Have you ever found yourself yelling at the kids? Dr. James Dobson says that trying to direct children by yelling is like trying to drive a car by honking the horn. Have you ever thought about how tired you get telling the kids things over and over? There is a better way.

Now, at the beginning of the new year, is a good time to make sure everyone understands individual responsibilities. If responsibilities, consequences and rewards are discussed now, things will go smoothly during the year. Consequences and rewards need to be clarified so there is no misunderstanding later. Then, when children face consequences, it is by their own choice, not the parents, because they clearly understood ahead of time what would happen according to the choices they made. No heated discussions need occur. Parents can simply say, “I’m sorry that you made that choice. You knew what the consequences were when you made your decision.”

Making checklists can not only save your voice, but they can save much time and effort. You may say, “But I don’t have time to make a checklist!” Believe me, it takes less time to make a list than to repeat the same thing over and over and then backtrack to see that things have been done.

Start with making a list of chores that children need to do. It helps to have the children actually do the list themselves with your input. Children have a pretty good sense of what they can and can’t do. Our daughter, a single mom, used to have her children sit at the dinner table while she cooked the evening meal and have them do their homework and make out a list of what they needed to do the next day. It worked beautifully. The next day, she simply looked at the list to see what had been checked off. If something had not yet been done, they discussed that evening how it could be accomplished. They worked as a team. The children fixed their own lunches in the morning before school and were able to do so because they had discussed ahead of time what they would have and listed those items. After a few times, the list was not needed. They knew what to do without the list.

When our daughter’s children were in upper elementary and high school, a color-coded chart was put on the refrigerator. It could be told at a glance what had or had not been accomplished. When something was not done, our daughter simply said, “Dylan, I noticed that you haven’t checked off ________. When do you plan to do it?” The children were responsible for the task but were permitted to “trade off” with each other if soccer practice or something else interfered. If they wanted to go to a friend’s house, they knew that they could not go unless chores were done, and they didn’t even bother to ask.

I’ve never heard our daughter yell at her children. Now Dylan is succeeding at his job and LeAndra has a Master’s degree in civil engineering and works for a reputable firm. They are both very responsible individuals.

If you haven’t tried checklists, I urge you to do so. They really work!