Journaling for Your Kids

This has been a year of record keeping for me.  I have always had a desire to improve my efforts to keep a journal, but every time I decided to write I felt like I had to catch up the events in my life since the last entry 8 months ago and it took FOREVER.  The idea was always too daunting to even try.  The last time I probably wrote in my actual journal was when my third child was born.  I should at least make a note that we have since had another child…

I read The Happiness Project (you can read more about this book in my ‘I have a book for that! page.) in December 2017 and my eyes were opened to new ways of journaling.  Since reading that book, I have now started to write daily in three journals: my gratitude journal, my one-sentence journal, and to track my goals in my bullet journal.  I spend less than 10 minutes a day writing in these three journals and yet I feel like I am creating a thorough record of my life.  The other journaling I have committed to improve is the journaling I do for my kids.

Several years ago I decided to start a journal for each of my children where I can record the important, funny, serious, memorable things that goes on in their childhood.  I have a terrible memory so I knew that I would not remember to tell the kids these stories about them as they grew older.  I don’t want to forget the funny things they say and the important conversations we have or the great memories we made together that I know my memory wont remember!  The idea when I started these journals was to write something in someone’s journal every day.  For me at that time in my life it was too much.  So I started doing what I had done with my own journal and just not write anything because I had already missed so much.  I at least tried to write on their birthday’s, but even that didn’t always happen.

My journaling year of 2018 has given me a fresh start and a more realistic plan to keep these journals up to date.  I write in the kids’ journals once a month.  This can still be a challenge because it does take at least 20 minutes to write in all 4 journals, but one time a month is doable.

My kids love these journals already.  I usually have the journals in the drawer of my nightstand, but if I ever leave them out the kids get excited and ask if I’m writing in them and they want to read a few pages.  I think these will be treasures to give them when they graduate and move on to the adult phase of their lives.

If this sounds like something you would like to start for your children here are a few tips/ideas:

  • Buy a small notebook for each child.  If you don’t have many kids a larger binder or notebook would be fine, but I find these small notebooks to be just the right size.
  • Don’t try and catch up for the lost time.  If you start journaling when your oldest child is 15 and your youngest is 3 that is okay.  Just start now.  It will be too overwhelming to go back and try to remember everything from previous years.  For once, your youngest will have the benefit here (unlike in the family scrapbook of baby pictures…).
  • Set a goal, write it down and stick to it.  Decided what is realistic for you.  If you are already a dedicated journal keeper, then writing daily might work for you.  If you tend to start strong and then slack off then maybe monthly is more doable.
  • Always write on or around birthdays.  This is a good time to reflect on who they are and not so much on what they are doing.  I like to make a list in their journal of their traits, their interests, their friends and my feelings towards them.  It’s also fun to write about how you celebrated their birthday.

  • Record mental health habits you notice.  My daughter has anxiety over different issues and my son can focus on self-pity at times.  I think it’s important to write these things down so that if they get older and continue to deal with these issues we can look back and see how they were dealt with as children.
  • Record important talks.  These can be spur of the moment talks about friends or concerns the child has about life, or this can be the “sex talk” or talks about spiritual things, or just one-on-one talks that build the bond between you and your child.
  • Both parents should write in the journals.  I’m assuming that “you” are a mom and will be the main author in these journals.  However, I do think it’s good to let dads or grandparents write important memories in these journals as well.  My husband wrote in my son’s after they walked home from a football game together and had one of those one-on-one bonding moments.  I think it’s important for kids to  remember those moments with other people who are important to them in their lives.
  • Remember the fun.  Don’t only focus on the sensitive/important stuff.  Write about the times where you laugh over silly things together and how the child and his/her siblings couldn’t stop laughing when it was bedtime and mom and dad were getting so mad that the kids wouldn’t settle down, but that only made them laugh harder…
  • Make these journals special for the kids.  I don’t let my kids have these journals and read them any time they choose.  I want them to be a mystery and something they look forward to getting one day.  Once in awhile I do let my kids read certain entries so that they understand what these journals are and they get excited about them, but I want them to look forward to getting these journals when they graduate.

I hope you will try this out if you aren’t already doing something similar.  You won’t regret it and I do think you will notice a stronger bond between you and your children.  I hope it will make everyone nice and happy.

