Tag Archives: behavior

Monday Musings: Got M&M’s?

28 Apr

If you have M&Ms and a messy house, host an M&M Cleanup!

ORIGINALLY POSTED OCTOBER 27, 2011:

As I look around my living room at this very moment, I see laundry in two big piles waiting to be folded, leftover birthday party paraphernalia on the table, today’s pajamas from someone on the floor (those might even be yesterday’s now that I think about it) and I think to myself, “We need an M&M Cleanup!”

The M&M Cleanup is my husband’s invention, I must give him all the credit on this one. He started it when our kids were little as a way to entice them to clean up quickly with a little chocolate for motivation. Because it’s chocolate related, it still works even when they’re big. In fact, if you offered me an M&M right now (I prefer Peanut M&Ms,) I might just clean it all up myself.

Let me tell you a little bit more about it.

First and most importantly: You don’t need to have M&Ms to do this. You could use Skittles, fruit snacks, my personal fave-chocolate chips- or whatever you think is extra special, would motivate your child best and you’re comfortable rewarding them with. In fact, mini M&Ms work just as well as full size. Other than Halloween and maybe Easter, our kids don’t get M&Ms on a regular basis, so if we have them on hand, they work well because they don’t get them often. Conveniently, Santa always leaves them in the stockings and the Easter Bunny usually leaves them in the baskets, so we often get restocked around the holidays.

Second: We only save the M&M Cleanup for big messes, and only periodically do we use it. Otherwise, it’d lose its motivating factor. If you do it all the time, it’s not special. If our downstairs playroom is a huge, overwhelming mess after a multi-kid play date, for example, rather than yell and demand over and over that they clean up, and them whine that it’s too much or they don’t want to, or my favorite, “That’s not mine, I didn’t put that there,” we just announce an M&M Cleanup and they literally run to the mess and start cleaning up.

How it works: You can do it a variety of ways. Sometimes it’s one M&M or chocolate chip for each “thing” they pick up and put away, or for each trip they take from the living room to the bedroom for example, to put something away. Or, you could do an M&M per handful so that they’re not picking up a tiny scrap of paper and getting an M&M for each one. Really, the details and logistics are up to you. And, once that’s determined, how many rewards they get is up to them and how hard they work. If everyone works equally as hard (and in our house that is NOT always the case,) you can give a final little handful to all when the job is done just to make sure it’s fair all around and that no one who worked just as hard, is neglected for being a little bit slower, or whatever the case may be.

Most importantly: Make sure you are the one holding the M&Ms. This allows you most importantly to treat yourself as they clean up. I’m sure you worked just as hard about your day, without reward, so now’s the time. Secondly, this allows you to make sure no one is digging into the reward without doing their job first, or that no one is sneaking any more than what’s due them (such as the one for you and three for me routine.)

Although you can’t use this all the time and nothing is 100% foolproof when it comes to working with kids, The M&M Cleanup has worked wonders for us. It leaves us all smiling at the end and feeling rewarded for our hard work, and everyone needs that every once in a while!

 

Photo credit:

M&M image for the public use:

First One In Bed

22 Oct

Nighttime means bedtime.

During the summer, bedtime is a free-for all. It doesn’t matter who goes to bed when and there’s usually no reason to get up early in the morning, so everyone can sleep late if they need to.

The school year is a whole different ballgame though.

Recently on Facebook, a lot of my friends have been venting about the tough job of getting kids to bed on time, in a reasonable manner. My kids are older now and our routines are pretty set at this point, but I *so* remember those days.

Setting a bedtime routine is so tough. You have to determine a bedtime, first off and then stick to it. You have to determine what you’re willing to do at bedtime (read a story? Watch an episode of something? Have a tickle fight?) and what you’re not. You have to make sure the kids do their jobs at bedtime (“bathroom, hands and teeth” is our mantra to this day) and still make sure they’re in bed on time.

Sometimes it seems like you need to start at noon in order to get them in bed, on time, with everything done, and staying in bed.

