Lately, I have felt a little bit invisible.
OK, VERY invisible.
See, my children seem to no longer acknowledge my existence, unless they are asking for something. Often this is a good thing, because it means they are entertaining themselves and I am free to do laundry, cook dinner, pay bills, blog or even (*gasp*) go to the bathroom all by myself. It's definitely NOT a good thing however, if I am speaking directly to them or telling them to do something. In fact, being ignored in this way absolutely drives me crazy.
I have been making a concerted effort to organize a little bit, and then to tidy up on a regular basis so that, at any given moment, only some rooms will look like they've been bombed. In theory, the organizing part will make it easier for the kids to help put stuff away. Also in theory, making them responsible for some of the tidying will instill good cleaning/helping habits in them, so that this whole endeavor will become easier as time goes on.
I run into a problem when any instruction to my children goes utterly unacknowledged, and forcing acknowledgment from them has no affect on whether they actually do what I have told or asked them to do.
I can think of five ways to handle this:
1) Enforce some sort of negative consequence for willful non-compliance. In other words, I explain what the negative consequence will be if they don't do what I have told them to do, and then follow through with the "punishment" if they still don't comply.
2) I could bribe them to do what I tell them to do.
3) I could let it slide, and let them see the natural consequences of not cleaning up. Let them experience firsthand that a messy environment means they cannot find what they want, that they don't have room to play active games or set up elaborate constructions, and. . . well I'm sure there's other consequences that they might care about. Then they would see the benefits of keeping tidy, and this lesson would be understood much more clearly than in the first way of handling things.
4) I could lock them in their room, slip meals under the door and live in a clean house while they have their very own pigsty to enjoy.
5) Throw my hands in the air, clean it myself when I find time, and live in a disaster area the rest of the time.
So far, it's mostly been option 5. I'd really like to get a little more teamwork going in this equation, though.
I don't like option 2. I don't want my children to expect a reward every time they do something right- that's not the way life works. Despite that, Billy and I have been known to use this method on occasion. It is pretty effective. (Dammit.) Option 3 happens whether I plan for it or not, and I can tell you firsthand that the premise is laughable. Honorable maybe, logical perhaps, but utterly laughable. It doesn't work. And while option 4 might be very attractive sometimes, I don't think it's terribly practical in the long run. ;)
Therefore, I have been struggling with option 1: Negative Consequences.
Time outs are not effective in this scenario. They work in some situations with my boys, but not during a run-of-the-mill day at home. I've tried spankings, but the boys don't care about them enough to really change their behavior if a spanking is threatened. I will follow through, but if it's such a diluted concern that I end up having to spank often, then I want something more effective. I don't like giving spankings. I tried a "ticket" system wherein they could lose tickets for bad behavior, and if all tickets were lost they had to stay in their room the rest of the day. That's very difficult for me to enforce- we're always going someplace, and even after enforcing it a couple times it still wasn't "bad" enough to be effective. So, I've scrapped that one, too.
I'm feeling totally ineffective.
I need a better plan.
I'm writing about this here for a couple reasons: I know my experience is to some degree universal among parents, and I am looking for suggestions. Any ideas?
2 days ago