I am so sick. Stuffy nose, throbbing sinuses, sore throat, ready to curl up and die kind of sick.
But, the TV hasn’t been on in my house once, at least when Joey’s around, anyway.
I’ve been watching a Harry Potter marathon on my laptop in my bed for the past three days, and Kimmie gets her daily dose of Diego when she gets home from school, hours before Joey.
Funny story: The other day, I fell asleep on the couch while Kimmie was watching TV (told you I’m sick) and when Diego was over, she wandered off and started playing with something in her bedroom.
I was still asleep when Joey’s bus dropped her off outside.
Kimmie saw Joey coming up the walk, and tore ass into the living room, snapped off the TV and yelled, “MOMMY! SISSY IS HOME! TURN OFF THE TV!!”
Anyway, these past several days have been challenging, to say the least. When Joey gets home from school, I’m faced with the inevitable “What can I doooooo?”
I generally respond with, “Well, you can do your homework, or clean up the mess you left in the living room. Or you can play with something for a little bit, or have a snack.”
But being sick, my response has been more along the lines of “I don’t care, just go away and don’t turn on the TV.”
My house looks like the third circle of hell right now.
But as messy as everything is, and believe me, it is super duper messy, I have been witness to my kids playing nicely together, using their imaginations, and leaning on each other for things they normally bug me for.
Joey even made Kimmie breakfast the other day, while I tried to get all the mucus out of my face.
I don’t think this would be the case if the answer to Joey’s daily whine was “I don’t care, go watch TV.”
I bet this blog isn’t making much sense, because I’m three shades of wasted on two different cold medications, and I haven’t slept for more than a few hours at a time in the past 3 days or so. But, suffice it to say, I am having warm fuzzies towards my kids, and I think it’s largely because of the current TV ban.
Now if I could just get Joey to eat her vegetables without a fight.
Next time, I promise we’ll get back on track and talk more about the whole TV thing in better detail. When I’m not quite so fuzzy.
In the meantime, I’m going to go try to get some more mucus out of my face.
Sorry I never got around to doing that promised blog last week. Let’s sort of do it now.
My original plan was to show up here with a list of things I eventually want my children to be responsible for, and then pop my list into a calendar and neatly compartmentalize a to do list for each goal.
I’ll bet you already know that didn’t happen.
Instead, I’ve decided to approach this with a bit of a freer spirit. That doesn’t require me to do much thinking or planning because…lazy.
The first thing I decided to shoot for is a clean bedroom. My girls share a bedroom, so cleaning it can be a real PITA. “But that’s not miiiiiiine.” “She’s not dooooooing anything!” etc etc etc. Barf.
I took a gander at my overall goals. Raising productive, well adjusted adults who can work together. And, you know, not having to spend three hours cleaning their room every time company comes over.
Also I want to reduce the amount of stress in this little house. Messes are stressful. Even more stressful than having a mess is trying to get two kids to clean up the mess. I needed to motivate them.
I thought long and hard about what best motivates my children. They are not spurred to action by promises of treats or rewards. Which is just as well, because I hate bribery. They don’t like being told they can’t do something, though.
For example, under the threat of losing her Duplo blocks, my little monster cleaned up her Duplo blocks. When she was told she would not be allowed to go to have her friends over if her art stuff was still all over the living room, my princess cleaned up the art stuff.
I hate being the police officer though. I hate being punitive. (Not being punitive is not the same thing as not teaching discipline, but we’ll just save that for another blog if it’s all the same to you.) So I started trying to think of something that would work in every situation, that would spur the kids to action, and that wouldn’t make me feel like I was taking something away.
At about this time, my kids started arguing over the remote control. “Spongebob!” “NO! Timmy Turner!” “NO! SPONGEBOB!”
And then it hit me. Not the remote control. The solution.
The next day, over lunch in a public place (to hopefully avoid them slicing me open and leaving me for dead), I spelled out the deal.
“Every morning, you guys will be responsible for making your bed and making sure there is nothing on the floor of your room. I’ll come in and check, and if everything is cool, everything is cool. But if someone forgot to make their bed, or one of you leaves toys out, or clothes lying on the floor, no TV for the day.”
“THE WHOLE DAY?”
“The whole day.”
“But what if the stuff on the floor is Kimmie’s?”