Early on, when we just had Caroline, we’d watch one short video (on a video TAPE) before bed. That worked well for her, as a wind-down routine, and we’d read a story.

With Elizabeth, we found that watching TV wound her up, instead of winding her down.

With Alex, I think most nights we practically threw her in (figuratively, not literally), shut off the light and shut the door, she was so easy.

But there came a time when we had preschoolers and toddlers that getting all three in bed on time just seemed hopeless. We had three kids with three different bedtime routines and we needed to figure out what one thing would work for all of us. It didn’t seem possible.

Until we came up with The First One in Bed challenge.

I don’t even know which one of us came up with it, to be honest.

Let’s just say it was me, for now. 😉

It probably wasn’t though. Don’s always better at creating a challenge.

In a nutshell, here’s how it worked:

Each child had a sticker book (which was a small notebook of some sort, I remember two of them had Strawberry Shortcake on them at one point) and we parents had a big ole’ pile of stickers. All different kinds of stickers worked best, rather than just one kind.

The challenge was to be the First One in Bed. If you were, with all your jobs done, you got three stickers. Second one in bed got two and the last one in bed got one. Or maybe it was four, three and two. I don’t remember, but you get the gist.

You had to be in bed, under the covers in order to pick out your stickers. You had to already have done the whole “bathroom, hands, and teeth” routine.

You had to yell it from your room, really loud: FIRST ONE IN BEEDDDDDD!!!!!!

The others would follow, yelling out that they were in bed too. Ties were allowed. We didn’t want to start a fight or make anyone cry, rather we wanted to get everyone in bed and fast, so we could go out in the living room and sit down for more than three seconds at a clip.

Elizabeth in particular is VERY competitive and loves a challenge. She wanted to win EVERY time. She was known to leap over a smaller child and roll the rest of the way down the hall, in order to get into that bedroom first. (Well not really, but she’d race down that hallway and leap into bed, for sure.)

She was also known to get in there and not be 100% honest about whether her teeth were brushed, and have to get back up, losing her First One in Bed spot.

Their goal was to fill their notebook pages with stickers. Lots and lots of stickers.

This went on for months and months, until somehow we phased it out. I don’t remember how or when, but it was a while ago.

The point is, it worked for us. We were able to create a bedtime routine that worked for all of our kids and let us keep our sanity at the same time. It only cost us a few stickers and a few notebooks.

Hopefully this will help someone else with that particularly challenging time at their house too. I hope so. If not, maybe it’ll spark a different idea that works for you and your child/children at bedtime.

And in our house, to this very day, there are still some occasional nights when we hear someone yell out from their rooms, “FIRST ONE IN BED!!!!” just for the fun of it.

Lenten Sacrifices: what gives?

27 Feb

What to give up for Lent?

Last Wednesday was the start of Lent for our family and for many of our friends. It means that the Easter holiday is in just forty short days. Forty days to prepare yourself, however you choose to do so.

For many people, myself included, the big question is always “What should I give up for Lent this year?”

Last week, when I was in a particularly flippant and cynical mood, I posted on Facebook, saying that there wasn’t a whole lot to give up, and that as far as my beloved chocolate chips, well I just couldn’t go there. Not this year.

We live a pretty frugal lifestyle right now, so we sacrifice so much it seems, already. We only buy what we absolutely need, we only go out when we have freebies if at all possible, and we have given up pretty much everything, for just a short while longer. But, it leaves not a whole lot left to give up.

Or so I thought.

I was surprised though, my kids all chose something to give up, even though none of them are 14 so really, by the church’s rules, they don’t have to give up anything. We do abide by the no meat on Friday rule as a family though, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise me a whole lot that they wanted to partake in this part of Lent as well. Even if they don’t make it the whole 40 days with their sacrifices, I’m proud of them for trying.

And then came the question….

“Well Mommy, what are *you* giving up for Lent?”

BAM!!

There it was.

