Best practices

Everyone participates

Parenting is not an exact science… but there are some tried and proven practices!

Here are a couple of real-life practices, which parents using Family Tasks have shared with us. While not all of these may apply to your family, we strongly recommend that you read them before implementing Family Tasks at home as it should greatly improve your chances of success.

Best practices

0- Why it matters

If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re already convinced of the importance of getting your children involved in daily Family Tasks. In that case, you may stop reading!  🙂

Here are the 3 main reasons why it is important that every one participate at home:

1- Giving responsibilities to your children helps them grow up and value work

In our recommended procedure, not only do children take an active part in the daily tasks of the family, but they also take an active part in the definition and repartition of tasks.

2- Your children will be proud when they share with their friends and family

It may take a couple of years, but you’ll know you’ve achieved something genuinely good, when they start pitching your task management system to their peers and your family. And you too may legitimately feel some pride at this point. 🙂

3- Providing a framework is at the heart of parenting

One of the most important missions of parents (if not the most complicated) is to educate and to transmit values you believe in. And it sometimes requires imposing things which children may be reluctant to embrace in the short term.

A task management system can only be efficient if you are genuinely convinced it is in the best interest of your children.

 
 

We wondered if we should add this one to the list, because it touches upon the dark side of the subject (yet such a common motivation for parents):

4- No one wants their children to behave at home as if they were at a hotel

Parents are not room service and neither is the maid. As a family, we are people living under the same roof and sharing love, respect… and tasks!

1- At what age should I start using Family Tasks with my children?

The earlier, the better! The more you wait, the more difficult it will be to get initial adoption from your children.

Family Tasks is a success in a family only if it is fully integrated in the family’s daily routine.

From our experience, a very good age to start is between 6 and 8, depending on the autonomy and maturity of your child. Start with age-appropriate tasks.

2- When to start

You can start whenever you want. There is no such thing as a “best time of year” or an “ideal child age” to start using Family Tasks.

As we repeat over and over, the single most important key to success when using Family Tasks is getting your children’s compliance.

3- How to get (and maintain) compliance from your children?

As you may already know, task or chore management systems are not a silver bullet. You might have already tried something in the past which failed. Don’t worry…it is very common.

From our experience, the most frequent reason why these systems fail is the lack of sincere compliance from children.

Getting (and maintaining) your children’s compliance is the single most important thing. This may take some time, so don’t hurry the process, as you’re building the foundation of your system. Be prepared to have between 2 to 4 family discussions on the subject before you start using Family Tasks. If it takes more discussions, don’t rush!

Of course, make sure both parents are 100% aligned before onboarding your children.

 

1- Initial announcement

Wait for a calm moment when everyone is present and relaxed (for instance, during Saturday or Sunday dinner) to formally announce that you want to implement a task management system in your family.

The points you should address in this initial announcement are:

  1. Why you want to implement a family task management system,
  2. Why it is important to you,
  3. When you would like to start,
  4. And how you propose to proceed in order to set up the system:
    1. present the principles of Family Tasks’ app (you may make a quick demo with fake tasks)
    2. explain that you’ll discuss the task list and repartition during a future “meeting”/dinner, and that you ask them in the meantime to think about meaningful tasks they could be in charge of
    3. explain that there will be a test period and that the task list and repartition will be fine-tuned after this time
    4. explain that the task list will be collectively reviewed and enriched every year, for instance

If you’ve already tried a task management system which failed in the past, it is a good time to address the subject and get feedback from everyone as to why they think the system failed and what should be changed in order to make it work.

Make sure all of your children agree to participate in the process.

The objectives of this stage are making sure that all of your children:

  1. Have understood that implementing a family task management system is important to you
  2. Agree to participate in the task definition process
  3. Have a global idea of how the system will work (it may be a bit vague at this stage, but it is not important as it is going to get more and more concrete in time)

If you see that the discussion takes too long (more than 30-40 minutes), step back and schedule another session.

