Friday, May 10, 2013

Teaching your children good habits takes diligence...

Today's post only applies to the parents among us, of course, but it also those parents who have toddlers, small children, tweens, teens and older college-age children living at home.  

I'm having hot peppermint tea this  morning.  Do you enjoy hot tea?  It's very refreshing.

If you teach your kids where things go, and start teaching them the habit of putting them there, you will begin to see a less and less cluttered house.

This is by no means an overnight approach.  This isn't something you can "nip in the bud." This approach will call for patience, teaching, diligence, reminding and setting the example.

Remember the story I told you about our Spring Break trip?  I did a little experiment on myself to see if I could actually put all my things away when I was done with them.  This included all of my toiletries, my shoes, my sweaters or jacket, my purse, my rain gear...everything.  And I did it!  When I wanted to procrastinate and just drop my things any-old-place, I took an extra 2 minutes and put them away!

Now that I'm home, I've found that I'm trying to slip into my old habits.  Old habits die hard.  But I'm trying to retrain myself!  

My husband is out of town this week for a business conference.  My goal is to retrain myself and my children at the same time.  But I will have to do it in small un-perceivable increments.

Here's my game plan.  If you are determined to conquer the clutter taking over your house, you might want to write these down and play along.

1.  Be an example.  When you are finished with something, put it away.  If you're a cook, clean up as you go, put away the waffle iron when you're finished with it.  If you're a knitter, put your project in a small out of the way basket.  If you're a reader, put your book back on the shelf, in a drawer or basket, on the desk, where ever it may be that isn't cluttering up the family living space.  Be an example.

2.  Give a time frame.  Children get overwhelmed by large seemingly impossible tasks.  Set a timer for 10 - 15 minutes.  Explain that 3 people working for 10 minutes is the same as 1 person working for 30 minutes.  If everyone works together for 10 minutes, take the extra 20 and take a walk outside, play Uno, color together...whatever the child's favorite activity with you is... that should be the reward.  Children need to see how helping you with chores frees you to spend more time with them!  Give a time frame.

3. Focus on one specific at a time. If you have older children, ages 6 - 10 I'd say, give them a specific task.  Orders like "clean up the family room" is still overwhelming to them.  It's too big a space and possibly too big a task.  Break the job down into specific tasks.  "Fold up the sofa throws and store them in the basket."  "Pick up the legos/Barbies/game pieces/cards and put them back in the games closet." "Pick up anything in this room that belongs to you and take it to it's rightful place."  Tasks broken down into specifics leave no margin for interpretation or decision making for kiddos - that's the overwhelming part.  As long as you tell them exactly what to do, odds are they'll comply!  Focus on one specific at a time.

4.  Resistance is futile. More than likely you have one or more "messies" living in your house.  Maybe you're a messy.  When it comes to conquering clutter, resistance must be futile.  Some children will put up a fuss when you begin to change their messy habits.  But resistance is futile.  Never give up - never surrender.  Don't back up - don't back down. Resistance is futile. 

5.  Don't become the enemy.  One very simple way to overcome the urge to nag is with checks and balances.  You set the rules, but let your child know the outcome and consequences are his own.  
     Question: "Mom, can I go ride my bike?"   
     Answer: "Have you picked up all your things from the family room?"  
     Your child's answer is then your answer: If the child's answer is "No, I'll do it later."  Then your answer is "No.  You can ride your bike later."  If your child's answer is "Yes, I put everything away."  Then your answer is free to also be yes.  Again, let your child see that you are not the enemy.  The task is not the enemy, but completing the task is his responsibility and the desired outcome is dependent on him completing the task.  Whatever you do, Don't become the enemy.

Let's look at the importance of these five steps in review.

1. Be an example.  It is important that your family sees how important these changes are to the family, not just to you.  But you have to set the example and continue to be the example. 
2. Give a time frame.  Time limits are important, especially with children.  How often do children ask "how much longer,"  "How many more minutes,"  "When is this going to be over?"  Setting an audible or visual timer is good for children - and it will do wonders for your sanity as well by not having to answer the question "how much longer."  Be sure to reward them with an activity of their choice in the spare time you've saved/created. 
3. Focus on specific tasks.  Specifics are important because they set a boundary.  The mind thinks, "When I've picked up the blankets, I'm done."  Children see a room of un-ending tasks and they immediately feel defeated.  Focusing on three small completable tasks will help children learn that picking up is temporary, that no task is too big, and that it's better for everyone to work together.
4. Resistance is futile. Don't be discouraged by a little push-back.  Children are natural mess-makers; it's part of their job.  It helps them create, and creativity is good for them!  However, they must also learn that picking up after themselves is also part of their job.  Training and diligence are your only weapons here!  Children will push back - you must be willing to push back, too.  
5. Don't become the enemy. In my opinion, this is the most important step of all.  You do not want your children to grow up hating housework.  You want to raise responsible children.  You cannot make this new routine your latest idea. You cannot nag, yell, fuss, squabble or negotiate. Not at first, anyway.  After a few days, let them see that the things they want to do are dependent on getting their jobs done.  Everyone has consequences to their choices - let your children see that picking up is part of belonging to a family - that they do not have a personal maid - and that they are responsible for their own actions.

I am not a child-expert.  However, I am determined to get part of my life back.  I cannot tell you how many hours I spend each week just picking up clutter. Now that I've experimented on myself, I know that it isn't going to kill anyone, and that everyone will save time in the long run by doing their part!  

How do you maintain clutter in your own home - where children abide?

Only By His Grace,


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