Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Does anyone have a spare instruction manual?

So, I write about parenting for a decent portion of my living. People PAY me to tell them how to parent their children. Which has amused and terrified me for years, because I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING.

This morning, I made the mistake of venturing upstairs with some buckets of folded laundry. My original intent was to put the laundry away for my children (something I rarely do, for reasons which will shortly become clear) and to clean their bathrooms.

When I got to the top of the stairs, however, I saw that my plan would not work, because a bomb had exploded, throwing sheets, clothes, towels, toys, and books all across the playroom and the bedrooms. I carefully picked my way through the debris, still thinking I could do a quick pickup and get things back in order, but it was pretty much immediately obvious that the plan had to change.

The plan had to change because (1) Dude, I didn't MAKE that mess, and I have NO intention of cleaning it up, and (2) it was a big freaking mess, and frankly, I don't love ANYONE that much. Also, because if I do everything for them, how will my children learn?

So, I cleaned the boys' bathroom and picked up the stuffed animals littered across their floor, then returned to contemplate the playroom and my daughters' bedroom.

I think the new plan is that when they get home from school, even before they do their homework, they will be sent upstairs to clean, under my supervision. After they finish, they will be allowed to eat dinner, and then they will do their homework. When homework is completed, they will go to bed.

Here's the problem: when I announce this plan, both girls will immediately begin writhing in pain as if Jack Bauer is injecting them with strange chemical compounds (HA! I KNEW I WOULD GET IN A MENTION!), and screaming that they didn't MAKE the mess and THEY AREN'T GOING TO CLEAN IT. And that's where my plan sort of falls apart.

The only thing I can think of to do, and I am actually considering this, is to very calmly tell them, "Fine. Sit here and do your homework." Then I will go upstairs with trash bags and remove everything. I will leave them with bare mattresses, no towels, pajamas to sleep in, and uniforms for school tomorrow. When they discover this and begin screaming in protest, I will explain that now it will be easy for them to keep things neat. Is this normal, or have I gone crazy?

What would you do?


Anonymous said...

Well- we have had this problem in our house for years. Last month my hubby and I were fed up- so we had the kids come up with the "family rules". They came up with 6 very good rules (6 to represent all the people in our family) and their consequences. After 1 violation of a "family rule", the receive a verbal warning. After a 2nd violation, they are assigned "cleaning time". They have to clean a designated area for 1 minute for their age. I set the timer for their age (6 minutes for the 6 year old) and then they have to pick up toys/clean and if the behavior is really bad- they get assigned a bathroom to clean.

So far, my 6 yr old has earned several minutes of cleaning and my house hasn't been cleaner!!

PS- my 3 yr old has Sotos (3rd child) and I love reading your posts :)

Anonymous said...

Well, apparently that's Madonna's method, so to whatever extent that makes you crazy is up to you to decide. :) Seriously though, it does sound good to me. I was just wondering today if everyone else's house looks like a bomb exploded too...we just remodeled our basement (work finished yesterday) and that will be the new playroom so at least it will be out of sight for the most part. But yeah, as my kids are older I am not cleaning up those messes anymore. It's ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Meant to say "as my kids GET older"'s still more effort than it's worth to get Julia to clean. We just do some symbolic cleaning to the "clean up" song for a few minutes each day.

Shosh said...

I think thats a brilliant plan.

Beth said...

How about letting the kids be part of the solution. Get them to come up with ideas on their own. They will be more likely to follow through if they are part of the solution. Sounds cliché, but it works in our house, some of the time anyway.

JK said...

I'd threaten that I was going to go to the playroom and toss all the toys and then the girls would immediately leap into action and clean. I actually use this threat often and it works.

Anonymous said...

What I personally find most difficult in whichever plan one decides to implement - is
1. follow through
2. consistency
Anyone else?
(One important key for me -- is letting them do it; it literally takes mental handcuffs from keeping me from just doing it - to get it done quicker and placed in "right" spot...I'm sick though! ;-))
Best of luck!

Dramalish said...

I know the boys are younger, but is there a way to include them in the plan, too? Definitely on a less complex scale, but perhaps they can help with the clean up a little bit.

Unless of course they didn't partake in the destruction of the playroom...

Knowing kids the way I do, the topic of "fairness" is bound to come up.. that the boys contributed to the mess, why shouldn't they have to help, etc...

Sorry about the bomb detination. My living room has them frequently.

Still just me said...

I have done this. I took away everything except the basic needs.

I allowed the kids to earn back the goodies I had packed away.

BTW- I only had to do it once!