Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Hope Jars

I'm not going to lie, my kids are awesome, but I'm the first to admit there are times when their behaviour towards each other and us is less than angelic.  Lately, I've been struggling with the old chestnut of getting them to tidy up after themselves.  I love that my children like to write, draw and cut up paper and I don't want to stymie their creativity, but it's the paper, pens, pencils and crayons that are left strewn everywhere afterwards and my repeated requests to pick them up that is starting to wear my patience a bit thin.  Sorry, neighbours.

Even shutting their clothes drawers would be a good start. I'd like to think it's a gene they have inherited from their dad (he's a fan of the floordrobe), but if I am honest, I was the messier one out of my twin sister and I so our kids never really stood a chance.

Mum had a clever strategy though. I shared a room growing up and my side only ever got cleaned under duress.  If I wanted something, she'd pointedly ask "Is your room tidy?".  Clever woman.  My children aren't at an age yet where I have got their specific currency worked out. I've tried taking away their pocket money.  No tv. No friends over after school.  I've picked up the items myself and confiscated them.  They. Don't. Care.  Nothing works.

I was chatting to another parent about this just recently and she suggested that I try positive reinforcement instead.  The plan is to give each of my girls a jar and each time that they clean up after themselves, or do as they are asked without dragging their heels and complaining, they get a colourful pompom.  Every time they misbehave or they fail to clean up, a pompom is removed.  At the end of the week, the person with the most pompoms gets to choose an activity for the whole family to participate in.

I used to read about these kinds of strategies in parenting magazines and just laugh to myself at how stupid and time-consuming it all sounded.  Just make them tidy up, it's not that hard!! Now that the birds have come home to roost, the pompom idea doesn't sound so silly after all. I'm calling them my Hope Jars, as in I really hope this works.  But more than that, it is my wish for my girls to carry that Christmas spirit of giving, showing kindness and being respectful towards others with them every day of the year.

Each jar has a label with a line from a Christmas carol on it (you'll recognize the letters from the spoons at Sienna's party):

I sat down with the girls to ask them what they thought about this idea and they seemed quite excited. Sienna even wiped down the kitchen table after our chat without even being asked. I'm liking this plan already.

Time taken: 30 minutes
Cost: $0
Result: I'll keep you posted.

Halfway through the second week - I really had my doubts about this gimmick, but it has been a pleasant surprise to find a parenting strategy that is actually working for us.  The chance to select a family activity at the end of the week is more of a motivator than accumulating pompoms for Sienna, but all of the girls are enjoying see their jars grow more colourful through the week and I am enjoying a calmer, tidier home.

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