Monday, 23 February 2015

FFS! Pick up after yourself!!!

Mrs Woog @ WoogsWorld posted a brilliant blog post this morning that had me cracking up but remembering all too well the aggravation of finding myself constantly clearing up after the kids. There are some brilliant suggestions in the comments from her readers, so hop over and have a look. It's been sitting at the front of my head since I read it though - despite it being well past time for me to get my teeth into a (paid) freelance assignment, so I figured that the only thing to do was to get it out of my system by addressing it myself.
I LOVE Zits cartoons, and lately, in the Sydney Morning Herald, there's been a string of strips that are focused on Jeremy's room that have been cracking me up. Maybe they've been timed with the whole back to school thing - because school weeks can be enormously aggravated by the whole messy room thing. It was certainly the case in my house.
Our crisis came after years of nagging, different incentive schemes that failed, me being a martyr and picking after the boys - No.1 in particular, and then just leaving him to it in the hopes that his own filth would get too much, even for him. THAT failed spectacularly. At the time, I was part of a ToughLove group - as a sole parent with two high maintenance kids, I sometimes felt I was there fraudulently, because other parents were dealing with drugs, police, constant truancy and violence, which I wasn't, but they were quick to assure me that there was no hierarchy in the struggles we were having. ALL of us were there because we were struggling to manage with discipline and keeping a calm and functional household. By the time I took the drama of No.1's room to the group for some brainstorming of possible solutions, the mess was impacting the whole household. His room opened out onto the family room, so physically No.2 and I were starting to trip over stuff. The smell was getting nasty, and the door couldn't be shut. When he couldn't find things, or he broke things that got walked over under the layers, No.1 chucked hyssies that sometimes spilled over into thumping No.2 - just because - or lots of aggro directed at me. 

The brainstorming session offered up a list of possible solutions:

  1. Set aside a weekend day to get it all sorted and reorganised with No.1.
  2. Pick up everything and dump it on the front lawn for him to sort out. 
  3. Go through the room myself and chuck everything I considered rubbish and leave him to wash the clothes and vaccum, etc.
  4. Offer different incentives for him to clear up, other than the ones I'd already tried.
  5. Ground him until he cleared it up.
  6. Deprive him of privileges until it was cleared up.
  7. Confiscate everything that's not in its place.
No. 1 I rejected because I was just over trying to work with him - he'd not even stepped a fraction of the way towards meeting me midway at that stage, and I was over it. No. 2 meant that stuff I'd paid good money for - school clothes, other clothes, books, etc, could potentially get stolen from the yard or damaged, so that was going to put ME out. Plus, he could just refuse, so I'd be stuck in a potentially bad impasse. No. 3 just meant me doing it AGAIN. The rest seemed to me to open the way for more arguments, more of him being pig headed and ultimately, getting us nowhere. 
Then someone offered up a singularly draconian idea that appealed to me on SO many levels - mostly because although I'd be making the effort, it would hit him the hardest. No.1 was in the last year of primary school at the time and money was just starting to be something he valued highly, and there wasn't much around. They were on a jobs rota that meant pay for jobs done - they never got pocket money just because they were kids... But it meant he had a small income. So, the suggestion was to warn him - and give him three warnings - that he had until a certain day to get it sorted and cleaned, and if he didn't, there'd be a serious consequence that he really wouldn't like. So, he was warned. He ignored me. And on the day after the deadline, I got in there and cleared the room of every single item that wasn't put away. I chucked the rubbish, retrieved many plastic containers (contents of some NOT to be described...) washed the clothes and packed them, along with everything else, into boxes that I secreted around the house. My mother dropped in for a coffee on her way home from the shopping around the time I was wrapping up, but cravenly scuttled before they got home from school...

He arrived home and chucked his bag in the vague direction of his room, got something to eat, and then went in there...and ricochet back out VERY fast and very angry, demanding to know where his stuff was. So I told him the consequence had arrived. I had his stuff. And he would have to BUY it back, item by item. Not huge prices - 5-10c per piece, but each and every piece had a price on it, so he'd have to prioritise, depending on his need. I had all his school clothes - apart from the ones he was wearing, most of his other clothes, various bits of other school equipment, Nintendo games, other toys - you name it, I had it. And I had my stubborn on. Eventually, given the scale of the tantrum he threw, I gathered up No.2 and headed to a neighbour for a coffee until he'd worn himself out, and then the haggling began. I kept my stubborn on and it was quite some time before he'd redeemed all his things back. His room NEVER reached that state again.