How could I not give something up for Lent if they all were? One was even giving up computer time. Gasp…I could never.

But I went back to that Facebook post from last week and re-read some of the answers that were there, this time I was in a more serious mood, less joking than I was when I originally posted, and I really began to consider them one by one, except Barbara’s who said to give up Facebook. Nope.

I liked the one from Dolores’ priest, who said to try to complain less. I don’t think I complain a lot, but then if you ask my family, it’s really all I do, in their opinion. 🙂 I guess I could try that one.

But there were several others that I liked also, people whose priests suggested adding positivity to your life by trying to do a particular something more often, something good, something positive. I liked that.

Another friend said their priest suggested trying to do something that’s hard to do normally, something that takes extra effort, whether it is being nice to someone you don’t like a lot, or something like that. Also a possibility.

We too, went to church on Ash Wednesday and our deacon said something I found interesting as well, he mentioned that you might start praying for someone who needs it, and you might not even know that person personally, but you might know of them and know they need the extra prayers, so you could add that into your day.  Very thought provoking idea.

However, one thing stuck out most from all the friendly comments and suggestions. Dolores’ priest said, “and if you fall off the wagon, get right back on and try again.”

I guess I liked that piece of advice the most because in my mind, no one is perfect. No one is successful every time, but it’s the thought and the effort that counts.

During this time of Lent, I think it’s more about taking the time to think and reflect and make the effort to work on something, whether you’re giving it up or adding it in. It is about making yourself a better person, or at least trying to be a better person. I know we all try to live our lives to be the best we can be, but I also know that for me personally, there’s always room for improvement. And who knows, it only takes three weeks to form a good habit or something like that, so if we do end up being successful for forty days, then maybe the new good habit or whatever change we make, will stick for the long term.

And that, a true Lenten lesson, was my takeaway from what originally started out as a flippant Facebook post. Think, reflect, try hard and then try harder.

And if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.

Welcome to the jungle…it’s school vacation week!

21 Feb

“You drive us wild, you drive me crazy.”

Peanuts 550 piece puzzle

The Gang's All Here! It's February Vacation Week! Jigsaw puzzles like this one might be one thing you can use to keep older kids busy during school vacation week.

Welcome to school vacation week!!

As I type this those words are echoing in the background because the kids and their dad are playing Guitar Hero on Wii. It just so happens that those exact words are playing at this very moment.

Coincidence, totally.

Additionally, Alex has found another guitar downstairs and is playing a completely different tune on that one while Guns N Roses plays on the TV for the others.

School vacation week has the potential to make any parent crazy. The kids are home full days for a full week and depending where you are in the country, you may be confined to the indoors due to the weather. Knock on wood, it’s been a beautiful winter here. I can’t remember a February this warm in a long time. We have been outside without jackets several times this week and each time, I’m amazed that it’s February and we’re getting to play outside, and not in the snow!

I don’t plan a ton for February vacation and my friends laugh at the reason, but it’s true: we have never had a February vacation where no one has thrown up. The stomach bug usually hits our house this week every year so we end up having to cancel whatever plans we’ve made. Each year, including this one, I’m cautiously optimistic, but even so, I bought two bottles of Gatorade last week just in case. It’s a regular full time work week for Don, which also surprises everyone, since schools are closed, but yes, he has to work and yes he’s got a ton to do.

Overall, I look forward to school vacation week. It gives us a break from all the running and scheduling that we have to do during a regular week when you’ve got two people working and three kids with three different schedules. It’s a lot to manage and I love the break. I love having everyone here. However, if we’re not careful, it can get ugly pretty quickly. We’re not in any way immune to the bickering and arguing that can erupt if they’re left to their own devices for very long.

The secret to a successful school vacation week is having 1) plenty of snacks on hand to prevent low blood sugar meltdowns and 2) plenty of things to do (free or almost free) even if you don’t end up doing them all. Activities can range from crafts and activities to outings or a good combination of both.

