Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Making a Responsible Change

It all started with me having too much to do in the evenings. Try living off of four hours of sleep a night for months and you're ready to make a change. My feet hurt from being on them all day and had cuts on the bottoms from stepping on the little Lego pieces scattered about the boy's room. Then came a Saturday afternoon, just me and the kids. I had a TON of housework to get done. So when two little faces asked to unload the dishwasher, I said yes. I couldn't believe what I saw: my five year old and three year old knew exactly where every dish, pan, and spoon went. Sure they needed help putting stuff high in the cupboards, but it got done quicker than if it were just me doing it. As the last baking dish went in the cupboard and the boys walked out of the room, I decided to push my luck. "Please clean up the toys. Put them back in their proper places and we can have a special snack." Then they did just what I asked them too. I thought maybe it was a fluke.

When Monday morning rolled around and I had 9 kids to take care of, I decided to try a few things to make the day roll easier:

1.) Blankets/cuddle items on the couch or in bed (during naps) only. I was just done with kids dragging blankets behind them and getting upset when another child touched it. I implement this rule from the oldest (5) to the youngest (4 months). I am amazed at how quickly this changed how our day went, kid's attitudes, and how every child instantly understood what was going on.
2.) You can get as many toys as you want out, but they will all be cleaned up before lunch and naps. I also have them clean up toys in the afternoon before everyone leaves for the day and the boys clean up before bed. I was quite shocked when I realized even the one year olds knew where every toy went and every child's willingness to help and making an effort.
3.) No whining, use words. I'm shocked and pleased to inform people that when you tell a newly turned one year old (who obviously can't tell you exactly what the problem is), say to he/she: "show me" and they will in fact show you.
4.) There are very few time outs anymore. An offending child will need to sit on the sofa until he/she says sorry and is able to listen and "talk" about the problem. It's amazing when a two year old gets in trouble for hitting, is made to sit on the couch, and then we have a "talk." A talk usually goes something like this for a toddler: "hitting is not nice. It hurts. Do you want someone to hit you?" It seems to be that last line that gets all toddlers and preschoolers. Instantly, the look on their faces screams 'no I don't want anyone to hit me!!" and then it seems to sink in-what they've done, why they're on the couch not playing, away from the other children, and why they shouldn't do it.

These four changes have really made a huge difference in my day, cut down on upset children, and while these do seem like very strict rules, they have really helped the day run a lot smoother for both the kids and myself. I've always implemented a variation of these four rules, but lately, with 9 kids around during the days, I've had to be a bit more strict with them and it's paying off!

 After some discussion, my husband and I are also trying a new approach with the boys. We are giving them more responsibilities and rules. The biggest rule that we've implemented has been that our 3 kids (more so the boys than one year old Bup) are in charge of making sure the toys get picked up every day. They need to clean up after themselves in their room (and keep it clean). They need to help put their clothes away (mostly Max because if I have Harrison do it, it turns into dress up time and creates a HUGE mess!). They help take out recycling. They need to help unload the dishwasher (this is not an everyday thing. Usually only a couple of times a week). They need to have good behavior and follow the rules (no hitting, pushing, sharing, using words, etc).

To go along with our new parenting approach, we started a simple reward system for their cooperation. Instead of a weekly allowance that some parents do (we have not done this and have no plans to), we reward them with a pre-chosen toy (lately it's been Legos as they're in an obsessive Lego phase), a special dessert (a trip for ice cream), or a fun weekend activity (go somewhere or do something they've been wanting to do). However, in order to receive this reward, we have to talk about the week they've had. Good behavior/bad behavior, choices they made, what they could have done differently, what activities they liked best, what was the worst thing that happened this week, and what can be done next week (we also do this "high/low" thing every night before bed, it's a nice closure to the day and an excellent opportunity to hear my babes thoughts and talk about behaviors). I'm not going to lie, there have been weeks where they have not gotten their reward, mostly because of bad behavior and not listening. Last week, they got their reward Legos from the week before taken away because instead of cleaning them up, they threw them around their room. I was not happy. In order to get them back, they had to be extra good and do extra duties.

So far, this new system that has been successful. It has really lightened my daily To Do List! I love that this is a step in the teaching responsibilities direction and lays a good foundation of expectations. I have been flabbergasted as to how young a child understands what is expected of them and what they are capable of. While I'm happy to have some pressure lifted off of myself, I am mostly proud of the kids and how well all of them (mine and daycare kids) have listened, understood, and done with these new rules.