The Mommy Whisperer

Ep 25. The Beauty of the List

June 03, 2021 Heather Anderson
The Mommy Whisperer
Ep 25. The Beauty of the List
Show Notes Transcript

I am a believer of lists.  I am also a believer that children can thrive with lists.  Do you want to help your child get better organized in their daily routines?  Do you want to stop feeling like you are nagging your child all the time to get things done?  Join me in this episode as I share some valuable tips and tricks on how lists can help you free up so much time for yourself and also make your child’s whole day better.
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Hi moms!  Thank you for joining me today.  Do you ever look at my title and think, “What in the world is she going to talk about today?”

So first, before we get into what I’m going to talk about, I would like to read the review of the week.  This review says, “Wonderful help for the most important members of our society, mothers: the guardian of the family.”  I love it.  Thank you so much for your ratings or your reviews or both.  They really help the moms out there find this podcast so they can get the help and inspiration that they are looking for.  So thank you.

I am a believer of lists. Those of you free spirit, list- despisers, hang in there with me, I have a point.  A list can just help free your brain of unneeded stuff.  Downloading my brain onto a list helps me feel a little lighter.  I have the worst memory, so I live by lists.  I still can live outside of my list, well I am working on that, but a list keeps me focused when it’s time to focus and all that crossing off of stuff helps me feel accomplished too.  I could not get even close to what I need to get done in a day without a list.  There is just no way I would remember all the things.

I am also a believer that children can thrive with lists. So that’s what we are going to talk about today.

Children love routine.  So from a very young age it helps to list out the activities of the day so they know what to expect every day. I used to love to watch SuperNanny.  Have you seen that show?  It has that nanny Jo from England.  She was amazing.  She would go into people’s homes and observe them with their kids for a day.  And then the 2nd day she would fix all the problems that were happening and train the parents to be better parents for kids.  And the first thing she would almost always do on that 2nd day was make a daily routine huge chart, with a big list or outline of what their schedule looked like each day, like 8am wake up and have breakfast, 8:30am get ready for the day, and the younger the kids were, the more detailed the list would be, like instead of getting ready it would say brush teeth, get dressed, and all the things they had to do to get ready.  And she would hang this huge poster on the wall for all to see.  I was amazed at how the kids thrived.  They loved the schedule.  They loved knowing what was next and what was expected of them. 

But this episode isn’t so much about how kids love routine, that’s for another day, (although I really could talk about the importance of a routine all day.)  

But today I wanted to just talk about the beauty of making lists for your child--a list of chores or routines or expectations that you want them to do before they are allowed to be “free”, as I call it.  It is so helpful for keeping them on track, but also for them to see what exactly the responsibility part of their day looks like and what they need to do before they can continue on being a kid again.

And if they can’t read, no problem, that’s when you just draw little icons or even print some out from the computer if you draw like I do.  But even pictures will do the trick for the little ones.

Children like knowing what their day is going to look like and what is coming up next.  They also like to know what exactly it is you need them to do to make you happy.  

For example, if there are certain jobs around the house that you expect to get done that day, instead of just giving them orders randomly all day as you think of different things you wanted them to do, it might be more helpful to create some sort of list for them.  It does take some thinking ahead, which hurts my brain sometimes, but this will not only relieve you of trying to hold on to all the thoughts in your head of what exactly it was you wanted to make sure they got done that day, but it also relieves a lot of pressure from them which I want to talk about in a minute.  

A helpful hint is that you could even type it up and save certain lists on your computer to give to your child each week. Like, a Saturday chores list, or a list of all the few things they need to remember to do after school before they are free to play; maybe it’s a list of their morning routine, like brush teeth, get dressed, make bed, pack lunch, pack homework just to help them stay on track and not bug you every 30 seconds of what they should do next and most importantly, to help them not forget anything that needs to get done during that morning rush. And if your children, like I said, are too young to read, draw pictures or find clip art online to add to your list.  I think you might be surprised how fun this is for kids to know exactly what to do next and it will also make your life and routines run so much more smoothly.

Children naturally want to please you, but in order to be able to please you they need to know what you exactly what you expect of them. It’s really hard on children when we constantly give orders and make demands of their time all day long like,  “Oh, there you are Michael go take out the trash,” or “go clean your bathroom” or “go weed the backyard.”

Making random orders all day long, just whenever you think of things that need to get done or whenever they walk into the room and you think that they’re not busy, might cause your child to not really be able to feel like they can completely relax and just be a kid.  This might cause them to always be on edge and it might contribute to their anxiety.  It can also make them feel like they don’t really want to be home.  Or when they are home, they might want to hide in their room and not be around the family.  And also, it causes them to feel like you don’t respect their time or the things that they want to do. 

