE A SERVANT’S HEART

What I’m about to share with you should be considered a tool in the parenting arsenal. I hesitate to paint anything as a do this and you will be guaranteed your kids won’t leave the Church! strategy followed by my cheesy attempt to sell you some wares. What I want to share is what seems to be working for us…right now. Parenting is a constantly evolving process that involves employing certain tactics and strategies before bringing in new tactics and strategies. When you have a lot of children, your workload multiplies and the need to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses also increases.  

  1. Momma Mary
    My Miraculous Medal that my youngest loves to kiss and ask Momma Mary to help him be good.

    Teach them to love God…more than you and your spouse. I do a lot of failing as a Catholic. I think the phrase practicing Catholic was coined just for me some days. I do my best to impress upon my children that while my relationship with them collectively and individually will never be perfect, that they always have a loving Father and Mother who will never fail them. I ask them to pray for me to our Blessed Mother and loving Father.

  2. Don’t tell them to pray. Teach them to pray. It’s not enough for them to see you praying. Show them how to pray, when to pray, and the different kinds of prayers: rote prayers, off the cuff, novenas, rosaries, and how to listen for prayer intentions. 
  3. Make sure they {and you} are going to confession frequently and receiving Jesus in the Eucharist at least once a week. 
  4. (You) be in service to others. There are a lot of great ways to be in service to others. If you have little littles at home, you might have to get creative since service and herding cats children can be difficult! Consider taking a meal to a family in need, donating some clothes or baby gear you aren’t currently using, a gas card for a seminarian, or have your littles draw a nice picture for your priest. Find what works for your current state in life and go with that! Here is an article I wrote a couple of years ago on how to manage the Catholic crazy in your life. 
  5. Model that service to your children. Make sure to talk to your kids about your plans to serve others. If the task at hand is simple, ask for their input and help. Homeless bags or food donations to St. Vincent de Paul or your local food pantry are great ways to get their help and model that service to them. If you adopt a family for Christmas, try putting your kids in charge of one item to get so they have that experience, too.
  6. Find opportunities for your children to serve. As your children get older, finding them opportunities to continue what you’ve been modeling to them is really important. Volunteering and serving can be great ways to fight the urge to be selfish or entitled. Mobile Loaves & Fishes is a great one that’s local in my area, but you can also have them help sort food at the food pantry, see if any of your religious orders need help with any work, or having your older kids volunteer for VBS, altar serving, or helping with the parish youth ministry. 
  7. Teach them the importance of honoring their commitments. When they have found something they’d like to do, give them the opportunity to practice discerning their yes or no.  My oldest son – who is in his sixth year as an altar boy – has served more Sundays than not over the course of that time, which required a huge commitment from the whole family. We needed to make sure we could get to church on time so that he could serve and it was and still is a sacrifice our family continues to make. Because we homeschool, he often serves funeral Masses and has recently decided to seek out weddings to serve as well. Before he said yes to weddings, I told him to take some time to think and pray on it. I rarely ask them to give me a yes/no on the spot. They need time to process what that commitment will require from them. The flip side is that once they are committed to doing something, they know not to ask me if they can quit or stop. The time to discern is before you say yes. After that, you need to see your obligation through. 
  8. Teach them not to spread themselves too thin. And the same goes with you, too! Remember, your domestic church is important. God will never call you to service that will cause disruption in your home life or conflict with your primary vocation. 
  9. Respect their commitment schedule. They’ve prayerfully discerned what they’d like to do. Now it’s up to you to help them honor their schedule and time commitment. 

WHAT SEEMS TO BE WORKING IN YOUR FAMILY?

BONUS – here is a neat video clip of some good work being done in our community. The two kiddos, Jacob and Carol, are good friends of our oldest boy and middle girl. 🙂

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Ink Slingers It Worked For Me Misty Parenting Vocations

It Worked for Us: Zone Cleaning for Teens

Our downstairs bathroom before zone cleaning.
Our downstairs bathroom before zone cleaning. (I took this to jokingly guilt my husband while he was on a mini-vacation.)

