Thursday, June 4, 2009

Negative Consequences, part 2

I am still having trouble with the boys and cleaning up around the house. I still feel as if I have no currency whatsoever, negative or positive, to get my kids to help. My voice is still apparently a different frequency than what my boys can actually hear. But, we're working on it.

One thing I decided to try was to ask more often for help with smaller tasks. Instead of waiting until the end of the day (when we're feeling grumpy) to clean their mess from all day, I choose one small part of the mess and ask them to clean just that. Then they may continue playing. Sometimes this helps, sometimes not at all. Yesterday morning I handed them a box and told them to fill it up with every book, magazine, card and piece of paper that littered the floor in their room, the hall and the nursery. Not such a big deal, right? I went downstairs and cleaned part of the kitchen.

I came back upstairs to this:

Which was way worse than it had been to begin with. And there'd been no effort to pick up the papers or books. So then the kids needed to tidy up the mess they'd just made, and still collect all the papers, magazines and books. We did finally get it all done, but believe it or not the mess got worse before it got better. (Littleman decided to rearrange the furniture, too.) It literally took all day.

From yesterday's experience and the suggestions I've seen, I think my main problem is that I am expecting the kids to follow through on a cleaning activity when I am not directly supervising. I have this ridiculous idea in my head that I might actually be able to clean other areas of the house, or take care of Babyman, while the kids complete an assigned task. Apparently this is where I am expecting too much.

For some of the excellent tips I've received, check out the comments to my earlier post Negative Consequences. Also, I saw a wonderful list of 20 Alternatives to Punishment on Alicia's blog, A Magical Childhood. I will continue experimenting to see what finally works for us- I'm figuring out that while none of these great tips works for us on its own, I might be able to find a magic combination of them (along with an adjustment of my expectations) that will help us work together to keep the house cleaner!


A Magical Childhood said...

Oh no! LOL I've found the kids' bedrooms like that plenty of times too. So often, in fact that I donated quite a bit of their toys (not special ones, of course) and made sure there was a designated place for everything. There is a drawer for coloring books and art supplies, the shelves and dishpans for books, a drawer for blocks, a basket for cars and so on. I think it was just too overwhelming for everybody otherwise, although Anna did master the art of throwing everything in the closet! :)

Give it time and I think you're right about supervising at first. This is new to them and it will take a bit of time and direction for it to become routine. Also try to keep it upbeat. You don't want them to associate tidying with yelling, bad moods and unpleasantness.

I am not a naturally tidy person and my room looked like that as a kid too. My house can look like that quite a bit! :) For me, it took a combination of good examples (time with friends who knew how to work cleaning into the day all times of day), lists and fresh starts before it even started to get easy. I think kids need all of that too.

Sometimes the way to make things go easy involves more work at the start, and I think this is one of those. If you take time now to direct, supervise and make it a routine, then down the road they'll have the skills and attitude to do it on their own.

What works best here is to set a timer for 10 minutes or so and tell everybody we're going to speed clean. They know it's not forever and they know they can't get out of it because I'm right there. :) Then I give tasks and help and we race around doing as much as possible. When we're done, I focus on how nice it looks and we move on to something fun since the dirty work is out of the way.

I also remind myself that it's a gift to the kids to teach them how to keep on top of housework and not mind it. We don't do them any favors if we do it for them because they'll struggle with it once they're on their own.

Keep at it. It'll get better! (((hugs)))

Five Bears A-Blogging said...

Ha! The pic looks suspiciously like Brother Bear's room before we started our de-cluttering project! At this stage of the kids' development, side-by-side projects work way better than assignments. Tough with multiple Core-Phasers, I know, but it seems to be "the way".


Kit said...

@ Alicia: Yes, I've cleared out toys and stuff a few times, but it's time to do it again! Also, just about everything in that mess has a home- they just seem to have a hard time remembering where that home is. ;) I keep thinking about putting pictures on the bins and drawers that show what belongs there, but I haven't gotten around to it.

Oh, and me? I am a slob! LOL. So I set a bad example, too. But I know this, and it's part of the reason why I've not addressed the cleaning issue thoroughly in the past: I was too sleepless and busy with babies to keep my areas tidy, so I didn't expect the kids to do better than I could. But now is different! LOL. I'm doing better, and the kids know I expect everyone else to improve, too. We all have to do our part.

@Mo: Yes, it's really a pretty familiar sight to many of the mamas I know! And the side-by-side thing is just going to have to become habit, I think. Sigh. Maybe I should get up earlier in the mornings- there's not enough hours!