The Rock System (paying kids for chores)

Do you pay your kids for doing chores?  I have heard about parents who pay their kids well for doing chores around the house, and I’ve also heard about parents who say that doing chores is just a part of being a family.  I can see good in both concepts.  While I do agree that chores is just an expectation of being part of a family, I also want my kids to learn how to manage money before they are really making a lot of money and the risks and lessons learned are harder. I have tried several different methods to pay kids for doing chores, but the rock system (as I like to call it) has been the most consistent and convenient way to make sure it happens.  It was completely free for me to make and is easy to start right away.

I gathered up baby food jars for each of my kids.  My two older kids have the taller baby food jars and my two younger kids have the small jars.  I removed the label on the jars and wrote each child’s initial on their jar.  The last step to getting it ready to use is to find your “rocks.” I used the glass beads you can buy in the craft section at the Dollar store or Walmart.  I’m not sure why I call them rocks, when they are clearly not rocks, but oh well.  You really could go out and find different sized rocks and even paint them to make them cute.  You could use cotton balls, dried beans, candy, or whatever you can find around the house.  That’s it.  You are ready to start paying kids for their chores.  Now, here is how is works…

For every chore your kids do, they get to put a rock in their jar.  If they want to do 5 chores in a day then they get 5 rocks.  Some chores are worth two rocks (cleaning the bathroom AND the bathroom floor).  If you try out this hot spot wheel, then kids would get a rock after doing their hot spot.  When the jar is full they get paid.  So simple!  You can decide on the amount that each kid gets paid for a full jar.  When we first started and my older kids were about 5 and 6, they both got paid $2.50 for a full jar.  In our family, we donate 10% of our money to our church, so $2.50 made it easy to figure the 10% the kids would pay for tithing.  Our younger kids received $1 for their full smaller jars.  This was such a small amount of money, but the kids love getting paid and feel so grown up to have their own money to do with as they wanted.  A good idea is to teach kids to give 10%, save 10%, and keep the 80% to do with as they chose, but since I was paying my kids such a small amount I did not stress over the saving part.  They could spend their money on whatever they chose.

Now that my kids are a bit older, I felt that they should have a raise and more financial responsibility along with it.  We had a discussion with the kids to see if they felt they deserved a raise.  At first my seven year old wanted nothing to do with a raise… this was  a good teaching point.  Now he understands what a raise is and you better believe he wants it! We agreed that the kids will earn their raise on a full jar IF they had an overall good attitude while doing their chores.  If we have to remind them to change their attitude more than twice as they work on filling their jars, then they do not get the raise and go back to the $2.50.  We agreed to pay our kids their age in dollars for every full jar.  For example, my nine year-old earns $9 for a full jar and my seven year-old earns $7, etc. In a perfect world I would always have the exact change on hand to pay the kids the minute they fill their jars.  I do not live in that perfect world.  Sometimes they get to empty their jar to start over and I just make a note that I owe them their money.  That immediate reward for a full jar is much more powerful though, so if at all possible try to have several dollar bills available at home.  Now that my kids are making more money we can talk more about saving for college, cars, missions and also saving for big items they want.  My daughter attends a gymnastic camp at her favorite college in the summer and she is expected to pay for a portion of that camp.  So she is working on saving towards that.  My two older sons have decided that they want to buy one of those battery powered cars they can drive, so they have combined their money to save for that. After just a couple of weeks (and some Valentine money from Grandma and Grandpa), these boys are already up to $61 combined!  Any time they ask to buy something at the store I love that I can tell them, “sure you can buy that.  You have your own money now!”  It’s funny how those silly little things are not as appealing if they have to use THEIR money to buy it!

A recap of why this system works for my family:

1. Cheap, easy and fast to put together and get started.

2.  Kids receive an immediate reward for doing their chores.

3. Offering a raise for good work ethic teaches kids a real world concept. (and less whining!)

4.   Allows kids to develop a habit of paying tithing.

5.  Kids can learn about money management.

6.  It is easy for ME to be consistent with this system.

A clean house and watching kids work makes me a nice and happy mom!  I would love to hear your experience with this rock system if you give it a try, or about what other payment systems work for you.