“I want you guys to learn how to work together. If one of you doesn’t hold up your end of the deal, neither of you get to watch TV.”
And there was much whining and gnashing of teeth. But I stood firm. Even though, honestly? Yeah, I was thinking I was nuts. I wasn’t solving problems, I was creating them. I could hear the fights in my head already.
Part of me, though, was really hoping that this was going to work. That Joey and Kimmie were going to decide that being able to watch the new Victorious is more important than being right. That they’d start helping each other out, as necessary. That their room would be clean for more than ten minutes at a time.
Guess which part of me was right?
I’d be lying if I said there was no fighting. But not more than usual, really. And my kids are, in fact, working together. It’s true that the older girl is doing the lion’s share of the work in there, but little Kimmie dutifully makes her bed, to her own Kimmie-fied specifications, every morning. And she’s been better about putting her toys away when she’s done with them.
I added a little sweetness to the pot and told them that they get to do a room inspection in my bedroom every day, too. And if I’m found lacking, they can ban me from the television for the day.
We’ve been operating thusly for the past week, and today was the first day of a totally dark TV. We had friends over last night, so we were all tired and there was more than the usual mess in both our rooms.
When I walked into their room this morning, Joey said “I don’t think we’re watching TV today, are we?” and I said “No. But I don’t think I am either.”
Instead, we spent the day hitting Target for some vacation supplies, eating a yummy dinner and following it up with board games. It was a great day. With no TV.
This is a win/win for my family. If we all clean up, the house is in order and everyone feels good about it. If we don’t, the TV is off all day and we spend more time connecting as a family. There is no downside, here.
I’m sure that the girls will get up tomorrow, make their beds and finish cleaning up their room, because they’re ready for iCarly and missing Big Time Rush. I know I will most definitely be cleaning my room in the morning, because Sunday night = True Blood.
Okay, homework time. Find out what motivates your kids. Don’t ask them. They will smell what you’re cooking and they will lie. Just think about it. It’ll come to you.
Figure out how you can use that to motivate them to begin taking the baby steps you laid out for them in last week’s homework. Get your partner on board, if that’s part of your thing, because this needs to be enforced by everyone in the family to work. Then it’s time for a family meeting.
Let me know how it works out in the comments!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what kind of adults I’m raising.
Well, when I say “lately,” I mean the past seven and a half years, really. Yes, at some point, while I was pregnant with Joey, I started thinking about who she was going to be when she grew up.
The kid wasn’t even out of me and I already had her in the White House, people.
My most recent mental meanderings, though, are a little more practical. I’ve been reading Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement and it’s got me worried about my kids.
I am not raising productive members of society.
Everything is done for my kids, either by me, their father, or (most often) my amazing mother. Who did everything for me, too. Which explains why it took me a good eight years or so to figure out how to clean an oven. (And even then, it was with copious amounts of Google.)
My kids are seven and four. They’re not going to be cooking dinner any time soon. But, I do want to set up some responsibilities for them.
And it’s not because I’m sick of cleaning up their shit.
Okay, it’s not JUST because I’m sick of cleaning up their shit.
I want them to have the sense of pride that only comes from a job well done. I want them to understand the amount of work that goes into taking care of a house and family. I want them to work together towards common goals.
I want them to grow up to be mature, responsible adults, who do not have that amazingly annoying sense of entitlement that so many kids nowadays seem to have.
The world owes you nothing, kids. You have to work for it. All of it. Any of it.
Over the next week or so, my husband and I are going to be working on our plan to ban entitlement from our home. I’m hoping to start, with baby steps, in July.
How about you? Sick of your kids expecting everything to be done for them? Good. So am I. Let’s work together to make sure our kids feel valuable and capable.
I’m giving you homework.
Have a real discussion, with your partner or with yourself, as applicable, about what responsibilities your kids have, and about what responsibilities they probably should have.
Write down what you’d ultimately like your kids to be handling around the house, keeping in mind this isn’t (just) about lessening the adult work load, but also about teaching your children important life skills.
Meet me back here on Thursday morning and we’ll take the next steps together.
Optional “extra credit” (you’ll laugh your tail off about that if you read the book): Go get the book and give it a perusal. Barring that, check out Kay’s blog, The MOAT Blog, for ideas and inspiration.
See you on Thursday (list in hand)!