Two of my kids have birthday parties this week and I’m hoping to schedule them all for a playdate one day also. I have to work a day, and we’ll have a cousin sleeping over here a night as well. Other than that, there’s lots of free “stuff” to do locally because everyone knows the kids are out of school. For example, if you live in Rhode Island and have younger kids, check out the Learn All About It website to see what kinds of activities they have going on this week. If you see one you’d like, be sure to sign up by calling the store.

I’ve got more projects around the house planned in my head than we’ll ever do, but at least I’ve got plenty of options. My goal is not to have everyone sitting around bored all week or sitting in front of the TV all week either. There’s plenty of other things we can do instead. The week will end up flying by, I’m sure.

Below is a recipe I’ve shared in the past, but never on my own blog. I’m sharing it because I’m sure it’ll make an appearance on my table this week for a snack.

Sour cream dip for fruit.

This is a great snack for kids and adults alike!

YUMMY FRUIT DIP

The girls found this recipe in one of their kids’ cookbooks: “Silly Snacks: Family Fun in the Kitchen.” It was so fast and it’s SO good!

Mix together:

8 Ounces Sour Cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. Vanilla extract

Fruit of your choice.  In the past we have used red grapes, nectarines, plums, apples, strawberries, peaches and bananas. We also have skewers, which makes it even more fun to eat.

Mix and dip!

Seeing the forest through the trees

23 Jan

Sometimes clarity is hard to find when you're in the middle of a situation.

Two weeks ago I had an absolute meltdown while on Facebook. It was a weekday morning and I had one kid home sick (I know, shocker)  and I’d spent the entire morning rushing the others through their morning routines. No one seemed to have themselves together that morning and there were missing hats, gloves, water bottles, and despite all of the hunting and gathering, still a homework folder was left on the table as the bus pulled away, again. My normally low blood pressure was probably through the roof as I sat down on the couch and updated my status as to the fact that I was about to lose my mind. Again.

After I ranted and raved a bit, I felt much better. My heart stopped racing. I sipped my coffee.

And then…the responses started to come in. Other mothers, friends of mine, commenting that it’s the same for them, that they knew how I felt, they could feel my pain. I instantly felt even better.

Through all of those responses though, several stood out. One friend stated that she now avoided those types of morning problems by doing all of the hunting and gathering the night before and laying it all out, ready to go. Another friend stated that she’d had a laminated check list for her oldest daughter a few years back, and that had worked well. My sister in law in Virginia agreed, stating that she’d used a similar one in the past, hooked to her daughter’s back pack where she could see it.

I was stunned. Why hadn’t I thought of these things?? I am a former teacher! I am an organized person! I have a check list for setting the table, one for cleaning up the basement, in the past we’ve even had one for the steps to take for calming oneself down (I could’ve used that one.) You would think doing these things the night before and setting up a check list would have hit me on my own, that I wouldn’t have needed to be told to try these things. I was incredibly thankful for the suggestions and yet feeling somewhat sheepish that I was so behind the eight ball, so down on my game.

But then it hit me. Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of a situation, something that should be clear to you, just isn’t. And sometimes you need to be told something so basic, just because you can’t see it on your own. And sometimes it’s okay to ask for help. I didn’t even realize I was asking for help, I was just ranting, raving, venting. And I didn’t even realize I needed a solution, a different plan. But as soon as I heard it, it was as if a light went off over my head. Well of course….a check list….doing it all the night before. Of course.

So that afternoon I made up two check lists on two pretty pieces of card stock and put out star stickers so they could mark them off as they went along each NIGHT, packing up their things. When they got home I explained to them how things would hopefully work out the next morning. They were excited (and maybe even relieved that I wouldn’t be yelling so much in the morning).

When I signed onto Facebook again that night, I was so touched. There were words of encouragement from my friends, wishing me a better morning the next day. That morning (which went off pretty much without a hitch) I had yet more words of encouragement from my friends, telling me to update them and let them know how it went. Again, I was so touched. Any disappointment that I’d had in myself was now gone, replaced by a huge sense of thankfulness and relief to have such an amazing network of friends and family around me.

