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A Late Night Run to the Coffee Shop

31 Jan

We just completed the last week of our 21 day habit forming project: keeping  bedrooms clean and neat.  It was fun to watch the kids work together to gain points.  I thought it might turn in to more of a competition, but instead the children ended up helping each other out.  Yay!

The bait on the end of the hook was a trip to Starbucks with Dad and Mom.

As the final week went on, three of the kids had an even amount of points, but my littlest princess was lagging behind a bit.

    “Hmmm… maybe I should mess their areas up a bit! ” she schemed.

Fortunately, her siblings had a more gracious approach and encouraged her to find some extra areas in the house to straighten, in hopes of gaining a few more points.

I love the fact that they all wanted to go together!

So… last night at 8:00 we all left the house to have a late night run to the coffee shop and had hot chocolates for everyone!

A special thank you to Uncle Mark and Aunt Merry for the Starbucks gift cards!

Will the rooms be forever clean now???

I think not, but no doubt, we have raised the standard for what is acceptable.


gently molding habits

12 Jan


The kids worked hard yesterday afternoon.  They conquered their bedrooms and each received a full 5 points!

Remember the original goal? To change a habit by gently molding, encouraging, and having fun.  This doesn’t mean that the work was necessarily fun for them, but the outcome was worth the work.

The hardest part is over, now their desire for points will help to drive

 the desire to maintain.  Throughout the process, the self discipline naturally grows!

the good, the bad, and the ugly

11 Jan

The target area I chose for my positive “molding experiment“, was the children’s bedrooms.  Yesterday I told you we had instant success, and that is true, but you would think I was crazy if you actually walked into their rooms.  The bedrooms were ten times worse than before we started!!!  I tried not to laugh as I looked for something to complement them on. They were so excited!

I had given them each 5 focus points on their chart.   So, each evening they have the potential of filling all 5 squares.  The challenge is for 21 days, but to keep them motivated, I broke it up into 7 day sections.  Whoever has the most points after the first 7 days gets to make a dessert of their choice.

1. Beds

2. Clothes

3. Toys

4. Closets

5. Bathrooms

I assumed they would try to conquer all 5 areas right away to receive 5 points.  Instead, they simply made their bed look great! Then… started emptying closets.  Today the little girls were so excited to show me their clean closet.  Beautiful! They had done a super job, but boy oh boy, the floor was a disaster! The boy’s room was very similar; they also were digging deeply. Unfortunately, I couldn’t give them a point for a job half done.  I made sure to notice the nicely made beds and let them know I was confident they would achieve a full closet point tomorrow after they put away all the things they pulled out of the closet! In a house with a bundle of kiddos, a bit of competition also comes into play.  Their enthusiasm is contagious and is motivating me as well!

Hats off to all of you that have picked up the challenge!

work together and play together

17 Jun

When summer time comes, I am just as ready to be outside as the kids are.  I want to garden, go for walks, read a book, maybe play a little tennis or go for a swim.  If I’m not deliberate, I will let all of the work of being a wife and mom (which I love) crowd out the play.

Throughout the morning, the kids and I accomplish much. We clean bathrooms, water gardens, bake bread, move laundry, – this week we cleaned the basement… There is never, ever a lack of work to be done! Sometimes we move in teams and other times individually, but we all work.

Why do I make the kids work?  (I say make, because it is something they have to learn, it is not their natural tendency.)

1. They don’t get bored.

2. They learn how to do sooo…  many skills.

3. They learn to set a goal and accomplish it.

4. They sleep better at night.

5. They learn to work together and make it fun.

6. They build strong healthy muscles.

7. They learn to serve others.

8. They become less self focused.

9. They have a greater appreciation of their free time.

10. Many hands make light work!

Even if there isn’t anything I need done, I will look for something for them to put their hands to and conquer.

At lunch time, it all comes to an end and we take some time to shift gears. After a quiet time of reading, resting,or looking at books, it is time to play.  This is the time when the kids ask me if they can do something… or if I will do it with them…  I make a point to say, “Yes!”  “Yes, I will go swimming with you! Yes, we can go for a hike.”  I want to have fun with my kids!

Why do I make myself play?  (I say make, because it is no longer my natural tendency to take time to play.)

1. I don’t get bored.

2. I learn new skills.

3. I sleep better at night.

4. I serve my kids.

5. I learn to play together with them.

6. I become less task focused.

7. I have a better appreciation of what they like to do.

8. I want the kids to know I love to be with them.

9. I am interested in what they’re interested in.

10. I will gain strong healthy muscles.

The summer flies by quickly.  Take time to be deliberate.  Work together. Play together.

finding order in the midst of chaos

12 May

Do you ever have dreams that seem to haunt you over and over? For years after I graduated from school, I would occasionally, but regularly wake in a panic unable to remember my locker combination or schedule of classes.  Through the years, these visions have diminished only to be replaced with reoccurring “chaos dreams.”

“Chaos dreams” tend to play out something like this:  Ten in the morning – I’m still in my pajamas, not showered, can’t figure out what to wear, the bed is not made, laundry is piled sky high, and stuff is everywhere. In the next scene, company arrives – usually  lots of company, expecting to be served brunch. I am not prepared.

I am quite sure this would bring a laugh to anyone who really knows me.  I love to get up early, the laundry is done everyday – so it doesn’t pile sky high, I make my bed when I get up, and we all enjoy serving guests brunch! Even so, disorder has a way of sneaking in.  If I start having “chaos dreams,” I know it is time to get in gear and regain order!

So the question is:  How do I maintain order?

