Monday, October 3, 2011

Better the Devil You Know

Photo credit: Idea go

I just found a new, totally effective way to get my kids to pick up after themselves. I’m sure it’s not psychiatrist-recommended and I know it can’t last forever… but – hey – it’s working now and that’s all I care about for the moment.

So, the back story: a couple of weeks ago, I was trying to get the kids (ages 2 and 4) to pick up their Legos such before moving on to the next mess. As usual, they put away one or two things before getting distracted and going about their business. I tried encouraging them (“good job!”), standing over them (“now pick up that one…and that one…”), bribing them (“don’t you want to go to the playground later…?”), and yelling at them (you know how it goes), but they pretty much ignored me.

Out of desperation, I grabbed a metal musical triangle and said in my most steely voice: “If you don’t finish cleaning up right now, I’m going to ring this triangle.”

They looked up at me, wordless. Surprise –and concern – on their faces.

Sensing the shift of power in the room, I rolled with it. Lifting the triangle and metal beater, I said again with dead calm: “I mean it. I’m going to ring it.”

The four-year old shouted: “No, Mama! Don’t!” and scrambled to clean up the toys. Because the 2-year old does everything his brother does, he echoed, “No! Don’t!” and got busy too.

I wasn’t sure that it would work a second time, but it has. And a third and fourth. Of course, I only use it as a last resort since I don’t want its powers to wear off.

Lil’Dawg clearly suspects that nothing will happen if I ring the triangle, but he doesn’t dare test me. Only once when I said threateningly, “Do you want me to ring the triangle?” he answered ‘yes. But he watched my face carefully. When I moved to get it, he immediately cried, “No, no! I’m cleaning up!”

Actually, they haven’t even needed the triangle threat lately. I don’t know if the triangle has anything to do with it, but they’ve been much better about cleaning up.

I suppose if I were a more conscientious mother, I’d worry about the effect of scaring them with one of their own toys, but – meh. Twenty years from now, they may blame me for being unable to fulfill their dream of being a percussionist in the Philharmonic, but at least they’ll be tidy.

Okay, come on –let me feel the mama love…. What are the more, um, creative disciplining techniques that you’ve used with your kids?