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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Getting Little Kids to Straighten Their Rooms

Getting kids to clean their messy rooms is a task that (I thought) ended when my kids grew up. Despite all the begging and pleading and time it took to get them to straighten up their rooms, however, the way they were when they lived with me is entirely different from the way they live now. Each one of them is neat (they didn't get that trait from me) and their homes are clean and orderly.

But now I have grandchildren and my job (I used to call it a chore) is sometimes to get my grandkids to straighten up their rooms. Every week I care for three of my grandchildren, and every once in a while their mother asks me to get them to clean their rooms.

Only Kaden and Zac were home this past week (Taylor was practicing for her first play), so I had only two little people whining about having to clean their rooms.

The first thing I had to consider was a reward. They wouldn't go willingly. Maybe a favorite DVD, a snack, or a game.

Taylor, Kaden, and Zac's mom owns a frozen yogurt shop, and I decided that after the boys finished cleaning, we would visit Mom and get some frozen yogurt with the intention of each boy getting to hold down the lever on the frozen yogurt machine for 3 seconds. After their bowls were filled each could choose two toppings.

The next task was to get over their objections.

And then I remembered the game I had played with them the last time they had to straighten their rooms. Ah, yes! Only this time I would make it a little different.

Last time I set a timer and said, "I'm going to set this timer for 5 minutes, and I want to see you work as fast as you can to see how much you can get put away in 5 minutes."

They were astounded by how much they could accomplish in only 5 minutes. So we did 5 minutes more, then 5 minutes more, etc. until the room was straightened.

This time I decided to go by the number of items they could clean up and I told them I would take pictures of their progress. Kaden is quite competitive, so when I said, "Let's see how it looks after you each put away 10 items," Kaden said, "Let's make it 40."

So I said, "Nah, let's just keep it 10."

I'm kidding. I was enjoying his competitive nature and his enthusiasm.  We could see faster results with 40 items, but I think it's wise to start small and let the kids decide if they want to do more.

Kaden and Zac after completing the job

Almost there

Still a ways to go

Whoa! Look at that mess!
So, hearing about the game, Zac rushed to the closet and sat down. Apparently Zac doesn't have the same competitive nature as does his brother. And I said to Kaden, who was complaining that his brother wasn't helping, "That's OK, Kaden, if Zac doesn't help you, you get his yogurt and his toppings along with yours.

And Kaden said, "That's OK, Zaccy, you don't have to help."

Zac, still in the closet, must have been thinking about watching his brother enjoy all of HIS yogurt, because he appeared suddenly (I had to stop myself from saying he came out of the closet) and began cleaning.

After the 2nd picture was taken I had to adjust the reward I had promised them, because Zac had decided to stop cleaning.

"OK, Zac, you get to hold down the lever for only 1 second and you get only 1 topping," to which Zac responded, "I only want one topping – strawberries."

Well, there you go. Kaden finished cleaning, the room looked great, nobody was complaining, everybody was happy, and we all had frozen yogurt.

So my suggestion is that rather than tell your kids it's time to clean their rooms, make a game out of it. See how many items they can put away in 5 minutes, or have them count the items they are putting away.

Also, kids need to know when cleaning up their rooms, where to put everything. You may have to show them where everything belongs, and if they're really young, you may have to show them several times, but if you make it a game and have a reward they'll want, they'll be more agreeable to straightening their rooms.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What Happens When Parents Never Leave Their Children With Others

I sat on a bench across from the elevator on the maternity ward in the hospital the morning after my one and only son was born, waiting for the arrival of my (now ex) husband, my oldest daughter, and my youngest (at the time) daughter. Keeley was 13 years old and Lindsey was 15 months old.

My ex and I went out only once every year on our anniversary where we "celebrated" in a bar (his idea of a celebration). On those once-a-year occasions, his parents babysat. Our only other outings consisted of family get-togethers, weddings, and funerals but at those social events, we brought our children with us.

So, with the exception of the one time my ex and I had to attend a wedding with his parents and Lindsey was left in the company of one of my sisters (who swore that she would never again babysit for anybody – horror story to follow), Lindsey had never been away from me.

On the day after I delivered her brother, Lindsey was, in a word, MAD – that I had left her. Even at the age of 15 months, she had decided that I had committed an unforgivable offense by leaving her home with her father and sister WITHOUT me.

The elevator doors opened and I saw her look at me, though she immediately turned her head away as she folded her arms across her chest and looked everywhere but AT me. She refused to allow me to hold her or hug her, her way of letting me know how upset she was with me.

Looking back, I can see that one of the biggest mistakes I made was in never leaving her to learn how to trust others. Her world consisted of me, her father (who never changed a diaper, never read her a book, never fed her, never bathed her, etc.), and his parents. Period. 

Our once-a-year excursion to a bar, where we left her with his parents meant that by the time she was 15 months old, she had been away from me only twice in her entire life. She must have felt completely abandoned by me when I left her to give birth to her brother.

I'm sure she remembered the time I had to attend a wedding three months prior to her brother's birth when I left her in the care of my sister. Lindsey didn't know my sister very well, because we had gotten together only during holidays, and she felt traumatized. (The "she" in that sentence was meant to be ambiguous, because it could refer to Lindsey or to my sister.) 

I was pregnant with my son at the time of that wedding, and in the days before cell phones, I could call my sister only occasionally throughout that looooonnnnng day when every time I called her, I could hear the panic in my sister's voice and Lindsey's screams in the background. 

By the time I was able to leave the wedding, I was an emotional wreck, and my sister was in a state of apoplexy. Lindsey hadn't napped and she had screamed the entire time my sister had cared for her. Probably hungry because she hadn't eaten, my baby's convulsive sobs took nearly half an hour to subside once I got home. I felt horrible.

If "do overs" were possible, I'd have introduced Lindsey to other caretakers before she turned one-year-old instead of stressing my baby by leaving her with strangers (yes, even family members can be strangers to a baby who doesn't know the person). 

If I could leave you with one suggestion, it would be this: allow your baby to learn to trust people other than you, your spouse, and your parents. Otherwise, an occasion will arise when you have to depend on somebody to watch your child, and you will have to deal with the guilt of knowing you've frightened your baby.

(The photo is of my grandson, Nolan.)

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Big Family Saver

Written by Sonny Quinn

I had a huge family growing up and that meant we didn’t have any extras. We all wore hand me downsclothes and spent a lot of time worrying about whether or not someone would take all the food at dinner and who was going to be in the one bathroom when we needed to use it. Now that I’m a mother of an only child I think it’s great I’m able to give Sarah everything I never had. We got Direct TV at home so she could watch her Pretty Little Liars show and she got the cutest dress for her first homecoming dance that was just a few weeks ago. I know it doesn’t seem like much but just the thought of her asking for something and us not being able to provide it makes me so sad – I want her to have all the things I never did while I was growing up. Don’t get me wrong, I came from a loving family, but a poor one.

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