And, as I found out from one of my friend’s kids the other day,  they also might spend a lot of time avoiding you because they think every time you see them you’re going to give them another chorea. 

 Could you imagine someone asking you to do things for them all day long?  Just as we would like to know when we get to clock out for the day, kids also would like to know when you are happy enough with them so they can also clock out. Because no matter what the age of the child, they really do have their own things they want to get done in a day.  Your teenager might want to get a head start on a school project, your 3 year old might want to build a Lego tower.  Whatever it is, they should be able to feel that relief of when they’re done with their responsibility part of their day so they can plan their day the way they want to.

Whenever possible, I try to give my kids a list whether it’s a sticky note or it’s typed up and saved on my computer that I print out, or on a scratch piece of paper as I’m having a little brainstorm of what needs to happen that day.  This really has been so good for their mental well-being and their ability to just be able to embrace being a kid and being able to have that “okay, mom is happy enough, I’ve done her list, and now I can clock out and do what I want” feeling.  But don’t get me wrong, if there’s something that really needs to get done that I forgot to tell them about and can’t wait ‘til tomorrow’s list, I will sometimes ask random things of them.  That’s just part of being a family and helping each other out.  But I really try to keep it on the list whenever possible.

List-making does take some thinking ahead.  But those few minutes of making a list can free up hours of your time later on. 

Do you need to get the house clean for company and you have 2 kids and a spouse at home? Sit down the day before with four pieces of paper or post it notes and divvy up the tasks to each person. When they wake up, have this by their breakfast chair and let them know that they are free for the rest of the day once they get their list done. Kids love this. Well, not at first.  There will be mumbling and grumbling for sure.  As long as it’s not disrespectful, just let them grumble.  But honestly, you child will love that you made them a list so much better than later in the day when company is almost here and you’re  under the gun and shouting orders at everyone and they have to do the mad scramble because somehow now they’re in trouble for not helping when they didn’t know they were supposed to be helping because you never asked.  Is it not like that at your house?  Maybe it’s only at mine.  

Kids love to see, right in front of them, all of the things you were going to ask them to do that day. Now they feel like they have more control over their day and their time. And how fun is it for them to check things off as they get done?  My kids and I seriously love that part.  It feels like such an accomplishment. 

If you really want to stay on top of all the things you need to do as a mom, try making a list a few times a week for each child this summer and just delegate some of your stuff to them. You might be surprised how much your kids help out when it’s written down for them.

And if you’re going on a trip w your kids, try writing out a packing list for them. Or even typing it out and saving it on your computer to print out each time you need it. This is so helpful. You might be really pleased with how ready, even young children, can get themselves for a trip.  And then you hardly need to pack for anyone but yourself and do all the millions of other things you need to do to get out of the house.

I post a morning routine list and an after school list in the kitchen and on each of my kids’ bathroom mirrors.  Aren’t you surprised that no matter how many times they’ve gotten ready for school they still forget to do certain things?   Well, a list really helps w that.  You’ll find yourself not having to remind them as much and feeling a lot less frustrated.

I even have a list for what things and choices they have to pack in their lunch, including choices of a protein and a vegetable or fruit, something to drink, and even a choice of a little junk food item.  This helps them pack a pretty well-balanced lunch and it helps me not have to remind and repeat myself and help too much in the process.  And after I practiced with them a few times, I don’t have to do anything anymore when it comes to school lunches--except for making sure they have well-stocked choices--thanks to the list.

But a list, by itself, doesn’t solve your problems. Your child has to be trained a little bit to use the list. Teach them, when they find themselves wandering around aimlessly or distracted by a toy, to catch themselves and get back to the list to make sure everything has been done. And lists really only get done if they have been well explained, with praising all along the way for completing their tasks, maybe sometimes having a reward in place for completing the list even just the simple reward of earning their free time without you asking anything more of them for the rest of the afternoon, and of course consequences set in place and ready to be used for those stubborn kids who want to test your dedication to the list. 

There will be some who will try to get away with not doing the things you ask of them. They need to understand that this is what needs to happen in order for them to continue to enjoy their privileges in the home... like use of the tv, the ipad, their cell phone, use of the car.  It might take a time or two of taking away something they love to use during their free time if they can’t seem to do the few things you listed that day.  So essentially, applying my 3 C’s of Successful Parenting to your use of lists in your home now will help tremendously with the training and the expectation for your children to start using your lists.

Remember, your child will test you with the list.  If they think there is any way they can get out of it, they will try to find that weak part of the fence as we talked about in episode 13.

Let’s help our kids feel that sense of accomplishment and know what it feels like to get organized and know what needs to get done each day.  I think all of our children will start to see the beauty of the list. 

And just remember:  “For every minute spent organizing a list, an hour just been earned!”

Thanks for joining me and I’ll talk to you next week.