Friday, September 3, 2010

I Am A Mean Mommy

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I am a rare mommy. I don't like the sound of my voice.

Well, I shouldn't quite say that. I just don't like the sound of my voice when it's repeating the same thing over and over every day. And I do mean every day.

The wee ones are five and six (yikes, almost 7!), and it shouldn't be that hard to know how to get ready in the morning - and be ready on time. Or to keep from ruining their books by leaving them everywhere with their spines being broken. Or to help out with sorting laundry.

So I recently implemented a new system. After seeing how well the sticker system worked for Mister Man at school last year (each day he receives stickers for the subjects in which he behaved appropriately and earns rewards for full days of stickers), I decided to implement this at home, too.

Thank you to Target for the Dollar Section where I recently found a nifty little chore chart. The chore chart has room for eight different chores and stickers for up to four children. Rock on!

And so I decided to list out and add to the chores the wee ones do. And - of course - provide rewards for earning those stickers, not just punishments for failing to do what they are supposed to. They need to - and I need them to! - start taking responsibility for themselves.

Once I had the chores listed, I sat them down to explain what we're doing, and they were very excited. They loved the idea that after 40 stickers, they can earn a new book (doable in less than a week), after 80 stickers they can earn a date with Mommy, and after 120 stickers they can earn Movie Night With Mommy.

Then I started to explain the details of each chore.

1) Get dressed and put clothes away. Really, this shouldn't be so hard. When it's time to wake up in the morning, the wee ones need to get dressed with a minimum of fuss. And I don't need to trip over the dirty clothes littering the upstairs hallway later in the day. They need to be placed in their dirty clothes hampers. Oh, and Little Miss needs to brush her hair.

2) Put dishes away and wipe place off. This one is a four step process, most of which they've been doing since they were two. Dishes after meals and snacks need to be placed in the dishwasher (unless there are clean dishes in it, in which case they need to be placed on top of the dishwasher). Chairs need to be pushed in. Hands and faces need to be washed. And they need to get out a cloth to wipe down their places and remove all crumbs and yuck.

3) Let cats up in the am. Because the cats tend to yowl loudly throughout the night in my husband's face, he puts them in the basement to spend the night to avoid waking him and the wee ones up. (Me, I can sleep through the night with them meowing and jumping on me.) In the morning, the wee ones trade turns as to who opens the basement door to let the cats up to play with us all day.

4) Keep books where they belong. I can't stand walking into the playroom (now homework room) and seeing books strewn all over the floor. And I do mean all over. And then there are the books in the family room and the kitchen and their bedrooms. Mister Man has five or more that he's reading at any given time, and they rarely have a bookmark in them - instead they're laying open with the spines being ruined. No more. Now only one book is allowed to be out at a time, and it must have a bookmark. Ahhhhh.

5) Be ready for school on time. (Corollary: if it's not a school day, be ready when we need to go somewhere.) At 8am, I need to walk out the door. I drive carpool with two other families in the morning, and then I drop Little Miss at her school. I can't leave after 8, or it's a nasty domino effect of everyone being late and later to school. If they aren't ready (backpacks packed, shoes on, ready to walk out the door), they earn no sticker. And because this one is so important, for every minute past 8am they aren't ready, I am now fining them $0.10. Let's just say that Little Miss is starting to run out of money and is now waking up earlier.

6) Help with laundry or dishwasher. This one doesn't happen every day as thankfully I don't do laundry and the dishwasher daily. Thank goodness. But on the days that I do, I fully expect them to help me unload the dishwasher. They know where the silverware goes, and they can stack the other dishes neatly for me to put away. As for laundry, they already sort their laundry and help me start it. I also expect them to help me put away the laundry once it's clean.

7) Clean your room. The first time we did this, it took an hour and a half - and only some of that was due to the whining about how long it was taking. I expect them to make their beds in the morning, not perfectly but to the best of their ability. Any toys or books they were playing with need to be put away.

8) Green day. (Corollary again: if it is not a school day, I determine if the day was green or not.) I expect the wee ones to behave in school. And if they don't, there are consequencs at home. They get a warning at school, and if misbehavior continues, they move from green to yellow (and on to red potentially). That's just not ok with me.