 

2- Initial task definition

At the start of each discussion, remind everyone of the principles

  1. Make a quick recap of your previous discussions
  2. State the objective of the discussion, which is to define a first list of tasks and a first repartition of tasks
  3. List all the tasks everyone (parents and children) proposes for discussion
  4. Explain or collectively define with your children a process to select the tasks and decide on their repartition.
    In particular, define a rule which prevents discussions from lasting forever. For instance, we give ourselves a maximum of 3 discussions to define the task list and its repartition. If no agreement is reached at the end of the 3 discussions, the parents will choose the set of tasks and task repartition they feel represents the best compromise. Some families may opt for a vote system, but it has advantages and disadvantages.
    We recommend you discuss this subject with your partner before the first family discussion takes place, as we feel it is important there be a clearly defined way to exit dead end discussions and this should clearly be presented to children.
  5. In the end, make sure everyone agrees that the task list, repartition, and frequency are fair and feasible.

As always, if you see that a given discussion takes too long (more than 30-40 minutes), step back and schedule another session. It should be an enjoyable experience!

 

3- Trial period

The objective of this period is to make sure the tasks, repartition, and frequency work well. It is common to see an overly ambitious plan emerge at step 2. This plan is simply useless if children are overloaded and start to drop tasks.

Once in place, the tasks should make up a mandatory daily routine with exceptional and justified removals. That’s why it is important to have a test period to ensure the “contract” is fair and feasible.

The trial period should last between 2 weeks and 2 months.

The end of the trial period should be celebrated during a family discussion once all adjustments to the task list, repartition, and frequency are agreed upon.

Once again, if this adjustment requires more than one discussion, don’t fret. Your children’s compliance is paramount. Take all the time you need–it will pay back more than 100 times!

4- Give maximum exposure

Something you definitely don’t want to hear after having invested so much time in getting the buy-in from your children is “I forgot” or “I didn’t know it was my turn…”

In order to prevent this situation, make sure each and every family member (including the parents!) is fully aware of who is in charge of what on any given day.

The best solution for that is twofold:

1- Install Family Tasks on your children’s devices–if they have one–and on shared family devices (tablets, computers) and place a shortcut right in the middle of the home screen. You may choose to activate the parental controls on their devices so that they don’t, let’s say inadvertently, make any unwelcome changes to the family members or task assignments.  🙂

 

2- Stick an old tablet in a conspicuous place where everyone passes several times a day and use an app like Dock Dock! to make the tablet automatically turn on to Family Tasks’ Today screen every time someone passes by. We absolutely love the fridge for that matter. In terms of hardware to hold the tablet, you can use a Dock Dock! or a Koala kit, or any other tablet-holding kit. We really like the Dock Dock! kit because it’s magnetic. It can be placed anywhere and the installation is super-simple and fully reversible (no holes, no glue, no horizontality stress…), and -cherry on the sundae- its Android variant offers a magic magnetic cable so that you don’t have to look for the plug at night anymore… 🙂

 

Golden rule: Once tasks are agreed upon, there’s no excuse for not doing one’s job.

Following these steps just makes it easier.

5- Never settle

Once agreed upon, tasks should make up a mandatory daily routine. Dropped tasks should be exceptional and justified.

If a task is no longer feasible or fair for any reason or change in the family organization, it should be reassessed during a formal family discussion. It can’t be skipped without any explanation, otherwise the whole system crumbles.

6- Periodic reassessment

As your children grow, so do their responsibilities. That’s why the tasks have to be periodically reassessed (enriched).

As with the initial task definition, the task reassessment is a formal process which guarantees a result.

A common scheme is to schedule a yearly assessment, which takes place during the month of December or the month of January. September may also work. The idea is to start a set of family discussions at the beginning of the month, with everyone agreeing on a conclusion at the end of the month. (Unlike the initial task definition, which may have an undefined duration, everyone knows and is used to the system already in this case, so there’s no reason why the discussions should drag on forever).

Define a short trial period after which the new and modified tasks are collectively reviewed and adjusted before becoming official.

As always, if you see that a given discussion takes too long (more than 30-40 minutes), step back and schedule another session at a later time. It should be an enjoyable experience!

