Tag Archives: consistency

Monday Musings: Got M&M’s?

28 Apr

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


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:

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!

“No is not an option.”

10 Nov

I put the title of my post today in quotes because it’s something that was said to me, a phrase I heard years and years ago when I was a new teacher, but I think of it often, and I actually use it often as a parent, as well. Let me explain what I mean.

When I was a new teacher we lived out of state. There was a principal in our district who was known for his unique leadership style, and although not everyone agreed with everything he said or did, he was still known for his philosophies.

One of the first things he said during a meeting was when dealing with the students, “No is not an option.” As in, they were not allowed to say no to you. “That’s crazy,” I thought. “That could never work. Of course they’re going to say no. Who are we to tell them they can’t say no to us?” I was a new teacher, not yet a parent, and wouldn’t be for nearly four years, so my experience with kids was still limited at that time.

About two years later, I was at a family party in the summertime and my cousin’s little girl, who was about two years old, was out in the sandbox in the back yard. My cousin asked me to go out and get her and bring her in. I went out to see her, told her it was time to go in, and she told me that she didn’t want to go in. So, I went back and relayed the message to my cousin, to which she basically said to me, “No is not an option, go back and tell her she doesn’t have that choice and that it is time to get out of the sandbox and come in.” Hmmmm….there it was again. Out I went and relayed my cousin’s message to her daughter and up she came, out of the sandbox and into the house. It had worked and I had witnessed it with my own eyes.

Approximately two or three years later, we had our own daughter and then two more daughters in the years to follow. I cannot tell you how many times we have used that mantra in our house (and outside of our house, wherever we are) and how well it works, especially once our kids knew that we meant what we said and we would not back down. No was just never an option. They’re not allowed to say it in response to a directive from us, and if they do (and they have tried,) consequences for not listening do follow, whether it’s leaving somewhere immediately or taking away a privilege later on, depending on what we deem necessary at the time.

This came to me recently as I was shopping in a store, and heard an interaction behind me between a parent and a child where the child outright said no to their parent and was allowed to do so with no reprimand or reaction other than the proverbial throwing of the hands into the air by the parent and shaking of the head. I wanted to turn around (but I promise, I didn’t,) and say to the child, “You can’t say no to her. No is not an option.”  And then, I wanted to turn around to the parent and whisper my secret to her as well, “You know, they can’t say no to you, it’s not allowed.”

So instead, I’m telling my secret to you. So often, people ask us why our kids are so well-behaved, and that, my friends, is one of the reasons, learned way back in 1996: No is just not an option.

I’m a Guest Blogger!

26 Oct

You can find me this week on the Good Parent Good Child Blog!

I’m so excited! This week I was asked to be a guest blogger on fellow author/blogger/mom Rebecca Jackson’s Good Parent Good Child Blog.

I was asked to talk about cooking for a large family with a variety of tastes. I provided her with five tips we’ve discovered along the way as well as one yummy recipe that my family loves.

I hope you’ll check it out! You can click on the underlined title above and go right to my post!!

Best Behavior.

6 Oct

Our girls this summer at the 35th annual Concert on the Beach in Narragansett, RI

In the past few posts, I’ve mentioned our three daughters a few different times. They’re great girls and there’s almost three year’s difference between each one. Right now they are six, nine and just three weeks shy of 12 years old. We take them with us everywhere, without a problem and they are very well behaved girls. I can’t even count how many people have come up to us in stores, restaurants, community events etc., complimenting us on their behavior and how surprisingly good they are.

When it first started happening, we were kind of surprised, caught off guard a little bit. We just assumed early on that everyone’s kids were good, at least in public, because don’t get me wrong, they’re not angels all the time; we have our moments at home for sure. As time went by though, it happened more and more where people would come up to us and compliment us on the girls and how well behaved they were and more and more we would see the difference between our kids’ behavior and other kids’ behaviors. We’ve actually had people come right out and ask us if we hit our kids to get them to behave (which, no, we don’t.) That shocked me. Then last week, we were at an event at an Assisted Living Community for my grandmother. It was a welcome event for new residents and it was mainly for adult family members of the residents but I went and I brought my kids. There was a semi-long speaking portion at the start, and then refreshments afterwards. Two of my kids were sharing one seat, but I thought nothing of it. I moved away from them to the other side of the table so that I could see and hear, but I kept an eye on them from across the table. There was no problem, as expected.

After the speaking portion ended, someone came up to me and said, “You know, you could write a book about how to raise well-behaved kids.” I laughed and smiled and he continued, “I’m serious, 99% of the kids I know would never have been that good, sat through that event two in a seat, for so long without a problem.”

I thanked him, and continued about the night, but it really got me thinking. What is it exactly that we do that must be so different than what other people do? I really have no way of knowing since I don’t live with any other people, so I don’t know what they do, but I do have insight as to the things we do that make it easy for us and for our kids. I thought I’d spend this post sharing just one tidbit that’s helped us a great deal.

For one thing, we have extremely high expectations for our kids and their behavior, and they know it and they’ve known it since they were little. The expectation is: they will be good or we will leave, no matter where we are or what it is. They know this because way back when they were little, we have indeed left. We’ve left stores, restaurants, parties, whatever it took. So not being good isn’t really a choice for them. They are to be good, and that’s all there is to it.

But, it’s not as simple as that. From early on, we have always prepped our kids for whatever situation they’re about to go into. We clearly don’t want to set them up for failure, we want them to be good as much as they want to be good, so we want them to have a clear understanding before we arrive at anything, anywhere. Before we arrive no matter where we are going, we remind them that we expect “Best Behavior.” When they were really little, we would actually go over with them what that behavior looked like (and it often depended where we were going, since best behavior in church is way different than best behavior at a birthday party, for example,) and have them repeat it back to us. As they aged, they could just tell us what we expected. Even older still, we only had to say the words “Best Behavior” and they knew what was expected. Now, we hardly have to remind them, it’s so ingrained in them. We have built a strong foundation, but it literally took years.

One of the pages in my book, Baby Notes: Practical wisdom from one mother to another (available at http://www.amazon.com) actually talks about being consistent because to us, it’s one of the most important things a good parent can do for their kids.

We made sure to be consistent with our kids as much as we could, and “Best Behavior” became one of our catch phrases. We’d say it every time we went somewhere. It might sound like this in our car on a given Saturday afternoon:

“Girls, we’re about to get to the birthday party. What do we expect from you?”

“Best Behavior!”

“What does that mean?”

“It means no running inside, no yelling and screaming, no jumping on the furniture, and stick together.”

“That’s right. You may see behavior here that isn’t good, but you know what we expect of you. If there’s a problem you come and get one of us.”

We would make sure they all heard us, and understood us, and then we’d add one more very important thing:

“And girls, when it’s time to go?”

“It’s time to go.”

“That’s right. If there’s a problem when it’s time to leave, then the next time there’s a party invitation, we don’t go.”

And they know…we mean it. One of our daughters actually missed an entire month of birthday parties due to poor behavior last year and she’s been an angel ever since. They know we mean business.

To us, consistency is important and follow-through is very important. Our kids’ behavior is a clear reflection of our ability to parent and we want to be proud of our kids and we want people to want to be with them, not to want to run the other way when they see us coming.

I hope this helps those who wonder whether or not it can be done. It can and it takes time and consistency. Good luck!