I like to think that we are a well-oiled machine in our house every morning, but I may be delusional. Every morning is started with the best intentions, which quickly evaporate into controlled chaos, and ultimately ends with a sprint through the door, praying we didn’t forget anything. Treatments, dressing, medicine, teeth, hair, breakfast, backpack packed, lunch made, and face washed. The list is never-ending. One thing that has helped immensely in the morning has been the implementation of a chore chart.
Personally, I don’t think it is ever too early for a child to be assigned chores. Even with SMA, it is possible to assign chores to your kids. My daughter and I sit down every few months and change up the chore chart. There are items on the chore chart that may seem questionable to others, but it gets the job done. Every item on the chart is worth a quarter. I hung the chore board at her level in the hallway and she places magnets on each chore that she completes (a little occupational therapy for her).
My personal favorite is “Planning for the Next Day.” Every night before bed, my daughter has to sit down and plan for the next day. She has to write down what she would like to wear (this includes checking the weather), what she would like packed for her lunch and snack, what items she needs in her backpack, what devices need to be charged, and any other miscellaneous items (uniform, ankle-foot orthosis for physical therapy, etc). This list makes mornings so much easier. It is also something she can do by herself and helps make her more independent.
We also have items on the chart that most people don’t have such as “Wear Knee Immobilizers to Bed” and “Tummy Time.” I’ve had people shocked that I actually pay her to wear her braces, but it’s a battle that I no longer have to fight, which, to me, is worth every penny.
As I type this, I am wearing a brace on my foot/ankle. I am supposed to be sleeping with it on every night and I hate it. I hate it when the Velcro gets stuck on the blanket. I hate it when I can’t get in a comfortable position. I usually end up taking it off at 2 am. I feel her pain. It’s not her fault she has to wear the uncomfortable braces to bed, but she’ll do it for a quarter. Sold!
Another popular one in our house is “Try First.” Oftentimes it is just easier and faster for her to ask someone to get something for her than to make the effort to do it herself. A cup of water, a book off the table, even the remote control for the television. If she consistently tries first throughout the day, she gets a quarter at the end of the day. We keep a cup in the water dispenser on the refrigerator. She can easily reach it if she raises her chair. This “chore” motivates her to keep doing things for herself and she sees it as a challenge to not ask for help for an entire day.
Our final favorite is “Clean Up.” We don’t have messes on the floor in our house, we have messes on every table. Books, markers, toys, papers litter every table in the house. Everything can easily be put away or put on a neat pile. Clean up also means helping in the kitchen or putting away laundry. Silverware can be easily reached and put away and laundry can be put in drawers.
Chores are never fun (well at least in my mind), but can be accomplished with a little thought and effort. The sense of accomplishment of helping and earning allowance at the same time helps teach kids many valuable lessons. Planning ahead also makes life a little easier. Don’t be afraid to come up with your own chore chart. Sit down and work on it together as a family and assign tasks to everyone. Maybe someday we will become that well-oiled machine. Maybe.
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