Teaching Accountability

Our house was pretty cluttered. Children’s toys and clothes lay in piles that seemed to grow taller every day. And I was getting discouraged. The problem became even worse when I began working part-time. Now I had half the time to clean up a full-time mess.

One day my friend Gloria and I were discussing my dilemma. She explained how her family had solved a similar problem. Every week Gloria would pay each of her children an allowance. But instead of simply handing the money over, she provided a way for the children to work for it. She made a chart listing various chores, the consequences the children would face for chores left undone, and the amount of money that would be deducted from the week’s allowance. At the end of the week, each child would receive the allowance minus any deductions. The idea sounded intriguing, so I decided to try it.

The next Monday I found three tins—one for each of my children—and plunked two dollars in change into each one. Then I made an allowance chart listing such things as “bedroom straightened,” “toys put away,” and “bed made.” If they didn’t put their toys away, I explained to the children, I would deduct five cents for each toy left out.

The next day I came home to a sparkling clean house. The day after, a few items lay scattered on the floor and on the kitchen table, so a little bit of money was taken out of the appropriate tins.

“You took ten cents!” my oldest daughter exclaimed after counting the money left in her tin. “What did I forget to do?”

“Your socks and pajamas were left lying around,” I explained.

The next day her room was spotless.

We’ve continued the project for some time now. The children are learning responsibility and are helping me keep the house clean. I’m thrilled when one or more of my daughters receive the whole allowance at the end of the week. And best of all, our home is a more cheerful place to be.Kathryn Jones, Salt Lake City, Utah

[illustration] Illustrated by Jerry Harston

Christ-Centered Traditions

“Christmas celebrations are sometimes more of a burden than a holiday,” my friend commented one morning. “I wish I could find more ways to bring the true meaning of Christmas into my home.”

I, too, had these same feelings. As I looked around at the tinsel and trappings of the commercialized holiday, I longed to be able to understand the angels’ song: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). I prayerfully pondered the problem of how to make Christmas more meaningful. At length my answer came in a simple, reverent thought: I needed to develop Christ-centered family traditions.

I immediately sat down and began to record my ideas. Over the next few days my list grew. I then contacted family members and neighbors for their suggestions as well. The product of these days of brainstorming is a long list of ideas we use to bring the true spirit of Christmas—the Spirit of Christ—into our home during the holidays and throughout the year. We found that the suggestions on the list fell naturally into three categories: service, family, and worship. Here are some of those ideas that can help make the Christmas season more meaningful and fulfilling.

Service—Goodwill toward Men

  • Go caroling.

  • Invite a lonely person to join you for Christmas dinner and other celebrations.

  • Secretly deliver treats or gifts to someone in your neighborhood.

  • Volunteer at a local charitable organization.

  • Visit a nursing home or other care facility.

Family—Peace on Earth

  • Let paper chains, straws in the manger, or other ornaments represent the good deeds of family members.

  • Exchange some gifts of service rather than store-bought presents exclusively.

  • For family home evening, have each family member tell a favorite Christmas story from the scriptures, Church magazines, or other sources.

  • Listen to Christmas carols together as you bake, clean, and prepare for the holidays.

Worship—Glory to God

  • Display a picture of Christ or a nativity scene in a prominent place in the home.

  • Read as a family the biblical accounts of Christ’s birth as well as the account in the Book of Mormon (see Hel. 14, Hel. 16; 3 Ne. 1).

  • Act out the story of Christ’s birth.

  • Discuss the spiritual meanings of Christmas symbols.

  • Spend time naming and giving thanks for gifts from Heavenly Father.

Now that we include some of these activities in our lives, our children have learned to enjoy serving at home and in the community. Christmas has taken on deeper significance as we reflect together on the real meaning of the holiday.Ronda Hinrichsen, Perry, Utah

[illustrations] Illustrated by Jerry Harston

[photo] Photo by Welden Andersen

Rainy-Day Ideas for Children

Winter can seem very long to both children and parents when it is too stormy for the children to play outside. The long winter days can be much more pleasant if filled with activities such as those that follow.

  1. 1.

    One week we made a simple but fun playhouse. To build one you’ll need a large cardboard box (which can often be obtained free from a local appliance store); enough white butcher paper or newsprint to cover the entire box; and markers, crayons, stickers, colored paper, and so on.

    Cut out windows and doors with a utility knife, and then let the children color and paste imaginative decorations all over the box.

  2. 2.

    Give children salt dough and cookie cutters and you will see young artists at work! I’ve experimented with several recipes for salt dough, but the one I like best is this one: Mix two cups flour, one cup salt, two cups water (with food coloring added), one tablespoon vegetable oil, and two tablespoons cream of tartar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture becomes stiff. Let cool and knead. Store this long-lasting dough in a plastic bag or plastic container.

  3. 3.

    Grandparents and others love to receive homemade greeting cards from little children—and children love to make them. Fold pieces of construction paper in half, and then let the children decorate them with stickers, rubber stamps, lace, pictures from magazines, buttons, or other objects. The possibilities are limitless.Donna Ramsden, Coopersburg, Pennsylvania

Picture of the Month

When President Ezra Taft Benson asked members several years ago to flood the earth with the Book of Mormon, we decided to start with our own home. We bought an inexpensive mat and frame large enough to hold the pictures available at Church distribution centers. On the first Monday of every month we would put a different Book of Mormon picture in the frame and hang it in our children’s room. During family home evenings we discussed that month’s picture and the story it illustrated. Then throughout the month we would ask our children questions about the picture. By month’s end they would know the picture and scripture story quite well and look forward to beginning another scripture story.

After doing this for several years, we have now branched out to Bible and Church history pictures. We also have started hanging a second rotating picture in our dining room. In this one we have been illustrating the life of Christ. Not only do the visitors to our home notice the pictures and ask us questions about them and our beliefs, but these pictures help everyone in our family understand the scriptures better and think often about Christ.Bonnie A. Nielsen, Akron, Colorado

[illustrations] Paintings by Arnold Friberg and Mary Lou Burgoyne