We're currently in week 2 of this program, and the wee ones are still loving it. Each night before bed, I dole out the stickers. They generally know where they have and haven't performed as expected, and they're always sad when they don't earn a sticker.

You'll notice that this week, there haven't been many stickers for getting ready for school on time. Last week, Mister Man at least was golden. This week... it's been more of a challenge. But green days? Every single day has been a green day so far! Mister Man is so excited - and proud.

They've both earned their first book, which they loved picking out. And Mister Man is only a couple stickers from earning a date with Mommy. Little Miss is .. a little further away. But she's determined to get her stickers.

And I love not having to tell them what to do over and over. They know if I have to remind them (after walking through everything very clearly twice in family meetings and helping them the first couple days), they don't earn a sticker. And so they run to the board that hangs on our garage door to check to see what else they need to do.

It's cut down on the whining and complaining, and things are happening so much more quickly. And the biggest benefit, I think? They're really realizing how much they can do all on their own. And they are PROUD. As well they should be.

So maybe I'm not such a mean mommy after all....


Megryansmom September 3, 2010 at 2:40 PM  

And as YOU should be proud too, Mister Man and Little Miss are the kind of children adults don't cringe at when they walk into a room

CurlyJ September 3, 2010 at 9:14 PM  

That sounds like a great system! Can I use it with my husband? Just kidding! hehe

Unknown Mami September 3, 2010 at 11:01 PM  

You are a tough, but wonderful mommy.

Tara R. September 4, 2010 at 8:47 AM  

We tried using an award system like this and it didn't work nearly as well as yours. Congrats to the wee ones. Positive re-enforcement is a wonderful tool. Good for all of you on your success.

Pat September 4, 2010 at 2:48 PM  

You are an awesome mom, Michelle. Consistence and follow-through are so important! I wish I'd done something like this. I'm a messy and so my sons are, too, though the oldest and youngest have neat wives who keep their husbands' messiness in check. My middle son and wife are extremely messy--piles of stuff all over the place.

Karen September 4, 2010 at 9:41 PM  

I'm glad it's working for you. I tried that and then my voice was stuck in a "have you done your chore" rut. I, too, hate my voice.

anymommy September 4, 2010 at 10:59 PM  

So funny, we just started charts too. I could NOT take the 100 repetitions of every request.

Holly Wolly September 5, 2010 at 7:17 PM  

I tried a chore chart but everyone lost interest in the rewards after a while...ahhh!! I hope yours works out...and I don't think it's mean at's being a good mommy...
Come and visit my blog if you'd like a peek at my kiddos...

Tiffany September 6, 2010 at 8:45 AM  

Timely! I was thinking about implementing some sort of chart system last week for my boy, but haven't worked out the logistics or decided what the incentive will be.

Glad to see it's a success for you!

septembermom September 6, 2010 at 5:57 PM  

You're a great mommy! I need to learn from you :)

Michelle September 6, 2010 at 7:15 PM  

Megryansmom - Awww, thanks for saying that, but you do realize that it all depends on when that walking into a room happens, right? ;)

CurlyJ - Ooo I dunno, I'm not sure that getting a new book would be enough of an incentive for him. Go for it though!

Unknown Mami - You are too kind. There are definitely times I'm not a wonderful mommy, but I try!

Tara - Keep in mind that we just started week 3. I'm sure it will no longer work eventually and I'll move to something new, but for now... we're golden.

Pat - I can be messy, although I always know where everything is. I LOVE order though, and the days my house is in order are soooo nice!

Karen - Ahhh, I'm resisting that so far. I simply don't give them a sticker... so far, so good - but I'm sure that will change!

Stacey - Somehow, that doesn't surprise me in the least. We're alike on so many things....

Holly Wolly - Oh I'm sure we'll lose interest in the rewards eventually, but ... I'm all about finding solutions that work and if I have to change it up later, I will.

Tiffany - The wee ones actually decided what the incentives would be, which I thought was sweet - and hopefully will keep them motivated longer. Good luck to you!

Kelly - Ummmm you have four kids, and they're older and good. I think you're doing JUST fine! :)

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