“True greatness…always requires regular, consistent, small, and sometimes ordinary and mundane steps over a long period of time.”  –Howard W. Hunter

A “house of order,” isn’t that what we all want and hope for? It is a righteous desire of mine but am continually challenged to find more effective and creative ways to keep order in our home with five kids and a busy life. This post is not so much about “chores” as it is about finding “tools” that help manage our home with greater efficiency and consequently with greater order. With order in the home, comes more love, more understanding, more service, more kindness and more needed balance.  I have found one tool that has really helped our big family.

When I hear an idea about parenting or motherhood that I like and seems to bring balance into a busy family life,  I hold on to it, massage it and if it fits…then I implement what fits in our home. Chores are something that are not necessarily my favorite to implement, but I feel they are essential nonetheless. In our house, chores play a big part of our daily life and help bring order and happiness to our home, in addition to providing valuable opportunities to teach important life lessons.  Teaching the children responsibility, self discipline, the value of joy after having accomplished a task and eventually learning the principle of self governing, is paramount. Since my family is still relatively young, I am hesitant to portray too much confidence in this arena because the verdict is still (way) out on our family…regardless that does not stop me from trying to succeed and love hearing about other families strategies as well.

I grew up with lots of brothers and sisters and much was expected of us in our family to keep “order.” For a period of my youth we lived in Elvis Presley’s drummers old house, down the mountain from Lake Tahoe. We had a big house, 2 acres of land, horses, cows, a garden, dog, cat and LOTS of grass. My mother knows how to work harder than any man or woman I know. I have vivid memories in the sweltering heat raking dirt and rocks for hours on end. As a kid, I thought she was just plain mean, working us nearly to death (or so I thought), but later in life I learned she loved us greatly and was teaching us a very important principle of responsibility and success. I also learned to appreciate the value of working together as a family and serving those that I loved. (see Mosiah 4:14-15)

In my family we have designed a specific chore system that works great for us however is not for everyone. I highly encourage every family to have some sort of consistency with their house hold responsibilities. To find the right ebb and flow requires some creativity and a great deal of commitment.

An old favorite author/professor PhD Glen Latham had a philosophy that I have long since adopted, it is the idea of letting your children “self instruct” (as much as possible) and “do not tell them things they already know.” We have implemented this strategy in several ways, one of which  has been particularly effective.  With five children, sometimes communication becomes easily taxed. With the hustle and bustle after school, I so often make the mistake of saying something to one child… thinking that because I can see the other children in my peripheral, they heard it also…that is rarely the case.  SO to eliminate much of the after school confusion, scheduling, and expectations we simplified things and came up with our “Dailies” (term used regularly in the film business). [See samples below.]

After the initial after school reunion with hugs, kisses, snuggles and visits about their day, and a snack to appease their starving little tummies, I refer them to their “Dailies” where it is expressed in bullet form each child’s responsibilities. (Of course you have to use common sense and be accommodating on occasion especially with our oldest son who is increasingly being assigned more time consuming homework.) At the bottom of our “Dailies,” I address what Mom and Dad are doing and if there is anything they need to be aware of as it pertains to Mom and Dad. We have one child in particular that really protests when we “go out” and does not like surprises, he would like us all to be together all the time and do nothing other than have den parties with him, so this gives him ample warning so he can emotionally prepare himself for our temporary separation.

Self-governing is a great long-term goal and will eventually come… until then, this has been a great tool in implementing the consistency and flow of household responsibilities. Dr. Latham was also a big believer of recording data and tracking progress and provide positive reinforcement. For people who love lists, this is a great system. I love lists and so do my kids, it is very satisfying to track progress and scratch things off my list when we have succeeded. Also by way of reward I will use this as an opportunity to recognize something special/helpful they have done for our family, they love this public acknowledgment. There are so many underlying blessings embedded within this structure.

I can not say enough how helpful these “Dailies” have been in creating a house of order.  Instead of me repeating five different times what our afternoon plans are or what my expectations are for each of the children, I simply remove the unnecessarily language and defer them to their “Dailies,” then all that energy can be saved to talk about more enjoyable things. Never again will a child of mine say… ” but Mom…I didn’t know” or ” you did not tell me that!” This small and simple thing has yielded great dividends!

A home with order, is a home of peace and happiness. A home where everyone does their part is easy… not always in execution but in results. A home where children are learning responsibility and self governing tools, is hopeful.  Life where there is progress, is rewarding. This is defiantly one tool we will stick with!

“An important element of doing the best we can as parents is to provide loving but firm discipline. If we do not discipline our children, society may do it in a way that is not to our liking or our children’s. Part of disciplining children is to teach them to work. President Gordon B. Hinckley has said: ‘One of the greatest values . . . is the virtue of honest work. Knowledge without labor is profitless. Knowledge with labor is genius’ (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 704).” – James E. Faust, “Dear Are the Sheep That Have Wandered,” Ensign, May 2003

“Our house is to be a house of order. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Eccl. 3:1). Such is true in our lives. Let us provide time for family, time for work, time for study, time for service, time for recreation, time for self—but above all, time for Christ…Then our house will be a house of order.” – Thomas S. Monson