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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Getting them to Clean Up

In the last post, I mentioned having the kids help clean up the house and giving them a Brownie in a Mug for doing so.  That particular day we played "Magic Scrap."  We don't do this very often any more, but it's a really fun way to get kids to help clean, and in the list of topics from friends, the topic posed was--"How to motivate children to work/complete their chores," so here goes....some ways we clean the Madhouse.....

The best way to get kids to work is to start them young...as young as possible--while they want to help.

We didn't have official jobs (I don't call them chores because of the negative connotation of that word) until a few years back.  We always just asked the kids to do things spontaneously and taught them that that was what was expected.  The assigned jobs have complicated that a little bit.  Kids now, from time to time, will say, "But that's not my job."  Ugh!  I hate that!  I work really hard now to teach them that that's not the right answer.  When they're asked to do something, it's still expected that they will do it.  They're coming around to understanding that again, but it's taking some time.  I think if I had my druthers, I'd choose to go back to the old way.

To get them motivated, I will often say, "As soon as _____ is done, you may join us for ______."  Even with the assigned weekly jobs, the kids know that these must be done before they can join us for dinner.  We have also assigned jobs for before dinner and after dinner that rotate weekly so that everyone is involved with getting dinner on the table and the clean up after.

When I was going to college, I had to find a magazine article dealing with education and report my findings in a paper for a class.  The article I chose was on rewarding children for tasks completed.  The findings were that if a reward was promised and expected, as soon as the reward wasn't given any more the behavior would stop, but if the reward wasn't expected and was done only from time to time, it was more likely that the behavior would continue.  That's how I work now.  I try to vary things in how we work, and how we reward.  That is if I choose to give something as a reward at all.

Most of the time, the kids have their own area of the house that they clean each day.  Those jobs rotate weekly on Saturdays.  Sometimes, though, usually when no one seems motivated, we go around the house together, and I direct the kids on what they need to do.  I pick up along with them because I know that I need to set the example and there are times when I need to train a child on how to do a particular job.  This is my favorite way of cleaning.  As an example of this, I ask one child to scour a toilet, one child to pick up the towels and put them in the laundry room and yet another child to clean the mirror.  Each child does something different, but I'm right there.  We move from one part of the house and clean up in a very orderly way.  The kids would prefer to do their assigned jobs, but like I said before, this is my favorite way to clean house.  The other way we clean is with this game of "Magic Scrap."

Magic Scrap was something I saw a teacher use in her classroom when I was volunteering one day.  The Warden used it in his classroom when he taught elementary school too.  The one thing you must have with magic scrap is a reward for the winner.

At our house, I go from room to room with a piece of paper and pen before the game begins and choose one, two or three items that I designate as the magic scrap for that room.  I write them down on the paper and move to the next room.

When I've jotted down scraps for each room, I share the rules with the kids.  I explain where we'll be cleaning and how many scraps there are.  When I'm working with older kids, sometimes I make it so that the scraps aren't "things" at all, they're jobs.  For example, in a bathroom, it might be emptying the garbage or scrubbing the counter.  I don't tell them if that's the case, I just simply explain that in each room it might be a scrap or a job.  With little kids, I make sure it's only items to pick up.  I also share with the kids that there will be a reward in the end.  That reward might be anything from a treat to time on the computer.  If I know that the reward is something that will really motivate them, I'll share the specifics of what the reward is; otherwise, I just simply tell them that a reward is awaiting them but nothing more than that.

We start in one room.  The kids get moving.  As soon as the scrap(s) is/are found or completed, they're done with that room.  Even if the scrap is the first thing found, that's it; they're done.  Needless to say, I try not to choose easy scraps, but I also don't want to completely discourage them by the scrap being too hard to find.  That last time we played, I chose to pick a scrap in the pantry.  #4 found the scrap within the first two minutes in there, and we were done.  Bummer!  But those are the rules of the game.

I jot down who found the scrap, but I don't give credit to the finder until I'm sure the thing has been put away.  Sometimes I'll ask the child who just had the scrap in his/her hand where he/she put it when he/she returns to the room.  If it's not put the right place, I'll say, "Try again with that" and allow him/her a moment to get it right.  Sometimes another sibling will rush out of the room to go find the thing that's been put in the wrong place and put it in the right place.  If they can get there before the first child, great!  Whoever puts it in the right place gets the credit for it.

One thing I learned pretty quickly was to not give clues.  If you say, "It's a big thing," the kids'll only pick up the big things.  If you say, "It's on the counter," the kids won't pick up anything on the floor.  Don't tell them it's blue or round or soft or has wheels because you'll end up with happy kids but a disappointed you when all is said and done.  Your room'll be messy but free of anything blue, round, soft or wheeled, and if that's what you want, hey, go for it!

In the end, it's good to reward all of the workers, but I reward those who found the magic scraps more.  Last time, when I promised the Brownies in a Mug, I told the kids that the person who found the most scraps would get a bigger brownie.  I also promised that the hardest worker would get to choose the movie we watched that night.

I don't tell the results of the game until all is said and done.  This is because if #5 knows that #4 has found six and he has only found four and there are still two left, he will get very discouraged and will quit.  So, make sure that you not only don't tell them who's ahead, but praise them for their great work even if you know that they haven't found a single scrap.  They don't know any different anyway.  If you praise them enough, they may even think they're rockin' it and that they have the game in the bag.

Typically, when it comes to work, I don't believe in rewards.  I tend to allow the intrinsic reward of self-confidence do the teaching.  I also believe that praise (and in many cases over the top praise) does a lot more than we give it credit for.  My kids want to make me happy, and when I show them that I'm the happiest woman on the earth because of something they did, life is not only good, it's GREAT!

If you haven't started your child young, don't feel like I do at this point in my life about ever becoming a championship figure skater.  It's never too late to teach a child to work.  Start now.  Take baby steps.  I think teaching a child to work requires us to take the time to teach him/her just how to do a task and how we expect it to be done.  I also believe that teaching a child to work is a wonderful opportunity to teach a child respect.  My children work because they respect me, or they learn to as they do the jobs I normally do.  They learn that it's not fair to leave all the work to one person, and they learn to respect themselves as capable people who can do hard things.

Most importantly, we are preparing our children for the future.  We are showing them that we trust them and that we think they're capable people with something to offer.

1 comment:

Crazymamaof6 said...

amazing! can you come train my hoodlums. today was one of those days that the whole house is a crazy wreck and after coloring eggs and baking cookies and making dinner i was done and ready to lose it with anyone that didn't do what i asked. instead of keeping my cool i lost it. the kid didn't care if he did 't have a uniform to wear tomorrow.

what i'm saying is. thanks for the tips. i need all the help i can get.

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