In a house with many people, it requires teamwork.  There is no way I would be able to accomplish it by myself.  Even if I could, it wouldn’t be good for me or the family. With each place we have lived, a “morning job” list has been designed to fit the needs of that home.

These are a few goals that I look for when setting up the morning jobs:

✓ Every child should be included. ( for example: I put the baby in the front pack to watch, while I cleaned. A two year old can be given a moist cloth to dust. That age also enjoys the process of cleaning the tub, especially if given the opportunity to climb in and scrub, keeping them busy while I cleaned the toilet.)

✓ The child’s morning job shouldn’t require a large amount of time.  Fifteen quality minutes, required to be done before breakfast in our home everyday, goes a long way in maintaining a clean house.

✓ Watch for problem areas in each room and try to accommodate for them on a daily, weekly, or monthly routine. For instance, something I overlooked on our current morning job chart are the light fixtures.  Presently our kitchen light and fan is covered with dust! Yuck!  Had I put it on the schedule, it may have been overlooked occasionally, but it never would have become so bad.

✓ The morning job charts are posted where the kids can easily see them and covered with plastic slip covers.  At least to begin with, the children check off the chore when it has been completed.  After it becomes a habit, they seldom refer to the chart, but it continues to be helpful to me in holding them accountable.

✓ Walk through their personal chore with them the first few times, making sure they have a clear understanding of what is expected and how to accomplish it.

✓ Even if one lives alone, breaking the housekeeping into bite size chunks that can easily be accomplished increases productivity.

✓ Follow the schedule! It works!

If you are interested in seeing my Prevention Plan, I attached some links. Feel free to download and reformat to fit your own needs.

May all your dreams be sweet and filled with order!

• Clean the Office and Living room Doc.Download

• Taking out the Trash Doc.Download

• Clean Bedroom and Bathroom Doc.Download

• Clean the Dining room Doc.Download

• Clean the Kitchen Doc.Download

– all without being told?

4 May

One of the benefits of spending a little time away is the fresh perspective gained upon arriving home.  The kids all looked happy and healthy, the yard was lush with new growth, and the house looked beautiful!  I love coming home!

As usual, the children had been conscientious  in achieving order before we arrived.  Yet, within minutes, the order began to dwindle.  A sweater draped over a chair, water glasses with the remains of muddy hands left in various places, tennis rackets, balls,  crayons, papers, shoes… Things were taken out, yet nothing put away.  Disorder emerged so quickly!

I suddenly realized how lackadaisical I had become in this area. Letting my expectations drop, little by little, poor habits settled in.

So, what are my expectations?

I expect –

– the children to put their things away when they are done.

– beds made in the morning and a tidy room in the evening.

– them to take responsibility completing their daily chores.

– a respectful answer when spoken to.

– all without being told [this is a high standard but worth working towards] :)

Should children be held accountable when these expectations are not met? Yes, if they are based on a prior mutual understanding and agreement! First, I need to ask myself, “What kind of an example am I setting? How am I following through?” As the children grow,  self-discipline will be required, so while still a child, it is my passion as a parent to prepare them well.  Instilling in them the joy of industriously pursuing excellence comes through working together, supporting, and challenging each other.  Trying, failing, and trying again.

Throughout a child’s life, what is expected of him will grow and change. A few key concepts to help this transition go as smoothly as possible are taken from a previous post: A Room Full of Life and Adventure.

1) Give the child a clear understanding of what is expected.

2) Walk through the process with him ahead of time. (practice, practice, practice)

3) Have a clear understanding with the child of appropriate, meaningful consequences.

4) Calmly follow through with the plan and be consistent!

Taking the risk of being an irritant, once again, I am pulling in the reigns.  The standard is being raised.  There is no need to repeat myself, or become a nag, I am determined to simply follow through and be consistent.

A Room Full of Life and Adventure

13 Apr

I really dislike loosing my temper! Walking in to the boy’s bedroom after a good thorough cleaning only to find it turned upside down again,  certainly tempts me to blow out a bit of steam!  Some kids delight in keeping their things in order, while others leave a continuous trail wherever they go.

Eventually we are going to talk about chores and responsibilities, but today I wanted to address a question I was recently asked: “What is appropriate punishment for a five year old with (poor) behavior?” I’ll use the backdrop of my own experience with messy bedrooms to give some suggestions.

First of all, it is important that children have a clear understanding of what is expected. In the case of their bedrooms, I began by simply helping them to regain order. We found workable areas to store their treasures when they were not in use.  The motto became: “Play, have fun, and then put away.”  I let them know the consequences of not maintaining their space.

Within a day, the room was turned upside down.  A complete disaster! Argh! I had two choices: I could loose my temper, yell, stomp my feet (tempted? YES!) or I could calmly follow through with the consequences we had set. I chose the second, letting them know they had lost a particular privilege. They would have to earn it back by following through with the original plan. When they did not follow through, I didn’t get upset. They simply lost another privilege.

Ages can vary so much, but I have found this especially helpful for the 3 -10 year old range.

In a nutshell:

1) Give the child a clear understanding of what is expected.

2) Walk through the process with him ahead of time. (practice, practice, practice)

3) Have a clear understanding with the child of appropriate, meaningful consequences.

4) Calmly follow through with the plan and be consistent!

After a few days of mounting privilege losses, my mold-able pair of boys proudly invited me to come look at their room. Wow! What an improvement! I praised them and showed off their room to others as an example to follow. They did not regain all of their lost privileges at once, each one had to be earned over time and consistency.

Is their bedroom perfectly neat?  Far from it! It’s a fun little boy’s room, full of life and adventure.  When it gets out of hand, I have a reliable system to fall back on.