Thursday, August 4, 2011

Getting Kids To Pick Up (Elementary, Teenager)


You have finally decided that you are sick and tired of picking up after your kids.  You scan the living room.  There are backpacks on the floor, shoes scattered haphazardly across the room, and papers  flung here and there. And on top of it all the dog is eagerly chewing on a piece of something that is no longer recognizable. You just hope it is not one of the wii remotes.  You walk into the bathroom and blue toothpaste is smeared across the counter. Your son’s clothes from last night are still on the floor. And all of the contents inside your son’s shoes are scattered on the floor and you feel the grit underneath your bare feet. The status quo has changed. A new modus operandi is at hand. You know that you need to stop doing all of your children’s cleaning, but changing the rules seems like changing the course of the Titanic. How do you tell your kids that they are slobs and now they are going to be picking up their stuff when you have been doing it for them since the beginning of time?   This is going to be a major transition for everyone. 

The Plan
The first thing you need to do is decide exactly what you want your children to do everyday.  Write them down for each child.  For example your list might say:
When You Get Home From School
  1. Get a snack
  2. Get out homework and finish it
  3. Put all of your stuff in your room
  4. Free time
  5. Supper
  6. Get ready for bed
  7. Clean the bathroom
  8. Go to bed  
After you have a list of what you want your children to do, then decide on some motivators. It is best to have a positive consequence that you stress, but also to have a negative consequence.  The negative consequence is something that you don’t want to use, but if your child chooses to make a bad choice, then she is in turn choosing this negative consequence.  For example, if your children are responsible for the evening, then they get extra game time before they go to bed.  Make sure the motivator is something that they want.  For the negative consequence it could be if they do not finish their work, then they lose game time or they have to go to bed early.  In our home we reward our children with Hinton Bucks that they can redeem at the Hinton Store for items, privileges, and to even buy out of doing a chore.  For our negative consequences we take away Hinton Bucks, take away video games, have an added chore, or a privilege is taken away. 

The Meeting
The second step is to have a meeting with your children.  You calmly explain that you are now going to change how things are going to happen in your home.  You tell them that now they are going to have the opportunity to earn some really cool rewards.  You show them the list that they are responsible for.  You explain the rewards and then explain the consequences.  Give them time to ask questions.  Post the lists, rewards, and consequences in a place where everyone can see them and refer to them. 

Be Consistent
The last step is the hardest of all.  Consistency is the foundation of good parenting. The first couple of days will be easy, but then everyday you have to remember to check and make sure your children follow through.  And in turn you must follow through with your rewards and consequences no matter how difficult they are for you.  Your children will learn to respect and trust you when you do not waiver from what you said you would do.  Your children will also find comfort in the routine and predictability of your structures. 


Maybe a month from now you will scan the living room to find everything in its place.  The children will be happy enjoying their free time.  The dog will be chewing  something appropriate.  And you will feel like you have arrived.  Way to go Mom!    

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