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!