2013 is here. Time to start my parenting blogs up again and I can’t think of a better way to start the New Year than to begin with a strategy for a “quick fix” that teaches kids responsibility. No kidding. There really is one.
Today’s “unruly kid” all too often seems to win the battle over a frazzled mom in the grocery store, and those of us raised in the old school know that our parents had a “quick fix” for that (society of that day being on the side of yesteryear’s “quick fix”).
The quick fixes of today’s society seem to be to “give in” to misbehavior rather than having to work a little harder to achieve a lasting result. And while I plan to address "grocery store toddler terrorism" in another blog, today’s “quick fix” involves another subject entirely: Getting kids to help with housework - willingly. Even though the nature of a kid is to try to squirm out of work, this plan is foolproof and actually works. It’s irresistible.
My grown kids currently do this with their kids, so it has become a generational tradition in our family. It’s fun and has an edge of PSYCHOLOGY to it (which is why it works - you learn to outfox the fox). Here’s how to begin:
THE 5 MINUTE GAME
- Get started: The only real expense will be the pads and pens for lists, a CD player and CD's for music.
- Make a list: Survey each room (kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, living room) and make a list of what needs to be done in each room. For instance: make bed, dust, empty dishwasher, clean sink/bathtub, pick up stray toys, or vacuum.
- Post the list somewhere visible in the room.
- Centrally locate materials: Once lists are in place, gather up cleaning supplies and put everything in a centrally located place in your house. For us, it was the living room. We had a mop and bucket, broom, vacuum cleaner, dusting cloths and spray, various cleaners, wash rags, drying towels, and scrubbers, piled right there in the middle of the living room. You decide what you need.
- Assign: The leader of the brigade (the mom), will assign a room to each of the volunteers (the kids), and then put on some favorite, fun music to start. Most songs are approximately 3 - 5 minutes long, thus, how the game got its name. The leader gets to select and control the music. This game is kind of like musical chairs, only musical rooms.
- Music: Once the music is started, the individual in each room checks their list and will CHOOSE which chore to start with (anything from the list). Participants run to the centrally located area, grab what they need, return to the selected room and work frantically for the next 5 minutes. The mindset for the kid is that they only have five minutes, so will work really fast.
- Stop working: The beauty of it is this: When the music stops – WORK STOPS. Return cleaning stuff, mark off what was finished, and rotate to the next room. Each participant may either finish what a sibling (*friend) started, or start on something else. *Note to Mom: This is an especially good project the morning after your kids have friends spend the night (hehehe).
- Rotate: Mom, who’s in control of the music, resets to a new song and starts the process over until each room has had a good bit of work done in each category or each worker ends up in the room of origin (having spent 5 productive minutes in each room). By the end of the game, more than a dent has been put into housework and all had a fun time doing it. Mom can keep the game going as long as songs are available. Mom also reserves the right to approve the final project for the game to be considered "officially" over.
- Reward: More on that later.
PERKS FOR THE ADULT IN CHARGE
Note that Mom gets out of a lot of work being in charge of the music. See how well this works?
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF WHY IT WORKS
Here’s the psychology of it and why it works. Most of us, when surveying the overwhelming task of cleaning the house, have that sinking feeling before we even start. Where to begin? You shoot yourself in the foot from the get-go if you tackle it alone (or worse, with begrudging, whiney kids).
Here's what you tell your whiney kids:
"In this game, you’re only working for 5 minutes at a time! What's to begrudge or complain about? It's just 5 minutes! You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish in 5 minutes of continuous work. When “time is up”, you drop what you’re doing. Basically, you get to quit after 5 minutes, and if you don't finish it, the next person has to finish it for you! You then rest and regroup before going on to another task that you get to CHOOSE (for 5 more minutes). What's not to love about that?"
And your kids will buy it! That's the best part!
The 3-5 minute songs make the work more enjoyable, and you know there’s an end in sight. Instead of sighing because you dread a long, drawn out job, you breathe a “sigh of relief” because you know when Justin Bieber gets to that last “baby, baby, baby”, that the job is almost over (kids and parent breathing a sigh of relief for two totally different reasons).
Disclaimer: You don’t HAVE to use songs they like, but it’s preferable to throw in a few teeny bop songs you can stomach just in case you run into overtime. I prefer ROCKY songs. Everybody likes those.
I know what you’re thinking. You think I overlooked one detail. What about…gasp...THE SLACKER! Easy answer. You forget - Mom’s in charge. If the slacker is discovered, NOBODY GETS ANYTHING WHEN IT’S OVER. The siblings will "take care" of him/her if they get nothing for their trouble. Problem solved.
After a hard Saturday morning cleaning, you and the kids get to decide what the REWARD will be. For us, it was going out for ice cream. Point being, it must be something you ALL enjoy. Notice the subtle psychology of comparing ENJOYMENT OF ICE CREAM to the ENJOYMENT OF WORKING TOGETHER. Get it?
Adolescent issues are sure to come up later on, so togetherness is the key to solidify the foundational solutions for those future encounters. Mom’s sanity and kids’ comfort are also tied into the equation. Unfortunately, the poor kids don’t figure that one out until they’re almost at the end of their teenage years (laugh out loud). The funny thing is that this “quick fix” is so easy and fun, your kids might think they pulled a fast one over on you. But we Mama Foxes know better, don’t we?