POSTED BY Bill Dwight ON Wednesday, August 17, 2011 |7 COMMENTS

How to Keep Your Kids on Task Without Hovering

It’s almost the end of summer.

You’ve got lots to do. Your kids have nothing to do.

Camps and summer leagues have stopped. Schools haven’t started.

Your kids are in limbo. Arrghh!

The thought of them sitting around watching TV or fooling around on the computer all day is driving you a bit nuts, even if school is right around the corner. You can think of a list of productive things they could be doing, but you’re too busy with your own work, errands, or chores to be constantly prodding them along.

So, how are you getting something done without letting your kids turn into complete couch potatoes behind your back?

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

Make a checklist together each morning. I’m sitting down with my 9 year old son each morning and making a checklist of meaningful things to accomplish during the day. It includes:

  • a little math (30 minutes in a workbook and 15 minutes of math flashcards on FactMonster.com),
  • some music (30 minutes of piano practice),
  • some physical activity (lacrosse in the backyard with the big bro),
  • occasionally a paid job, like washing the car.

Here’s our list from today (of course, we keep it in FamZoo, but paper works too!):

Checklist with Summer Day ToDos

We both like this because the rules and expectations are very explicit and clear from the beginning. It really cuts down on the whining and the nagging.

Check off and notify on completion of each task. My 9 year old son gets to set his own schedule (for the most part), but he is responsible for checking off the tasks and notifying me via text whenever he completes a task. I only go into the dreaded nag mode if I haven’t seen a text in a while. He seems to appreciate the autonomy. I’m able to stay more focused.

As for notifications, my 9 year old can’t text directly (no cell phone yet), but since we’re using online checklists in FamZoo, I can just set up an automatic alert to text me whenever he checks an item off his list. Here’s the Alert setting for his Checklist (my wife gets a notification as well, so she can feel connected while away at work during the day):

Checklist Alert Setup

And, here’s what my text notifications looked like yesterday:

Automatic Text Notification On Check-off

Yes, he’s still playing computer games, watching a little SpongeBob, and assembling Legos throughout the day, but at least I know he’s getting a nice balance of other activities in as well. I’m getting more done too. Win-win.

Do you have any tips for keeping kids on task during the end-of-summer doldrums? Share your techniques in the comments.

7 Comments

Sue Becker SAYS...
August 18, 2011 10:41 AM

Your kids are lucky to have you teaching them such valuable skills, Bill. It's nice that they're learning how to be resonsible, yet still have time for play.

Bill Dwight SAYS...
August 18, 2011 11:02 AM

Thanks for stopping by Sue and for leaving the nice compliment.

I checked out your site at http://www.pilestosmiles.com - lots of great posts on Checklists, time management, and generally getting organized.

Your post "Back to School Made Simple" ( http://www.pilestosmiles.com/blog/?p=1119 ) is particularly relevant to this topic. Good tips!

Anonymous SAYS...
August 26, 2011 4:20 PM

Any plans to make an automatic repeating list? A couple of the daily items could be on a daily list.

Bill Dwight SAYS...
August 26, 2011 4:35 PM

You can put repeating items on your list now. You just have to select a due/start date in the pop-up form and all of the repeating options reveal themselves. You can see the options in this screen shot:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/famzoo/5694628542/in/set-72157626538341101

Aneil SAYS...
September 14, 2011 6:34 AM

Just signed up for FamZoo -- I've been looking for an application that would allow me to teach my kids financial responsibility and keep them on track for their chores. I can't wait to start using it!

Aneil

Bill Dwight SAYS...
September 14, 2011 6:40 AM

Aneil,

Thank you for signing up and checking out FamZoo. There are lots of options for our chore checklists, so don't hesitate to ask us questions along the way (contact link up top in the application). Also, you'll want to check out this post for starters:

http://blog.famzoo.com/2011/06/how-to-create-online-chore-chart-in.html

Bill

Kids Sofa SAYS...
October 15, 2011 6:24 PM

Fantastic idea to keep in mind in making such things organized for our kids. Our kids should be taught early on to become more organized for them to become such a great person in all their ways as they grow up. Thanks shannon for the great advice.

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