New World Order

Well I’ve survived the end of school. Tomorrow begins the first week of summer with attendant non-schedule. My kids are in for a little surprise. I’m changing the house rules for the summer. On school mornings if we can get kids up, fed, and out the door I’m happy. Beds made and teeth adequately brushed are a nice bonus. This summer I get mean.

Before they can turn on any form of electronic entertainment or go to a friend’s house they have to do their 5 morning things (Eat, dress, make-bed, brush teeth, fix hair), one chore (I get to pick it), and their room needs to be clean. I figure, during the school year their work is to go to school. During the summer they need to learn how to help around the house. When they are on the ball, this requirement takes 30 minutes or less, when they’re not, it can take all day long.

I’ve also instituted a stress relieving system for me. I’ve decided I’m not responsible for taking care of their things. I hadn’t realized how much energy I spent preventing damage to beloved items for fear of upsets and replacement costs. I’ve decided that I shouldn’t be stressing that stuff. If they damage a toy beyond repair, my job is to sympathize and wipe tears and find something else for them to do. If the item needs replaced, then the child who did the damage can pay for the replacement out of allowance or money earned doing chores. (Money chores can only be done AFTER regular chores.) If I child wants to take a toy or blanket to a public place like a grocery store, then the child needs to keep track of it and carry it, not me.

Oh and if they leave their stuff lying around the house. I’ll ask them to pick it up. Once. If they don’t pick it up, then I will. I will put it in “Jail” (a box in my closet) and it can only be bailed out by an extra chore.

Told you I was getting mean.

The good news for the kids is that I’ve already begun some of these changes and the resultant lower stress level has turned me into a mom who is more willing to play. I’m not shouldering so much of the work and so I’m not tired and resentful when the work is all done. I think that once they get used to it the kids are going to like this as much as I do.

13 thoughts on “New World Order”

  1. Wins all around, but I’ll bet the first week is interesting 🙂

    Not to mention if they’ve got to keep track of things for themselves, they’ll learn to keep track of them instead of depending upon you to tell them what they forgot.

    Valuable life skills through stress reduction! Works for me!

  2. I suspect the chores alone will help your own stress levels, and introduce them (gently) to the idea of responsibility without thrusting them cold into it, though the item-replacement-and-protection policy should go further along those ends.

    Of course, if Howard starts losing boots, what sort of chores does he end up doing? 😀

  3. Re: Chores for Howard

    Just holler if you need any help coming up with daddy-chores. I’m caught up on school until Tuesday at midnight, so, plenty of time to plot plot plot.

  4. Re: Chores for Howard

    We talking ‘digging holes for you in the backyard for the plants’ sorta chores? Or more ‘take the kids to X’ type?

    How about his pants? 😀

  5. You, dear lady, rock. Therefore and I will be incorperating your ideas into our summer.

    Several months ago he coded me a database with a web frontend for a points system a la Hogwarts style. (Houses are Goosefindor, Pirateclaw, and HuffleWen.) They get points for having the their room, the living room, and the dining room picked up. They lose points if the rooms are messy.

    And about the stuff left around the house? I’ve got a box room. All stuff that gets left out after a week of being asked to pick it up gets thrown in the box room and will not be seen again til we move.

    Oh yeah, about stuff taking all day? Goose has been known to take an entire week to get her room picked up. It drives batty. Me? I’ve lived with my father’s junk (he’s 77 years old and was born in the house he lives in and I don’t think a single thing has ever been thrown out except for food scraps) and have learned to step around it and make sure my stuff is neat and clean.

  6. One Acronym: MIL

    If they damage a toy beyond repair, my job is to sympathize and wipe tears and find something else for them to do

    I follow this belief.

    My MIL likes to give the kids card cames, tins, all sorts of “easily damaged” toys.

    And every time she visits, I watch her get quietly more and more irate that “they don’t take care of their toys”

    I’m waiting for the day she explodes. Because I refuse to “protect” the kids toys for them or her. They damage them, they get thrown out.

    I just wish they had few enough toys that it mattered to them. Gah!

  7. hmm . . .

