Checklists: Creating a Win-Win Situation

Checklists have an almost magical force in our house. They are right up there with schedules. Between the two we can clean rooms, get to bed on time, remember to brush teeth, plan menus , and complete homework.

For concrete thinkers, it gives them guidance and the satisfaction of making a mark next to the item completed.

It’s a powerful tool to use to strengthen executive function skills.

The Benefits Of a Good Checklist

There are several benefits to the traditional checklist.

1. It becomes the taskmaster.

2. You get to be the encourager/cheerleader.

3. The child has a reference point.

4. Everyone gets to celebrate when the task is completed!

For the mothers’ of concrete thinkers, it takes the pressure off of us. It is completely non-discriminatory. I use the it as a substitute bad guy. I even use it as my own task master.

There is even a checklist I use to remind myself of the positive side of ADHD.

Thinking About the How To Do’s

Part of winning with the this process is to create one that is clean, precise, and focused. Don't add anything extra.

1. Select one activity that needs help (perhaps a routine or time of day).

2. Think about how to do the activity. What are the steps needed?

3. Write the steps in a sequential or logical order.

4. Create a paper copy of the list along with nice boxes to be checked off!

Scenario 1: Cleaning the Bedroom

When both of my daughters march off to clean their rooms on Saturday morning, I already know that nothing will get accomplished.

After about 10 minutes, I tape a bedroom cleaning... you've got it... on their door and tell them, “Oh, sorry, I forgot to give you your checklist.”

Now, my older daughter, who has more organizational strengths, will take the paper, blow through the items, and have me come check the it against her room in 10-15 minutes flat. It gives her gentle reminders of what needs to be done.

For my younger daughter, who is organizationally challenged, it gives her a concrete starting point, midpoint, and ending point. Our conversation may sound like this:

“Mom, I’m done!”

“That’s great. Let’s go through the checklist! ”

At that point, she knows she’s not even touched the surface. I don’t have to tell her everything to do (and sound like a nag) because the checklist does it for me!

“It says here that you have to empty your trash. Did you do that?”

The response is usually no. Then, she will run and dump her trash can. When she returns, I get to give her a high-five and let her check off that item. This conversation cycles through all of the items on the list. When they’ve all been checked off, she’s done, and I’ve been a cheerleader, which is a much better position than nag! The bedroom cleaning checklist gets to do that job.

Scenario 2: Evening Routine

The time from 4:00-8:00 is not working at our house. Each change in activity (such as from free time to dinner time) is met with arguing and fussing. So, I created a routine and made it into a list. This is how it came together.

1. Everyone got to make a list of what an evening schedule would look like during the school week.

My oldest daughter got the gist of it, and included necessary things such as dinner and bathing, and included things that were important to her such as rocking and snuggling!

My youngest daughter only wanted to be concerned with things she WANTED to do. Her list in totality: free time, computers, dog play, TV.

2. Taking into account everyone’s input and the actual needs of this block of time, I created a schedule.

Before finalizing the schedule, I made sure that my areas were covered, and it flowed in a natural progression from one activity to the next.

3. I sat everyone down WITH the original copies of their suggested schedules and showed them the new one! I made sure that the girls saw the free time and snuggle time.

4. Beginning that afternoon, we started following the afternoon checklist/schedule.

Instead of reminding them to do their homework, I now say, “The schedule says it’s time to do homework! Who wants to put a check next to homework when they’re done?”

The first couple of days were implemented this schedule, my daughter still wanted to fight! Anything that interfered with free time was a trigger.

“I don’t want to take a shower! I’m playing!”

My new reply? After taking a deep breath for patience, I calmly reply EACH time: “I know, but the schedule says it’s time to take a shower. See?”

She can look at the times on the schedule, match them to the clock, and realize that the schedule DOES indeed dictate the activity. She might still stomp to the shower, but she’s quit pitching a nightly fit!

Checklists are a wonderful way to designate authority in your house. It will teach your children to be more organized, and give them a sense of accomplishment.