How to Keep Your Household Running Smoothly

Organizational and Teaching Tools for a Well Run Household
By Judy H. Wright

There are a number of tools you can use to help keep job duties straight and let everyone know exactly what specific tasks require. Job charts, teaching cards and other tools help you and your children know the what’s, when’s and how’s of the assigned tasks.


Please keep in mind that not everything needs to go onto a job chart. If every little task is listed, the chart becomes overwhelming and intimidating. Routine and basic tasks need not be listed. It should be a given that by the time a child is ten years old the bed is made, teeth are brushed and face washed before breakfast.

These tasks then become automatic action instead of a daily decision.

When everyone is in the habit of taking his own plate to the sink after meals, scraping residue into the garbage, rinsing and placing it in the dishwasher, it doesn’t have to be on the job chart. Occasionally, when kids are in a real hurry, they will need to be reminded. But once established, this type of action becomes natural instead of a deliberated decision.

The following are specific tools you might use so everyone knows their responsibilities so jobs get done properly.

To-Do Lists

To-Do lists help kids remember what needs to be done before they go to bed. Keep the list no longer than five items that can be accomplished in 20 minutes or less. This teaches organization and prioritizing skills and helps avoid procrastination. It also helps teach time management skills.

Job Charts

Job charts are very useful tools. They help kids actually see all that goes into running a household and makes them feel more a part of a group effort. Get the kids involved in making a job chart. Redo the chart as necessary to keep up-to-date. Make sure that all family members have their names on the chart with associated responsibilities, even if the baby’s only job is to make everyone happy.

A job chart also becomes a judge and jury and removes parents as verbal authorities. It helps to reinforce the idea that it is a family effort to keep the house running smoothly and well organized. Children often take the work done by adults for granted and can use the reminder that we’re all in this together.

Job Description Cards

Children need guidance to do jobs well. Too often parents say things like, “Do the laundry,” and kids have no idea what they are supposed to do. A system I’ve found very helpful is to use job description cards providing specific instructions for when I’m not around to help. The information can be written on index cars and posted near the task site. For less frequent tasks, the cards can be stored in a file box for easy reference.


A written contract with your child is a two-way agreement rather than a one-sided order. The reward for doing a job on time, consistently, or whatever other parameter you’d like to include can be covered in a contract.

Contracts can be effective tools to teach children to keep up on their work and to follow through on agreements. Contracts can also help them set goals and recognize the progression needed to reach them.

Luck-of-the-Draw Devices

Sometime chores can be more fun when there is an element of mystery or luck involved. This technique helps keep chores from becoming too routine and helps keep work interesting.

Notes, Nudges & Notices

It’s important to keep kids motivated and even more important to let kids know how much you love them and appreciate their efforts. I’ve found that notes, nudges and notices work much better than nagging. Try flying a special delivery paper airplane (with your praise written inside) into your child’s bedroom. Gift certificates, ribbons and awards, either purchased or made on the computer, are ways of demonstrating how great your child is doing.

Use your own creative ideas and have fun. You do an important work.

©2008 by Judy H. Wright, Parent Educator, Author and international speaker on family relations aka Auntie Artichoke, the storytelling trainer. To schedule at workshop Ph: 406.549.9813

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