    I like the idea of ‘jail’ more than a permanent (or even long-term) punishment. Of course, I’m not a parent, so I don’t have personal experience from that side of the coin, but . . .

    My mom told me that her mom would come through her room periodically, throwing away anything that wasn’t cleaned up. Now, I understand that my grandma is a lot more strict and disciplined by nature than either Mom or myself. But that still seemed totally unfair to me when I heard of it . . . you’d think it would encourage Mom to have her room in order all the time, right?

    Well, to me it seems to have the opposite effect. Cleaning your room becomes hopeless because if you’ve made even one mistake or messed up once, it’s game over. You’ve lost whatever item you left out and you can’t get it back. After a while you either resent your mom terribly, or you stop caring about whether or not you clean up your room, because you’ll never be able to be good enough anyway and why bother and it’s all hopeless and might as well kiss your stuff goodbye . . . etc. (Well, I don’t know if that’s how Mom reacted, but I’m pretty sure, from past experience, that that’s how I would . . . )

    But if your stuff is just in ‘jail’ – well, sure you messed up, but you can always try to redeem yourself. Stuff isn’t irrevocably lost. So, you know, there’s always hope. And if you can somehow keep hope even when getting negative feedback (‘wah! I can’t use my stuff!’) then it seems you’re more likely to remember to pick up next time, and the next time, and the time after that. You’ll still screw up sometimes – but after a while the good habits really do become habits, not just the operating-under-fear-of-death mentality that only lasts as long as you can stay afraid.

    Um. That kinda turned into a whole long rant, which I didn’t mean it to. Sorry to hijack your blog, ma’am . . . just, um, wanted to say that I think your system is a lot better for training up a child then the systems that only offer fear . . .

  8. Re: One Acronym: MIL

    The disposal of un-cared-for toys loses it’s sting alot when a new toy is immeadiately forthcoming after the disposal of the old one. The kids need to make the connection that if they don’t take care of it, they don’t have it anymore. It’s a connection they’re more likely to make as they get older.

    I our house the card games and other games with small peices tend to be “family toys” and they live on shelves in the storage room. They kids can have them out pretty much whenever they want, but only one at a time and only if they have a clean room in which to play the game.

  9. Re: hmm . . .

    I’m glad you approve the system. And I’m glad you care enough to post a long comment. I like talking with friends even via the electronic equivalent of post-it notes on the fridge.

    One of the reasons I like the “Jail” system is that it’ll help weed out the toys that the kids care about from the ones that they don’t. I suspect that there will be toys that sit in Jail for months on end. If something sits in jail for 6 months to a year and no one cares enough to do a chore to redeem it, then I plan to get rid of it.

    One thing that I feel really makes the system feel fair to the kids is that I give them one warning. “Kiki, I see your shoes on the kitchen floor, they’re headed for jail” And she usually jumps and puts them away. If they’re still there in 30 minutes or so, then I jail them and Kiki can’t complain that she didn’t know. If she is in the middle of something, all she has to do is let me know and the time limit is extended.

    So far only two items have gone to Jail. They both belong to Link. Funny, Link is also the only one who has told me he doesn’t like this new “jail” thing. I wonder why.

  10. 4 of 4 + giving MIL

    I’m the youngest of 4 children, so I have the hand me downs of 3 older brothers who had children before me, plus gifts, plus insane numbers of gifts from the MIL – who insists on seeing the kids receive their gifts and delights in telling them “This is yours”.

    So “house toys” don’t wash – they were given them directly.

    As for ‘new’ toys, don’t have a lot of them, just way way way too many old toys(I’m working on packing them away as time goes by, reduce the number they see and than it might start sinking in)

  11. Re: 4 of 4 + giving MIL

    Ah the joys of grandparental sabotage. I’m very fortunate on this front because my parents are extremely understanding and try to make sure their gift giving fits the shape of how Howard and I want our family to be. Also they live a day’s drive away from us, so they have less daily impact, which is both good and bad. Howard’s parents haven’t given our children any presents ever. Since they’re both deceased we’ve decided not to be upset about it. Juggling trying to achieve your family’s goals while not upsetting grandparents who want to spoil the kids has got to be tricky. Best of luck with that.

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