7- “Qui va piano va sano*”

*Italian saying: “He who drives slowly goes far”

You’ve just discovered Family Tasks. You find it at once so simple and yet so powerful: it’s THE system you’ve been looking for–for sooooo long!!!

Taken by a storm of enthusiasm like thousands of parents before you, you rush to implement it in your family. You convince your children to add all the tasks you wished they do without you even asking. They go for it—hooray!!!

So, huge success? Hmm…not so sure.

By going too fast, you risk pushing the envelope too far too fast. If the boat is overloaded, chances are it’ll take water… and sink. You don’t want that to happen, because if you start with a failure, it’ll be way more difficult to go back with another system later.

Time is on your side, so don’t be in a hurry. To start, make sure everyone has one task everyday. At first, younger children may have full days or even weeks that are task-free. Remember that genuine engagement and participation from your children takes time. So give them all the time they need. This system will last until they leave the nest, so it has to be rock solid to last for 10 years or more.

Don’t load the boat in order to maximize your chances of success. Upcoming periodic reassessments will gradually enrich the task list in time to your deserved delight.

Frequent questions

How many tasks should there be?

We have designed the screen so that it can fit 6 shared tasks on a standard tablet screen–the idea being that you shouldn’t need to have to scroll down to see all the tasks, and that in a glance you see who is in charge of what each day.

Therefore, we recommend not to exceed 10 simultaneous tasks. If you see an inflation of tasks, you may want to regroup them into a “bigger” task, and to use the description field to list all of the subtasks as a reference.

Family Tasks is designed for tasks shared amongst family members, not for personal tasks like “Brush your teeth” or “Make your bed.”

Some parents do use Family Tasks for personal tasks as well as for shared tasks. These parents tend to group the personal tasks into a task named “Daily routine” or the equivalent, which is assigned to all of their children, and which has in its description the list of the daily tasks one has to complete: Brush one’s teeth, Make the bed, Tidy the toys…

How to manage holidays, illnesses, sleepovers…?

Arggh! You’ve spent some hard time patiently negotiating tasks, you finally got full and sincere compliance from your children, everything’s been working like a breeze for weeks now… and kaboom–here come the holidays! One of your kids goes off to the grandparents, the other one to a camp, the dates are not the same… Or one of your children broke her ankle and can’t do any tasks for a couple of months…

So what about the tasks then?

During short breaks, we recommend you just let go. Simply tell your children explicitly that the task system will be on hold during the holidays, for instance.

If the break lasts for a longer period (1 month or more), you may choose to edit the tasks and add in the description the reason for the change, so that you don’t have to renegotiate everything once the ankle is fixed, for instance.  🙂

Should I give rewards for chores?

There’s no universal answer to this question. Every family and every child is different.

For the time being, Family Tasks does not include a rewarding feature. We may add it in the future*, but it will be an opt-in feature, as not everyone is into that approach.


*Our product roadmap is 100% driven by feedback from parents using Family Tasks. So if you need something we don’t offer yet, just ask us here and we’ll add it to our not-so-secret feature request list where it’ll compete with all the feature requests we receive. Our small team of devs work like crazy to deliver the most requested features as fast as we can! 🙂

There is a significant age difference between my children. How can I integrate that in task definition?

In order to keep compliance from your elder children, we recommend that your younger children join the Family Tasks system as soon as reasonably possible.

When negotiating the task repartition with your children, make sure the tasks’ definitions integrate the age difference between your children: tasks should be age-appropriate and everyone should agree that the task repartition is fair considering the age difference. Remember that task repartition is not static: it should be periodically reviewed (enriched/evened) to take into account the aging of your children.

There are 2 main ways to integrate age difference:

1- The youngest children may not participate in some tasks (e.g. “Mow the lawn” or “Clean the pool” is clearly inappropriate for younger children!)

2- A given task can have a different scope depending on the child’s age (for instance, “Set the table” can be a full task for your older children and limited to placing the plates and cutlery in front of each seat, with someone else taking care of bringing them to the table in the first place for the younger ones). The description field of the task is a very good place to indicate this difference.

Wanna share your parenting experience so that we can enrich this best practices list? We’d love to hear from you!