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Teaching Kids to Follow a Routine

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I'm teaching my kids to follow a daily routine following this system, and it's working really well! Chores, hygiene, schoolwork, good habits - it's all going a lot smoother!

Have you figured out a way to help your kids accomplish what they need to every day? My kids have a lot to keep track of. Personal hygiene, schoolwork, chores – it's all important. This is one of the trickiest things for me as a mom, and I've gotten lots of emails that seem to indicate that many of you are in the same boat. 

I love searching online for other people's homeschool routines and chore lists. I'm not a creeper, I promise, I just really enjoy seeing what works for other people and gleaning ideas to (hopefully) transform my own homeschool day. 

Here's the thing: I've seen how using lists and routines reduces MY stress through the Makeover Your Mornings course. Now, one of the points of the Makeover Your Mornings Course is to get things done before the kids get up, so the whole system doesn't exactly apply to the kids. But if I can set goals for myself, and make lists to follow to accomplish what I need to, doesn't it make sense that the same would work for the kids? 

It sure does! And doesn't it follow that a chore chart would accomplish the same thing? Er…not exactly. 

At my house, we've tried dozens of chore systems, school checklists, and printables. All of these systems have failed us, and I finally figured out why: Operator Error. Yep, it's my fault. See, I've noticed that when I give my kids a new chore (or a task, or a school assignment), there's always a period of time where I can't really guarantee that it will get done, because I just send the kids off to do it, and I am not consistent in my follow-through. Kids are kids, and they get distracted. No matter what it is, I can expect that they will obey, but only most of the time. The reality is that when I give them a list (whether it be with words or pictures) and expect things to get done, I really have to teach them how to do it to expect good results. 

How do I teach them to follow the list, you ask? Um, well, it's not super complicated, so I don't feel terribly creative for figuring this out. The simple trick to making sure my kids get their work done is to walk them through their entire day, step by step. That means I give them one routine item at a time, then check each item myself to make sure it's done before I give them another task.

This makes so much sense to me, because when I have a big job to do, I easily get overwhelmed. But when I break the big job into smaller sized chunks, it's not as daunting – plus, I get that sense of accomplishment when I finish each smaller piece. 

What does that look like for the kids? Well, basically I keep their to-do list with me (it's in my Teacher Planner that I use for homeschool lesson plans, but just about anything would work here. I use these printables, too), and I give them one job at a time. Then I actually physically check the job to make sure it's done.

There are many benefits to this:

  1. My kids are being held accountable for their actions (or lack thereof). 
  2. Obedience is being reinforced. 
  3. They enjoy the satisfaction of checking off items on their lists (and so do I!).
  4. My kids are not off doing their own thing, I know where they are and what they are supposed to be doing. If they disappear for too long, I know the one task I gave them is likely not being done. 
  5. My kids are not overwhelmed by a big list or chore chart. Instead, they get one piece at a time. 
  6. My kids are learning to manage their time.

It is a lot of work, but it's paying off! Remember, my goal isn't to be closely monitoring and tracking their routines forever (yikes, can you imagine?). This system is a short period of time to TRAIN them to be productive and follow directions. Once they've done really well with their lists for several weeks, I start checking five things at a time, instead of one thing at a time. Then once they've done well with those, we start checking ten things, and so on, until I can just check at the end of the day to make sure that they are getting most things done. 

Here's a picture of my six-year-old's list. This is a pretty comprehensive list, starting with his morning routine, encompassing chores and some schoolwork (I don't really write down a lot of the stuff he does with mom), and ending with his bedtime routine. I've noticed that he does really well with a general routine that doesn't change much from day to day. I also want to note that most of these chores are done with a helper – me or one of the bigger kids. He's still in on-the-job chore training right now. I usually do my kids' chores with them, then decrease my involvement as time goes on. This doesn't last forever. It is more work at first, but as they learn, it gets easier. 

Example of my son's daily routine
Example of my son's daily routine

Notice how I wrote “After lunch chores” after dinner? That's because I'm ridiculous, sorry. Also – please know that I give my son a lot of play time. I didn't write it all down, but I am NOT Miss Hannigan from Annie (you may not think so if you met my kids. My three-year-old starts singing “It's a Hard Knock Life” every time I tell the kids it's time to do their chores). 

I was really excited to find a homeschool use for this part of my Erin Condren Teacher Planner. I pretty much totally love it. 

Do you have a routine to get things done each day? I'd love to hear how you teach your kids to meet their goals and get things done!

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laundry photo credit to Fotolia
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  1. My kids are grown and am looking for ideas for my grandchildren.

    I homeschooled all 4 through high school and I will tell you the chore list you work on with your children will have lasting effects. My children was able to learn from a really random mom how to organize time and chores and it has served them well. Not only that but a few times my kids have told me how they were asked to help friends get their act together.

    Cheers to you.

    1. Wow, that’s so great to hear! I didn’t do many chores when I was growing up, but I’ve seen the positive changes it’s made in my family so far – my kids have a sense of worth and accomplishment that keeps growing.

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