We all support each other. With the internet the way it is today, as far apart as we are, we’re all right there for each other when we need support. I can’t thank each and every one of you enough, if not for that day’s support, then for another day’s words of support, encouragement or celebration. It really does make a difference. Here’s to a good week for us all.

"Night before" check lists

After two weeks I replaced my hand-written check lists with a typed one that I can just print out every two weeks.

When can I……

17 Nov

“When can I have a cell phone?”

“Can I get my ears pierced?”

“Can I get them double pierced?”

“When do I get to sleep on the top bunk?”

“How come I have to put my own laundry away and they don’t?”

Sound familiar? As soon as our kids are old enough to ask for something, it starts….and it never ends. We realized very early on that we needed to set up House Rules for the kids who lived in our house and stick by them no matter what “everyone else” was doing and no matter what the rules in their houses were.

The rules were basically set by our experiences with our oldest, since she is the one who approached every benchmark in life first, whether it was sleeping on the top bunk, or having a cell phone, or whatever the case may be. However, by setting the rules for her, and making them known to the next two girls, it’s stopped a lot of the questioning. The rules are set, they know what they are, and there’s no question. We’ve only had to make an exception on one rule, one time, which I’ll explain later.

Having set rules not only helps us stay consistent in our parenting from kid to kid in our house, but it helps us have a ready answer when confronted with a question from another parent, and gives our kids a ready answer as well, when they’re asked if they can do something, by one of their peers. They may not like the answer, and their friends may not either, but at least they can blame us and say, “That’s the rule in our house,” if they want to.

Obviously we know that nothing can be written in stone and exceptions may have to be made along the way, and things may come up that we have no rules for and need to make a split decision on, but we have our baseline set of rules and we do our best to stick by them. We also know that our rules may be different than other families’ rules.

Clearly, we’ve only gotten up to the rules for twelve years old and sixth grade since our oldest is only that far along, but it makes me curious:  what the rules are in other people’s houses? Do you have rules set up beforehand and stick by them or do you make them up as you go? Do you have rules that you’ve found helpful beyond the ones we have here?

Comment back and let me know.

Here’s a look at our House Rules

Age 5 allowed to have their first friend birthday party, at home, five friends

Age 6 allowed to have their first friend birthday party out of the house

Age 6 first time sleeping in the top bunk  (*This is a safety rule told to us by the furniture store where we bought the beds, so there was no question here.)

Age 8 ears pierced

Age 9 last big friend party out of the house

Age 10 the almost sleepover birthday party (Three friends can be invited. Kids arrive with pjs, pillows, sleeping bags and stay late but not sleep over night.)

Age 10 Bedtime is moved to 9pm

Age 10 Responsible for putting away all of their own laundry

Age 10 first time sleeping at someone else’s house other than family (This is the one we had to make an exception for. Our second daughter got a birthday party sleepover invite from a family we’re very close to and we allowed it so she didn’t miss the party or have to leave the party. However, it was just an exception for the one night.)

Age 11 allowed to have an email address

Age 11 able to stay home alone for very short periods of time on an as-needed basis only

Age 12 sixth grade we allowed a laptop (our oldest “worked” all summer before her 12th birthday as a Mother’s Helper to save her own money in order to purchase a 10″ notebook laptop)

Age 12 or end of sixth grade can get a second earring hole if they want one (Sixth grade for us is the last year of elementary school.)

Age 13 or entering seventh grade can have an emergency-only cell phone

Reminder! Don’t forget to enter the Good Night book set giveaway!

15 Nov

You can win a set of the Good Night books!

There is one more week left to enter our Good Night book set giveaway! You can learn more about this giveaway by clicking on the Current Giveaways tab or the What I am Reading Right Now tab at the top of this page. Be sure to enter before the winner is drawn next Wednesday! Fore more information about the GoodParentGoodChild company, check out their website!