Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Organizational Challenges: Mom's Top 5

Donavon's Bedroom:  Mess Central!  (before routine)
Wading through the ankle deep room full of toys mixed with laundry, miscellaneous papers, and the occasional book, I sigh as I recall just two days earlier how the room was practically spotless after about three hours of painstakingly putting everything in it’s “home”!  I look at a closet half full of cloths… mostly on the floor mixed in with larger toys that won’t fit into a drawer.  Discs out of cases, pages of books torn and mingling with empty Playstation 2 game cases.  I look over at the book shelf only to see used tissues (allergies flaring this time of the year), an empty tissue box, odds and ends Hotwheels cars, and a couple small vertical stacks of books.  The computer desk is clear but I suspect it is only because he can’t seem to wade through everything else to play on it!  I count another 7 fallen soldiers (or hangers as they are normally called) as I pick them up and throw them in the trash bag with the other varied pieces of trash I collect.  The disappointment and frustration of knowing that I have failed to keep my house in order and I am a clean person who does not live like this is almost earth shattering. 

I have yelled, threatened, praised good work, scolded lack of productivity, used big words, used small words, spoken “low and slow”, used reason, grounded, spanked, timed out, and taken away every privilege known to boys… including media of every kind, toys, and every unnecessary item in his room.  And yet, he still continues to defy me.

I have cried, screamed, ignored it, laughed, and gone through every emotion possible when it comes to this predicament.  What do I do about the “twilight zone”?  It’s the one room in the house that doesn’t belong.  When left unchecked, it spills out into the living room, the other kids’ room, and even me and my husband’s bedroom!  (Not fun waking up in the middle of the night to use the restroom and stepping on a super hero or a matchbox car!) 

How many of us have been there?  Is there a solution?  Can we ever achieve harmony?

I have a resounding “YES!  It can be done!” for you!
My 9 yr old (almost 10 now) son has battled with this problem since he was old enough to begin managing his own things.  We have struggled with the responsibility of owning and caring for his belongings.  In our experience, we have found the following statements ALL apply.  

1.    Excessive emotion never solves anything. 
As much as screaming, yelling, arguing, and expressing the frustration, anger, and disappointment feels good for a moment, it NEVER solves the problem.  In fact, all it does it augment the already large issue. 
A.   Instead, we have used a technique called the “time out”.  This is not the punishment we all tend to use it for.  Instead, this is like a coach calling a “ time-out” in the middle of the game for the players to rest, get a drink, and re-group.  Donavon uses this time to breathe, take a drink of cold water or juice to refresh himself, and sometimes even does sit-ups or push-ups to express his frustration or anger.  When the timer goes off, usually 10-15 minutes later, we come back together and regroup!

2.    Keep behaviors separated and let the consequence fit the action.
In our studies and coaching sessions we have learned the difference between STOP behaviors (actions we wish to stop) and START behaviors (actions we want him to do regularly).  Good examples of STOP behaviors are temper tantrums, picking on himself/biting nails, writing on walls, taking things that don’t belong to him without asking, and other behaviors that need to cease.  START behaviors would be bringing home all his homework and communications from school, picking up his clothes and depositing them in the correct basket, organizing his toys, and basically any positive behavior we would like to see.
Our Reward Center... Three kids, Three jars.  The twins (4yrs old) use Pennies and Donavon uses Nickels.
A.   Once the list is made, we have a REWARD system for the START behaviors, and a PAYMENT system for the STOP behaviors.  Our coach brought us this idea.  Donavon starts his week with a jar of nickels.  $2 of nickels is 40 nickels.  They are ALL his to keep!  He can see them and touch them but they are up on a shelf where he cannot have them until “payday”.  When he does his “routine” (He created a daily routine on a poster with his list of requirements) he gets REWARDED at the end of the week.  When he fails to complete a task on the routine, he PAYS a nickel for each offence.  He only gets one warning per offence to correct the problem (like forgetting to pick up his cars or not making his bed.  Anything I have to do, I get paid for because my time is valuable.  It takes away from fun time, dinner time, park time, etc.  Donavon understands that if I am busy cleaning his room, I am not cooking his dinner, or playing with him!

