Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Stuff Overfloweth

Well, I have to share with you one of the biggest issues that we have with our children. I have to say, it's been driving me crazy for years, and I am tentatively announcing that we have conquered it!  Well, I guess, if I am going to tell the complete truth, we have conquered it for a week, and that is better than we have ever done before!  The issue?  The issue that makes otherwise, somewhat, calm parents yell, scream and turn red in the face?  The issue that makes us want to cancel birthdays and Christmas for our children and to throw everything in their rooms away?  Ah, there you have it!  Clean rooms!  A parenting nightmare, at least in our house it is.

 We try to keep things simple as a family, so we tend not to go too far overboard on birthdays and Christmas.  We generally buy only essential items, such as clothing, outside of the traditional gift-giving periods.  We don't let the kids randomly spend their money on whatever catches their eye. I actually prefer candy to toy treats, because candy gets consumed and goes away.  Don't even get me started on fast food kid's meal toys!

For the most part, our children are well behaved and decent human beings with many talents and kind hearts. Sadly, though, one despises work and the other is a hoarder!  Now, our son, the work despiser, does tend to keep his room picked up.  Unfortunately, his version of "picked up" often means that things are shoved in his closet, behind his dresser, or under his bed, only to be found later by a soon-to-be screaming, red-faced parent.  Our daughter, the hoarder, has millions of little people and animals!  The very one that she will need, the one that will make her playtime perfect, will ALWAYS be the one on the very bottom of the storage drawer or tote.  Naturally, this means the drawer or tote will be dumped out, rummaged through, and the rest of the contents abandoned in a heap on the floor.  These piles are usually discovered right about bed-time as we enter her room to tuck her in for the night.  Usually an ugly, not-good-for-sweet-dreams scene ensues.

So, after several years of an ebb and tide of yelling and cleaning, we came to a turning point about one week ago.  It was a lovely Sunday morning, and I had just woken everyone up.  Our daughter asked for help picking out something to wear to church that morning.  This was a nice moment because, being the independent young lady that she is, she usually doesn't want my help.  So I opened her closet door, and started to reach for a dress.  At that moment, a Social Studies school book slid out of her closet and plummeted to the floor!  It landed right on my left foot, complete with a blinding flash of pain that coursed through my whole body.  It's not nice to drop large, heavy objects directly onto your feet from three feet up!

Once I was able to open my eyes to assess why this had happened, I discovered that the offending book, along with a couple of others, had been perched on top of a toy hamster, which annoyingly enough, was still making little electronic noises.  I hated the hamster as much as the book at that moment.  Of course, by this time,  my husband and son came to see what all the noise was about.  My daughter even had the senses to apologize, though at the time, not heartily enough to make me feel better!

In an effort to not make a bigger deal out of it than it was, I limped off to make breakfast.  I know she didn't want me to smash my foot on purpose, but that didn't really comfort me at that moment.  WHY was a book in her closet?  She has plenty of bookshelves!  WHY was the hamster sitting on top of the totes in her closet?  She has plenty of storage options for her toys.  And WHY were the books on TOP of the hamster?!  I will never understand the thought-process behind things like that.  I can only guess that there isn't a thought-process and she was just caught up in yet another "shiny-quarter" moment!

In any case, after several hours of stewing and limping, a brilliant idea flashed before my eyes.  After I discussed the brainstorm with my husband, we decided to invoke a new household rule:  Nightly Room Inspections! (Insert evil laugh here)  I honestly expected some resistance from the kids when we presented the idea, but they were actually excited about it!  Here are the rules:
  • Inspections are every night at 8:30 p.m.
  • If they pass, they get a check for that night
  • If they get five checks for a week, they get a treat on Sunday afternoon
To pass, they need to adhere to the following:
  • Books MUST be on bookshelves
  • Floors MUST be free of toys
  • Nothing can be hidden in closets, under beds, etc.
  • Desks must be neat and usable
Those are the starting rules.  As they pass inspections using these rules, we add more rules as we discover other problem areas.  I have to say, tonight is the final inspection night for Week One, and I am pleased with the results.  Their rooms are decent-looking, and we haven't screamed at them once the whole time.  Well, not for messy rooms anyway! As long as our daughter passes tonight's inspection, they will both receive treats tomorrow after church.

So, the project will continue another week, and I hope it's just as successful.  Of course, we want their rooms to be aesthetically pleasing, but more importantly, we want them to appreciate and take care of the "stuff" that they have.  I am praying that this project extends to others, and somehow makes them better people for it.  I pray that this also improves our parenting style, and brings a stop to all the screaming!

Here are the verses that came to mind as I was typing this, I hope they are helpful to you as well!

Genesis 2:15 - "And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and keep it."

Proverbs 22:6 - "Train up a child in the way he should go:  and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Ephesians 6:1 - "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right."

Ephesians 6:4 - "And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath:  but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."

God Bless!

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