It's SO easy to just pick up after everyone, and in the long run, what it breeds in the rest of the members of the household is the idea that they just don't have to. Which, if you're made of martyr material or you're a complete control freak may be OK, but I'm neither. I had more than enough to do, and way more responsibility to shoulder for the three of us, and they were old enough to be managing their own rooms so that all that was required on a regular basis was a dust and vacuum - which they were also capable of doing!

I've had a really difficult time with the stepson in the years he's lived with us. He's never had much expected of him, other than doing well at school, and as a consequence, never does anything much around the house unless he's asked - and he has a stock standard response to a request that's guaranteed to buy himself time, during which his father - who's a neat freak - will cave and do the job because HE can't stand seeing it not done...MAJOR manipulation... If it was me asking him to do the thing and he asked if he needed to do it straight away, I ALWAYS said yes, and it got done - albeit badly, because a. he'd not had the practice, and b. the idea that if he did it badly he'd not be asked again... ARGH!!! 

There are always things we're happier to put up with and those we're not. I have my list of pet peeves, as I'm sure we all do. At the end of the day though, a household has to operate as a collective - no one person should be doing all the work - EVER!


  1. What a timely post! Only this morning, I picked up the pile of 3-day old recyclables (which Child 1 is supposed to clear daily) from the kitchen and smartly deposited them on his desk in his room because a) I am sick of seeing them b) they are in my way c) I am not doing his chores for him without some recompense. He can enjoy the same inconvenience the rest of the family has had to endure with these things cluttering up the kitchen workspace. They can now clutter his workspace.
    He is also going to discover that I will be expecting some monetary remuneration for doing his job of clearing the kitchen bin and taking out the rubbish, because if he isn't going to do it, I will have to pay someone else to do it! If he doesn't want to do something himself, he would need to pay someone to do it for him in the real world. I always try to match my consequences with the real world outside of the home.
    I am going to shoot off and read that Woog's World post. Apologies if my solution here has already been mentioned, but I thought it was funny that I had just sat down after doing that job to read your post about the very same subject. Thank you for giving me a smile and the sweet relief to know it is not just me!

  2. PS The "doing it badly" thing. I cannot stand that! My answer is to schedule a lesson about what is expected where the task can be demonstrated, taught and they can have a go. I do my lessons as a 'team' thing. I get them to do it while I help and explain my expectations. Then if they 'forget' I have the task written in step by step form so that it is always there as a reminder. I do whatever i can to counter any resistance, excuses or delaying tactics. As a parent, I can't expect children to innately know what to do, no matter how many times they may have witnessed other people doing it, no matter how basic we think the task is. But once they have been shown and had the opportunity to learn, there are no more excuses for not doing what is expected and I agree about the collective of a household. I put it in the sports vernacular of "the family team" although since Tony Abbott has exploited the 'team' thing, I am not sure how well it would wash nowadays.
    Thanks for very useful posts, Kaz! xx

    1. Oh Jodie - you are SO not alone, as you'll have discovered in the monster list of comments on Mrs Woog's post!

      The thing that REALLY gets me about the doing it badly thing is the outright manipulation... Small example: I taught the stepson how to iron a school shirt after numerous mad mornings with his father scrambling to do it or asking me to (and we both had to get to work...just as the child had to get to school...) so I KNEW he knew how to do it, but would then do a bad job, followed by a parade past his dad who would pull it off him and redo it - because there'd be issues at school with the uniform police and a possible detention... Me, I'd have left him to the mercy of the detention situation. Don't like that, iron the bloody shirt properly in the first place!!!

      I like your response with the recyclables - exactly what I would have done too. And the money thing with the bin too - they don't like their hip pockets being hit one little bit!! I think that's why the room thing worked with No.1, where everything else had failed.

  3. Wow Kaz I have been away from the internet for so long I was utterly oblivious to this blog, what have I been missing out on. Just off to do some reading catch up. And the doing it badly thing is something I can relate to and yep it is pure manipulation. Loved the idea of making him buy his stuff back that is genius.

    1. Hi Arabella! Lovely to see you over here at Dragon Mother - enjoy! Yep, it was pretty brutal, but it was effective!!