3.    All punishment all the time will discourage our children.
We learned early with Donavon that if we are constantly scolding him and punishing him, he stops trying, starts getting discouraged and depressed and begins to act out.  Anger breeds anger just as love breeds love.  I love the movie Pollyanna.  In the movie, Pollyanna lets Reverend Ford read her locket.  He reads “When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will. - Abraham Lincoln.”  We began to take this to heart with Donavon.  Yes, there are things that must be addressed but if all we look for is something to punish him for, we miss the good things he does like the A he got on his spelling test or how he just got a new merit in his scouting group, Royal Rangers!  If we look for the good we will begin to find more and more of it! 

Another way to look at it is this; I have never spoken to parents whose kids are grown and gone, and heard them say, “I wish I had made him clean his room more” or “I wish we had spent less time having fun together and more time doing chores.”  Yes, those things are important but so is the time you spend together creating lifelong memories!

4.    Allow expression without consequences!
Over the past few years, once it was brought to our attention, we began to catch ourselves prohibiting our son from expressing himself to us.  No matter how he felt, we would blow it off with a “sweetie, I’m busy right now.” Or we would say, “Now’s not the time to discuss this.”  My personal favorite is, “Donavon, I don’t want to hear it” when Donavon tried to express his frustration with me or my husband.  Our kids have the right to have feelings and express their objections.  Yes we are their authority but good leadership begins at home!  My followers at home are my children and I will frustrate them and get decreaced productivity from them if they feel that their opinion doesn’t matter!  They don’t always get their way but I try to listen to them when they are trying to express their feelings and opinions.
A.   We not only have evening discussion time, we also have an open letter policy.  This way, Donavon can write down how he feels without the heat of Mom and Dad’s eyes looking at him which can be nerve racking and intimidating at times.  The letters have allowed us to see error in some of our methods.  Not everything works for everyone but this has allowed us to make sure we are using the best methods for Donavon.  Once we receive a letter. Joe (my husband) and I discuss the letter in private first, and then we call in Donavon to discuss the letter.  The promise is that no punishment can come from expressing how you feel and for being honest with us!

5.    Allow input whenever possible!
When we created Donavon’s routine poster, he told us how his day went normally.  As we went through what needed to be done he knew how his day SHOULD be going.  That meant getting up earlier and going to bed earlier.  He knew what needed to be changed and implemented the changes necessary!  I was amazed at how much he desired a stress free day as much as I did!  He wants to live peacefully and without friction as much as possible too!  What a concept!  He now chooses, within the boundaries of the house, what he wants to do, when he would like to do it, and sets his own goals.  He knows that he has to set his deadlines or else there will be consequences.  For example, being ready for school on time means getting up at 7:30 and doing his routine.  He suffers if he’s late because that means no extra breakfast… just a protein/fiber bar and some juice as opposed to a hot meal with milk and fruit!  The benefits of meeting a goal are learned through HIM setting HIS goals, and then realizing that HE can achieve them.  They are not imposed by me or my husband, they are HIS own goals. 
Donavon's Routine Poster
A.   We did this by presenting him with the problem and allowing him to solve it.  For example, we said “Donavon, what do you need to do each morning before you go to school?”  Donavon replies “ eat breakfast, get dressed, make my bed [and so on].”  We went through each task and determined how much time it took by doing them one Saturday.  Donavon came up with all the details and put them in order himself.  We haven’t had a problem in this area since!  Plus, room check at the end is his way of showing off how well he is doing!  He loves for us to acknowledge his success and accomplishments!

This is my top 5 tips for dealing with these areas.  Again, I am not a life coach, a therapist, a counselor or any type of professional help.  I am simply a mom, sharing successes with others in hopes that maybe you will find something to help you succeed as well!

God bless you!

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