Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Teaching Productivity to Children, Or...Will Work For Chocolate

This is my first post for Works for Me Wednesday, and boy does this work for me.

As both of you know, I am moving next week. We are leaving our acreage in the country, where we can go days without hearing anything but the birds and cows (except that WE live there is constant talking, boy-noises, and mom giving gentle, loving, soft reprimands) - and we are moving smack dab in the middle of the city, one mile from the mall (a total coincidence), and one block from the hospital, but also two miles from my husband's job and within walking distance of our church.

So we are trading cow's moos for ambulance sirens. BUT, we are also trading big gasoline bucks for bicycles that get great mileage :) And the hour commute for Daddy will now be just a few minutes. And our children may even be able to participate in an activity or two. And maybe a real-life friend will stop by for hot tea and scones. Maybe I'll be all June Cleaverish and start wearing aprons and pearls and high heels while I make those scones. (Note to those of you who live in the city and wish you lived in the country: Just let me have my little delusion until we at least get the boxes unpacked.)

Anyway- I have been sick so I am slightly behind (my husband's) packing schedule. So I NEED my children to Help Me and to Stay On Track. We are a large-family force to be reckoned with when we work as a team with a united purpose. However, I am 52yo - working my way through menopause- Highly Distractable and Easily Annoyed. And my children are ....children. (And although they are not in menopause, they are EXTRA, ULTRA, ACCUTELY, HIGHLY DISTRACTIBLE - and occasionally annoying.)

I have learned a few lessons in my 30 years of parenting and A Big One is: Do Not Set Yourself Up For Failure With Unrealistic Expectations.

If I naively believe that we can have a Full packing day, or a Full day of cleaning, or a Full day of school, or even a Full day of fun (the key here is that we can never have a Full Day of anything...), then I am going to be a disappointed, frustrated, non-gentle speaking, joyless mother.

So, today we will pack for an hour, followed by a chocolate break (for you healthy blog readers, your children may be motivated by nuts and raisins...Mine Aren't), followed by an hour of easy school that does not involve me, followed by some playtime - tell them it's an hour if it helps...but limit it to 30 minutes if you really need to make progress. Then we will go back to packing. And the beat goes on.

The key here is to mix it up. They always know that the end is in sight. And use a timer. They love timers. March music also helps if your children aren't too hyped up by it. (Mine are.)

I've used this "technique" many times. I use it for major whole-house cleaning days - or to get back to a school routine when we've been off for awhile. I tell you people, It works - or rather, "They" work. They have no idea they are being manipulated like this. It's so fun for me to have this kind of subtle control. Oh..and I also get alot done while they are eating chocolate, doing school, and taking their playbreaks.

I love working, productive, happy children....and that's what I have today.

We started our day with a devotion about diligence. I read them a story from a small book called Roses and Thorns (purchased from Grace and Truth of my all-time favorite booths at our HS convention.) The moral of the story was how much better one sleeps when one has worked hard all day. See, there's another perk of keeping my children busy all day. I will feed them a nice, heavy dinner - then they will sleep like logs tonight, while I bask in the adoration of my surprised husband.

At this moment, one boy is outside spray painting the file cabinet (cuz dontcha just hate to move cruddy looking furniture into a "new" house?), and two more are packing books from the schoolroom. The youngest three are cutting rolls of newsprint into small pieces for wrapping dishes. In about 20 minutes they will take a break. The empty newsprint rolls will now become lethal weapons- and I'm going to surprise them by suggesting they have a water balloon fight. While they play, and discuss what a great mother they have, I will continue to pack because I'm a big girl and don't need all that external motivation. (Although I did just notice that it's only 34 minutes until I can have another handful of chocolate malted milk balls.)

You may be thinking "this is a lot of trouble, what with all the planning, and motivating, and chocolate-buying". But I say - Consider the alternative. A bossy, ungrateful mother trying to get blood out of turnips. And if you just understood that last statement, you are definitely in menopause .


Thia said...

Any plan involving eating chocolate is a very good plan! I pray your day goes as hoped and many boxes get gently packed with your goods. Heck, if I lived close enough, I'd come pack...for chocolate!

Rhen @yestheyareallmine said...

Shoot, chocolate motivates me to do just about anything!

Hope you guys have a smooth transition.

lea said...

i would come and help you pack but i am too busy dreaming about coming over and having hot tea and scones... ok, i realize that she who doesn't work, doesn't get hot tea and scones (a message version of a Bible verse for sure). will you need help next week? how is monday? or shall i just show up with more chocolate for the troops...

Persuaded said...

girlie.... you are a hoot and a half:-D

and yes, mixing it up is the saving grace 'round these parts too. we have a schedule so they know for sure i am *bound* to deliver on the playtime-after-reading promise, cuz after all, it's written down and posted up in the hallway for all to see. one can't hedge in such a circumstance.

now, how many more minutes 'til your next handful of malted milk balls?