I’ll never forget the day an old friend told me she still cleans her 14-year-old daughter’s room, does her laundry, and even makes her lunches for school. She related this to me in the midst of a conversation lamenting that her daughter was a “spoiled, disrespectful brat” (her words) who takes her mother’s sacrifices for granted. She marveled that my school-aged children seemed more competent than her teenager.

I’ve noticed that many modern parents have the idea that their children will magically transform from helpless, dependent infants to self-sufficient adults at age 18 with no guidance from them. But realistically, our children need to be trained in self-discipline from the beginning and gradually given more and more responsibility for themselves and the household as they get older.

Our rule is: If they can toddle, they can contribute to keeping our home orderly. Even two-year-olds can pick up toys, hand you silverware out of the dishwasher, and carry their clothes to their drawers. By the time they’re adolescents, then, most kids should have mastered more complex, individual chores such as loading the dishwasher and cleaning a load of laundry from start to finish. Teens should know how to take care of pets and keep their rooms decent. (Not perfect, but decent–at least most of the time.) They should be intimately familiar with the family vacuum cleaner and mop. 

But there’s one more transition period that many parents forget about and that’s moving from individual tasks to cleaning whole areas. Because as every mom knows, cleaning a home efficiently and well isn’t just about what and how you clean, but in what order you clean things, too. You don’t sweep floors and THEN wipe down counters, for instance. You don’t clean out the sink and THEN load the dishwasher. Keeping up on laundry requires at least a load a day, with prompt swapping out of the loads between washer and dryer. And there’s no point to even doing laundry if it’s just going to sit in the baskets all week to wrinkle (eventually ending up back in the dirty clothes bin because half the basket has been strewn on the floor as family members rifle through the basket for clean items…ask me how I know this).

Our three oldest kids are 11, 12, and 14–prime ages to start being responsible not just for a handful of tasks, but for a whole zone of the house. I broke our home down into four main zones: 1) Living room and dining room, 2) Kitchen, 3) Laundry room/pets, and 4) Bathrooms/hallways/stairs. For one whole week, each child is responsible for one zone and then they switch. (I take the remaining zone.) The first day they were responsible for the zone, I sat down with them and had them read the detailed cleaning list I’d prepared for each area (click on the link to see our list):

  1. Living room and dining room
  2. Kitchen
  3. Laundry room/pets
  4. Bathrooms/hallways/stairs

 I explained why the order is important and how following the order would help them do a better job and get the job done faster. In addition to their daily tasks, they have one additional task that’s to be done each day, such as vacuuming the stairs or buffing the stainless steel fridge. This ensures that certain tasks get done at least once a week. It takes about 45 minutes each day to complete their zone cleaning.

IMAG1931
Our downstairs bathroom today. (And no, I did NOT clean it ahead of time–this is zone cleaning, baby!)

The advantages of switching to zone cleaning for the kids was apparent right away. With three kids each doing a handful of different chores each day, it was getting to be a nightmare for me to keep up with whether their chores were completed. (No doubt they took advantage of that to get out of a chore here and there, too.) And half the time, I couldn’t remember WHO was responsible and didn’t feel like wrangling with them, so it didn’t get done. Now, it just takes a cursory view to know whether someone has done their zone for the day.

The kids also have become very territorial about their assigned areas. I no longer have to yell at anyone to pick their clothes up off the bathroom floor after their shower because the child in charge of the bathrooms that week will do it for me. My children also take obvious pride in being able to point to an entire room that they’ve cleaned, too; there’s an ownership that simply wasn’t there when they were just responsible for the dishwasher or taking out the trash.

Overall, the house stays tidier. And there’s less bickering over chores; I’m no longer dealing with complaints that “I had to empty the dishwasher twice yesterday after the party!” or “It’s not my day to take out the trash!” The expectations are crystal clear now.  

Of course, it’s not a perfect system. They are still kids and that means they do their best to slack; I have to prompt and follow up each day to ensure they’re getting their work done. They still forget what it was like to have a sibling trash their zone after it was just cleaned and throw their crap everywhere from time to time. The process of teaching them to clean up after themselves (ostensibly to be considerate of the person responsible for that room)…well, that’s still a work in progress. 

But aren’t we all?