The Chore List: A Non-Traditional Primer

My supervisor, the health and wellness director at our Y, seemed genuinely surprised when I said there's exercise on my kids' chore list. So did someone else, when I mentioned it. Which got me thinking that maybe not every parent pays their kids to do jumping jacks.

It started this summer. I'd been frustrated handing out money at the end of each week though my kids, good ones at that, hadn't really applied themselves around the house. I also didn't know how it was possible for them to feel full from supper after dropping a significant portion of the meal onto the floor below, and leaving it there for the ants to parade through.

At the same time, I was frustrated with myself. There I was, 40 years old, starting a new sport, doing pretty well but knowing I'd be better had I started 20 years earlier. (Reference the recent Mayweather-Ortiz fight; few believed the ancient 34-year-old Floyd could keep up with a man ten years his junior.) Why hadn't anyone got me going earlier?

My kids approach the body as I did for about three and a half decades: arms are for holding books, not barbells. Reading is, well, fundamental; but moving is just as important, especially at their age, and the only way I could make sure it happened was to enforce it rigorously. My younger son has type 1 diabetes, and tends to need more insulin in the summer when school isn't demanding all his energy; this needed fixing (more insulin=bad).

Hence my summer chart, which included the following categories:
How Can I Move? How Can I Help? How Can I Be Smart?

The goal was to accomplish something in most of the categories each day.

How Can I Be Smart? was covered easily with the reading. Drawing, writing, and making things also counted here.

For How Can I Help? I listed possible chores, but also put out the idea that helping others counts, too. When we go to the mentoring program at the boxing gym, we're helping others, even though we benefit, too. When we're kind, we help others.

How Can I Move? included various exercises. The butt-shaking contest we held yesterday, for example, would count here. (I won; the deciding factor was speed.) Other, more strenuous activities were listed, and eventually I had a separate chart announcing The 15-Mile Club. Simon met that by the end of the summer (and, uh, won the prize of a book).

Before bed, we'd fill in the chart by talking through the day. I can't say we got to this regularly enough, but I really liked the plan in general.

With the wide open days of summer behind us now, life needs to be a bit more structured, so a new chart will be revealed today. This one is narrowed down to chores and exercise, because I trust the smart and helping categories are becoming a regular part of their lives. But even the moving is, too; Theo's been spending a lot of free time hopping and climbing, and Simon came home from school after a PE class in wrestling just beaming. "I got to pick up a kid and throw him on the floor!" he said, a big smile on his face.

Then he picked up his book and sat down. It's progress.


  1. oh man, i'm really digging the idea of that chart. thanks for sharing! :)


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