In a Nutshell: Increase personal responsibility by teaching kids to check back after a task with a fun reminder lanyard.
I once saw a child wearing a shirt that said, “I see your lips moving, but all I hear is blah, blah, blah.” I wonder if they’re sold in bulk, because there seems to be some distortion happening between the words I say and what people hear in my house. I’ll ask a child to do a task and find them 10 minutes later, job undone, happily hanging fairy dolls from the ceiling or stocking a make-believe pirate ship with canned goods. Now, I am all for impulsive creativity, but when I have to ask a child three times to do something, I start getting a little grumpy. Okay, a lot grumpy. If I give each of my 5 kids 4 instructions a day, and have to ask each one to do the task 3 times, I’m going on 60 nags every day! 420 nags a week! 1,869 nags a month! That’s enough to make any parent want to curl up in fetal position.
We’ve been working on a better way to build personal responsibility. With older kids, we’re teaching that following an instruction always ends with checking back. Just a quick, “Mom, I took out the garbage” or “Dad, my shoes are off the kitchen counter” (ya, I know, gross, huh?) will do. For our younger, slightly more dramatically distracted kids, we’ve developed a simple system that has saved the day. I took a leftover lanyard with an plastic ID on it from a youth games event, then glued a paper over the ID that reads, “I have a job to do.” (You could also just use cardstock and yarn, or bling it up with vinyl glitter lettering and beaded string. Whatever suits you.)
Then we practiced. I taught them when they get an instruction, the lanyard goes around their neck to help them remember. They don’t take the lanyard off until the task is complete. When the job is done, they check back with me and tell me they are done. Only I can take the lanyard off. If they check back, they get a little treat from my check-back jar (lemon heads are the current commodity). If I find them playing, watching TV, or otherwise dawdling while they are wearing their lanyard, they get a consequence like losing their screen privileges or earning an extra job.
It has gone great for our family! I am virtually nag-free on this personal responsibility diet. We probably won’t keep the system in place forever, but it has been a great teaching tool. Maybe something about this system would work for your family. You could modify if for older kids or offer stickers for rewards if you don’t do food bribes. However you do it, the point is that kids need to learn that checking back is part of the task. It is their own responsibility to put on their shoes, sweep the kitchen floor, or feed the cat without being asked seven times. Or seventeen times. Or twenty-seven times. With a simple reminder lanyard and reward system, your “blah, blah, blah” may just turn into “ooh la la!”