There’s no question that having our kids home all day present various challenges; for each parent what’s most challenging for them will be different. But there’s a common complaint that I’ve heard from almost every parent I’ve spoken to over the past couple of weeks. “The house is such a mess.” While it bothers some parents more than others, it’s something that almost all of us are struggling with. There’s no time to clean because the mess-makers are everywhere all the time!
A couple of years ago I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with my children’s uncanny ability to make a mess and their seeming inability (unwillingness?) to help clean up. After a lot of thought (and consulting with my husband) I came to the conclusion that having everyone deal with their small messes immediately will keep the mess from becoming overwhelming. But how to enlist everyone’s help? I didn’t want to be nagging everyone all the time to put away their toys or put their dishes in the sink.
Some more thought went into it, and eventually, out came B’seder, my program for teaching the kids to clean up after themselves with positive reinforcement. I designed signs reminding the kids (and myself) to do basic chores immediately when they were necessary. They include putting shoes away, cleaning up toys, putting dishes in the sink after eating, and more. Every time anyone in the family completed a chore, they were entitled to a ticket indicating what they’d accomplished. We made and designed a box and placed it in a central location in the house. Earned tickets are deposited there. Once a week the box is opened and the tickets counted. If the family has collectively earned a predetermined amount of tickets, they can redeem them for various incentives – a fun meal, ice cream, a new game, etc.
(If there’s concern that certain family members aren’t pulling their weight, you can have each person write their name on each ticket before placing it in the box and create personal incentives. It’s a good idea to have collective goals to encourage teamwork, have them look out for each other, and minimize the potential negative effects of too much competition.)
The benefits of this program are numerous. Kids learn responsibility and if given ample opportunity to do various chores, develop valuable life skills. They feel more involved in the home and feel more connected to it. This also gives us endless opportunities to praise our kids and give them positive feedback, the bread of the developing soul. Self-esteem is built through accomplishment; this program is a great way to continue to gift them with easy opportunities to help and to accomplish.
No one can forget: Pesach is fast approaching. It’s much easier to clean a house for Pesach when there’s basic order and cleanliness.
Remember To continuously encourage your kids and tell them how great it is to be spending so much time together (even if you only feel that way when they’re sleeping). Continue to take advantage of this situation to create quality time with your children. You’re creating memories that will last a lifetime. Make them the memories you want them to have!