By Kimberly K. Parker Instilling a true sense of responsibility within our children is a goal my husband and I embrace. Initially, I assigned my children the task of cleaning their respective bedrooms. From there, I moved onto other household chores like assistance with the dishes, laundry, lawn, and the bathrooms. Considering the extent of my “to-do” list, I never reject helping hands…no matter how small.
On occasion, my beckoning for assistance was met with resistance. The children quickly asked to be pardoned because, “There’s only five minutes left of the show, Momma!” Then there were times when they reluctantly obliged the request. The deep sighing, overdramatized body language, and slight mumbling clearly indicated that the interruption was inopportune.
Eventually, their frustration was beginning to be met with ours! The lectures (“How many times have we…?”), warnings (“OK! I’m going to conduct a spot check!”), and even idle threats (“You won’t see an after-school dance if…!) were beginning to take its toll. Frankly, I had gotten tired of hearing myself fuss!
Instituting change in my children’s behavior started with changing my behavior. The old adage “If it is to be, it’s up to me!” addresses an often dismissed truth. While it is very easy to point a finger at them, the three fingers pointing back at me reveals who is the most responsible party. So I pondered a way to achieve the results I desired while annihilating the aggravation.
As is my custom, I awaken my family daily. One particular morning, I added a twist: I announced that I had an important announcement to make in thirty minutes. Rapidly, all three children were out of the bed and making their way to the bathroom. Twenty minutes later they were dressed and sitting in their seats asking, “What’s the news, Momma? Tell us!”
I took my time and chose my words carefully in an attempt to build the excitement…and it worked! After side-barring a time or two, I finally said:
Ladies and Gentlemen, the winner of the Cleanest Bedroom Award is…
With dropping draws and widened eyes, my children looked as if they had seen their favorite TV star! As the winner claimed his token of appreciation, my other two children were positioning themselves to win the next time. But, there was a twist: the next announcement would not be about bedrooms, but another category just as important. This way, they will focus their attention completely on the tasks assigned and work hard to complete them all!
Since that day, I’ve given out the “Initiates Homework” award to the child that does her homework without being asked, “Do you have homework?” and the “Yes, Ma’am” award to the child who responds to my requests without debate. I love the change I see in myself and my children! I have minimized my frustration and they have maximized their accountability.
If you find your situation mirrors mine, consider using this “system”. I sure hope it works for you, too.
Kimberly K. Parker is an author and blogger living in Maryland with her husband and three children. Visit her website at www.writingmomma.com to read more about her and the work she is doing in her community.