My son was driving me absolutely bonkers today. For the third summer in a row, I’ve enfoced the “No Screen Time Until…” rule. It’s a set of tasks that must be completed each day prior to getting any screen time (tv, tablet, etc.). This year I’ve been getting a lot of grumbling and whining about the whole thing, and this morning I had decided on-the-fly to make a rule (something I tend to do and then later regret) that the kids must always put their things away when they are not in use. For example, don’t leave your laptop on the couch when you’re off doing something else. If they were to leave said item in it’s inappropriate spot, unattended, for more than five minutes, then I would dispose of it.
Yes, in the trash it would go. Harsh, I know, but I was feeling kind of desperate.
So, my son left his laptop on the couch this morning and I graciously gave him a five minute warning. When two minutes went by and nothing and nobody had moved, I let him know that he had three minutes left to clear the item. I did not realize at this time that he was in the bathroom. But he did hear my warning, and when he came out, he immediately started arguing that the “timer” should stop if and when he had to use the restroom. Knowing he loves to argue – usually only for the sake of arguing – I was hearing none of this. Yet he continued to argue his case for extra time. Which is downright laughable, because with all the time he wasted arguing, he could have put the computer away and then gone and made himself a double decker sandwich.
Pretty shortly after all this happened, I received a call from one of my best friends. The great thing about best friends is that when they ask you how you are doing, you can tell them. So I told her how frustrated I was, and she empathized. She has two boys, one who is a couple years older than mine, so she totally understands this age and behavior. She had a really great suggestion for motivating the kids to pick up after themselves, one that is far less drastic, and probably more effective at teaching them responsibility. A win-win, right? Her idea was to have a box dedicated to those toys you find lying around. When you find them lying around, you put them in the box. Then, if and when they want their toy back, they have to do a chore to earn it.
I love, love, loved this idea and implemented it right away. Now it’s evening, it’s only been a half a day, but already I’m noticing a change in my son’s behavior. We came home from his baseball game and I noticed he left his cleats in the middle of the kitchen floor. I was tempted to put them straight into the lost and found box, but decided since this is still a new concept, I would give him a little warning. I simply told him I had noticed his cleats on the kitchen floor, and without a word he got right out of his seat and put them away!! I didn’t even have to tell him to, or remind him of the rule, he remembered all on his own! He understood that it would be a lot easier to just get up and put them away NOW, than it would be to have to do a chore later to get them back. Which is totally what I am trying to get through these children’s heads!
Putting things away, right away, makes your life so much easier in the long run. This is a habit I’ve developed for myself over the years, and I would be overjoyed if my kids grew up cultivating this same habit. Their future roommates and spouses will thank me, am I right?