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Takin' it too hard pt.1

Posted by Patience on October 10, 2008 at 7:11 AM in Patience
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Part 1

The scene goes something like this. Little boys disappear for hours on end working on Lego cities and art projects, a little girl wanders the house in various outfits with clean clothes from her drawer and I talk on the phone.
This goes on for a couple days, the rooms get more and more trashed. There are late summer nights and no one even thinks about cleaning at the end of the day. We climb into bed and start a new day with a play date pretending there isn't a tornado of mess at home.

Then comes Thursday, and Friday is video game day. It's the weekend when there is potential for family fun. Something MUST be done today; it's the only day of leverage I have so I start early.

"Guys, you HAVE to clean your room today! Tomorrow is a big day, it's Friday!" I say.
They know and Josiah disappears quickly to begin making a dent. Jack starts negotiating when his first break will be and Lucy has now dumped the entire contents of her shoe box on the floor.

We go back and forth most of the day. Josiah gets distracted by a cool Lego piece he found and starts a new project. Jack has been strategically slacking all day and Lucy is now walking around in Princess heels.
I crack the hardest on Jack throughout the morning because he is the most committed to avoiding the job.
"JACK! I don't want to you to come back to me until ALL the Legos are off of the floor! Go!" I yell.

"Okay mom." He slumps over and slinks back upstairs. We go back and forth until around 4pm when Josiah comes downstairs and asks if I'll come see the progress.

Jack meets me in the stairwell.
J- "Mom, you're takin' it too hard on me."
Me-"What are you talking about?" I ask in disbelief.
J- "You're takin' it too hard on me about the room."

I know he's right, especially from his delivery and the way this child has a history of being a sage. There is no hint of attitude or judgment in his voice, he's just letting me know.

Me- sigh. "I'm sorry. You're right. I don't want to be hard on you. (we hug) I'm frustrated though because it feels like you don't want to do the job and are being a little lazy. I think I'm not doing my job to help show you what to do and you are not doing your job to work hard right? "

J- "Yeah."

Me- "Okay, what if I help you guys finish and you work really hard, we'll knock it out."

J- "Okay mom!"

We are painfully polite and helpful to each other until the room is done. Josiah's happy with the reinforcements and Lucy is now wandering the house in a crown and princess heels.

The room seems like the smaller victory of the day while connection and communication win out again. Isn't it amazing how parenting always forces us to the place that really matters in the end?

Please share your ideas for unlocking clean room superpowers in the comments. I've got my own list going so look for the next part of this post on Tuesday.


Sophia writes...

I am still having these clean-up-your room conversations with my daughter...and she is 23! Earlier this year she moved back home after graduating fom college. Looking back on her chidhood, I think I was much too soft on her. In picking my battles, I opted to ignore her room by just keeping her door closed. I worked full-time and wanted my precious time with her to be quality time. I didn't want to spend the time arguing. I know this is a dilemma many working parents face. But if I were to do it all over again, I would have been stricter about her room. It is not a bad thing to do when you are building life-long skills. So, Patience, I applaud you for making room-cleaning a regular part of your family's weekly activities. It can only be a good thing in the long run.

Gina writes...

My mother's strategy was "cleanin' music". It was the one time she'd turn the stereo up really loud and sing, really sing. We'd bust out the furniture polish, glass cleaner, etc. just to stay in the same room with this now-silly and singing version of our mother.

Amy writes...

It's with some reservation that I comment here, because the above scenario could easily be my house. But, here are my two methods to get the kids cleaning. First, and the most successful is we set a timer for 30 minutes a couple of times a week (if all goes well) and they clean in that time the best they can. I don't require perfection because that just makes me crazy if I try. If we do this regularly enough things don't get too out of control. We still slide, of course, and a week ago and you really couldn't see the floor in the girls' room. But, the other even quicker new thing I'm trying is the "5 minute basket fill". I got these small containers at 5 below (cheap) and they have five minutes to fill one. Then we do something else, then we have another 5 min. fill, you get the idea. So it's almost like a game and things can't get too bad if we do it often enough. For a mom who hates to clean, these short bursts help me stomach the whole process!

Fancy writes...

The old "Clean Up" song still works!

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