Why is it bad habits so easily sneak their way into our lives and stick around? They’re hard to break and annoying. Good habits, of course, take longer to make (about 21 days according to scientists, or at least 30 in our house!) and need upkeep to maintain. Suffice it to say, it might take a little time for our makeover to sink in. So I’m thinking the best approach is to address one issue a month. This month I’m attacking the bedrooms. Since they have bathrooms, I’m throwing in the clutter part of those rooms for good measure. We’ll get to the Tilex another month. (These poor kids, they don’t have any idea what’s about to hit them. Their spouses and future bosses will thank me. Right??)

What’s the goal? The forming of a tidiness habit … or whatever you want to call it. I just want the stuff off the floor and the beds made – every day. So, let’s start with the steps in forming a good habit. Here they are according to WikiHow (okay, so it’s not some Oprah-endorsed, best-selling, self-help guru, but this isn’t rocket science .. and I thought it was a logical & practical list)

Step 1: Know what you want.
My over-indulged kids to make their beds and zip the clutter

Step 2: Make a list of the benefits of the new habit.
It will teach them responsibility, make them better citizens, build their self-esteem. Okay, top reason? … I won’t have to do it myself or look at it anymore! Those unmade beds not only testify to their “serve me” attitude, but also are an incredibly annoying reminder of how lame I’ve been in the chore department.

Step 3: Commit to the habit.
I’m on it!! … hoping determination will win out over my tendencies to procrastinate and to forget the follow through.

Step 4: Set your own goals and reward yourself.
My friend Lauren shared her strategy, and I’m going to try it in our house. Mother of two, she decided to incentivize her teenage girls by putting a jar filled with 30 one dollar bills in each of their rooms. Each day she checks their rooms to see if the beds are made and stuff put away. If it doesn’t pass inspection, she takes a dollar out of the jar. At the end of the month, the girls keep whatever cash-ola is left in the jar. Despite a few bumps along the way, she said it’s working.

For us, that’s a lot of money each month. (or could be) But we don’t do allowance. And I’m often buying them things like Slurpees, Frappacinos, & other 7-11 goodies, so they can just use their money for that. If they don’t clean the rooms, maybe they will be inspired by their siblings who did. (See “marcysos” comment on the last post for another idea)

Step 5: Start slowly.
Sounds reasonable. Better to start with just their rooms than hitting them with all the changes at once, military-school style. The laundry is just going to have to wait.

Step 6: Go for consistency rather than performance.
I’m not sure what that’s going to look like, but its probably worth thinking about…. how to keep on keeping on when day 20 rolls around.

Step 7: Consult a friend.
That’s what we’re here for, right?? So bring it on – any ideas or suggestions.

Step 8: Even after the goal is hit, keep it up.
This is a life-time thing… so hopefully the habit will stick and we’ll see a permanent (not perfect) change. No need to be neurotic about it. My goal here is to get the kids to start taking care of their space and quit thinking they exist to be served.

Alright. That said; no day better than today to start the assault on apathy. Crazy that even though I know we need to change … and it really doesn’t seem like that big of a deal… I’m dreading this more than they are. We’ve sat down and discussed what we’re doing. The gist – if the rooms a mess and the beds unmade when I check each morning – a dollar’s gone. Their response?

“What’s Clara going to do if we are doing all the work?!” (Clara helps me twice a week with cleaning, mostly with Jack)
“Do the bigger kids get more than $30 in their jar?” It seems to me a bed is a bed no matter how big you are, so no soup for you!
“What if I just forget – and remember right when I get in the car for school?” Sorry. You snooze, you lose.

I’m feeling a “mean mommy” comment coming on. But, honestly, we all know (including them) it’s lame to pretend any of this is taxing. I’ve really got to be on the ball here and make sure I follow through … really not a strength of mine.

So, we went to the Container store and bought 6 clear jar/boxes, personalized them (nothing like making it cute to offer inspiration), filled them with 15 dollar bills and 15 dollar coins, and set them on their dressers.

I got a jar for myself, too. Hey, I could use $30 at the end of the month for a little self-indulgence. Yes, they get to check my bed … and I’m throwing in exercise for good measure. Got to love accountability! … And don’t think the little guy is getting a free ride. He doesn’t have to make his bed, considering he’s still sleeping in our closet in a crib, but he will be picking up his clothes and toys. I put gummy bears in his jar (doesn’t matter they’re vitamins).

The game is on. And so far so good. You saw the “before” pics… here are the beds this morning!

There’s hope!!!

A couple of housekeeping items. Several of you are new to blogging like me and don’t know how to “follow” or leave a comment. Here is what my blogging adviser (Chrys) has to say:

“In order to follow your blog, they have to have a Google, Twitter or Yahoo account. Here’s info on what it means: http://www.google.com/support/blogger/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=104226 They just have to log in and follow the prompts. (I have never done that since I use Reader) They could also add your blog to Google Reader so they can tell anytime you update it.”

To comment, just click on the “Comment” link below and read or leave questions, thoughts, suggestions … whatever. Don’t forget to access them even if you don’t leave one. They have been great. Super suggestions so far.

An answer to another question: I have 5 kids ages 13, 11, 9, 7, 2. (the last being a bit of a bonus, but incredible surprise). They really are the joy of my life. Thanks to the bonus baby, we have realized how fast the years fly by and are committed to making the most of our time with them. My greatest hope by instilling some of this stuff is that it will eliminate from our house a lot of frustration and nagging that doesn’t do anything but wear everyone out. Well, that and productive kids.

And … suggested topics for guest inter
• Hormone related emotion change – how to deal with, how to explain,
• Chore/clutter control follow through with teens
• Cell phone use/restrictions … what rights do we as parents have to their phone
• Birds & Bees discussion for adolescents/youth
• Its not about me – Service opportunities …get involved on a regular basis
• Effective dealing with Moody McMooder
• How do I respond if my child or his friends bring up suicide or self mutilation

That last one is a bear, and sadly, hard to avoid for our kids these days. This may be best left for the experts on a case-by-case situation, but am happy to get a well-known, highly-respected expert for that if appropriate.

I hope this will be fun and incredibly helpful to all of us. Thanks for walking the road with me!!

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