the myth of the responsibility chart

A while back, I had the brilliant idea of crafting responsibility charts for my kids.  I was getting frustrated with doing little tasks that my children could easily do for themselves—putting their dirty clothes down the laundry chute at the end of the day, for example, or cleaning up the cascade of books in front of the bookcase.  A responsibility chart sounded like a brilliant solution to my woes.

After doing some pricing and finding nothing to meet my specific needs or price point (uber cheap!), I hunted around online for ideas.  I settled on this one from—in part because it used materials that I already happened to have around the house, and in part because it didn’t have any markers or magnets that could mysteriously disappear, rendering the chart useless. ResponsibilityChart

My kids are young, so I made their responsibilities minimal.  Every day they need to put their jammies under their pillows when they get dressed, clear their dishes after every meal, clean up their toys and books at the end of the day, and put their dirty laundry down the chute.  Mommy’s problems were solved…or so I thought.

The first three days were great.  The kids were so pumped about their charts that they remembered all their responsibilities, gleefully sliding that straw from “To Do” to “Done!”  On days four and five, they would remind each other about their responsibilities…and Mommy would occasionally need to point to the charts when neither big kid seemed to remember.

On day six, the realization struck.  Those responsibility charts?  They’re really for Mommy.  After all, I SHOULD have been reminding them to clean up after themselves all along.  Isn’t that my job as a Mom?  To teach them the skills they’ll need as they grow and to help them develop into responsible human beings?  At barely-five and almost-four, my kids aren’t always going to behave responsibly.  They’re going to jump on the couch, forget to say “thank you”, paint their little brother’s hair, try to hog all the train tracks…  But that’s where I come in.  At the beginning, my guidance has to be perpetual; gradually, I can step back and let them take the lead, nudging them when they forget or fail.

Here’s the thing about being a Mom: it’s endless.  I think that’s both the most rewarding and the most daunting part of it.  If I start slacking off in my vigilance, neglecting to remind them to be polite or clean up after themselves, then they start to slip.  If the good habits aren’t perpetually reinforced, they seem less important.  So those responsibility charts?  The kids never touch them anymore.  But that’s okay; they’ve served their purpose for Mommy.