We called a family meeting about toys, during which we polled the boys for obstacles and ideas/solutions regarding putting toys away. Based on feedback, my husband invented and got buy-in for “The Remember Game,” which everyone participated in defining and refining.
You play by remembering to put away what you play with, and by saying “Remember Game” when you see a sibling forgetting to remember. Every day that we successfully play the game, resulting in a stable or cleaner household appearance, each family member puts a marble in “The Party Jar.” When all the marbles are in (done perfectly, it’s 15 days), we celebrate.
Now, obviously this isn’t close to 100%, but I hear the boys expressing excitement over clean play spaces. I hear them (mainly Isaac) talking out loud to themselves to put something away. I hear them reminding each other. I hear them taking initiative and being proud of their work. I don’t hear me yelling or making obnoxious threats to take things away. I don’t hear nearly the volume of resistance to straightening up.
I’m not a fan of bribery or rewarding generally-expected behavior, but I feel like we’ve framed this in a way to encourage the behavior to happen, not out of fear (of losing toys/being yelled at) or bullying (exerting power), but from a growing appreciation for a clean space, a job well-done, and for teamwork (it’s set up as a team goal vs. an individual one) — qualities that, hopefully, will last when the weight of our authority fades. I’d like to pause to highlight my discomfort with trying to change people’s behavior by attempting to control them, overpower them, coerce them and so forth, even if they are my offspring. I find it interesting how much more effective it is to inspire change by changing my own behavior and helping them find the desire and motivation from within.
So, I say if we accomplish a cleaner house for a reasonable amount of time, I think that deserves celebrating ourselves!