Sunday, March 30, 2014

I Hate Toys...So I Did Something Drastic

Ok, I really don't hate toys.  I actually like toys a whole lot!  I like the idea of my kids having cool stuff and getting to play with neat things.  I hate cleaning up toys.  I've actually blogged about this before, because toys and the small parts and the things all over the place drive me crazy.

During our boot camp, I noticed that cleaning up large messes is hard for children.  Obvious, right?  But seriously, when there are a lot of toys, there is a large mess.  At least in my house.  EVERY time a kid comes to my house to play, all the toys get dumped out, a couple get played with, and we have to either battle with our kids for a couple of hours to get it all cleaned up, or I end up taking 40 minutes of my time to clean it up myself.

And then I did something drastic:  I read a blog.

And then I did something else drastic.  I took almost all of my children's toys out of their rooms.

First, let me show you the pile of things that we took out.  I am going to show it to you from a couple of different angles so you get a really good idea of how much my children had stored away in closets, under beds, in boxes, on shelves.

 This is really sickening for me.  No wonder my kids act spoiled!  No wonder they have a hard time cleaning up!  I would, too, if I had all that stuff to deal with!  This is a problem 8 years and 3 children in the making.  We are not crazy toy buyers!  We pretty much limit toys to birthdays and Christmas, and Brandon and I usually only get them a few things!  And then there are birthday parties, and grandparents.  (Thank you, Grandparents, for always thinking of my kids and being so generous with them!  I'm not complaining!)

There is a train table under there which
gives the pile some height.  


But, enough of all that stuff.  Its depressing.  The good news is that my kids are TOTALLY ok with how we have changed things up!  Let me tell you what we told them:  We are taking things out of their rooms so that they have an easier time cleaning up.   That's it.  They were all for it.  They helped me!

So, I took some after photos today after we had some dear friends (with children) over last night.  This is messy for them, now.  I did not clean up their rooms before I took these photos.  Basically, since we did this on Saturday morning, cleaning up their rooms has been a total breeze!  Plus, my kids played for like 4 hours with their friends in their rooms with the few toys that we left, and they were FINE!  And they were creative!  And didn't make a ginormous mess!

So here are the after photos:

Sorry this is blurry...but you get the idea
Look at that HUGE mess!  hehe
Beds were made, but then there was a nap.
What am I going to do with all of this stuff?  This week I am going to work, sorting it into piles of things to keep (in boxes high on shelves for the kids to request to play with), things that the kids agree to sell, and things that the kids agree to give away.  The money that they make selling their toys will be their money, so I'm hoping that motivates them to get rid of things that might otherwise keep.

The next problem is this: How are we going to keep this from happening again?  Well, we are making a no toy gift policy.  We are explaining this to the grandparents.  For birthdays, Christmas, etc, they can either receive money, or excursions, or events, but not toys. Any toys they themselves plan for and buy, are the only ones I want.  And I hope to keep a "one in, one out" process going.

Our weekly mission (an extension of our Boot Camp) is to keep a focus on our morning routine: Get up, make bed, get dressed, pick up the floor.  They have been doing it for the most part, but I am still having to remind.  That will stop this week.  :)

The only thing left to write is that I am super excited about this step in our little journey.  I wanted to post more details about the results of the Scott Family Responsible Child Boot Camp, but I thought this was more pressing.  I'll get to that, I'm sure.

By the way, if you want to receive the blogs I write in your e-mail, just use the little "Subscribe via e-mail" box on the right.  I won't spam you, I promise!

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Scott Family Responsible Child Boot Camp: Day 5

We are almost finished with our boot camp.  This doesn't mean that we are finished training.  It means that next week we will start normal school, and we will lessen our training to a weekly goal.  This week wasn't at all what I expected, but we have seen some incredible results.  I will post more on that tomorrow.

Today, we have LittleK with us all day.  LittleK normally goes to preschool (in order to learn Spanish) 3 mornings a week to a WONDERFUL Montessori school where he washes his own dishes, cuts tomatoes with a real knife, and a host of other things.  So he has missed out on a lot of the training that we have done.  So, today I will be using the older children to help me train him.  I think that will be very effective, as that little guy sometimes listens better to his siblings than to me!

We did NOT play the Quiet Game as much as I wanted, so the big kids can only sit still for 5 minutes (at least as far as we've tested) and LittleK needs WAY more practice with that, so today, we will being doing that.

Code Word Calling has been SUPER effective, but the problem is that I sometimes forget to use the code word.  I need as much practice with that as the kids to.  So, we will set up several artificial Code Word Callings, so that they can practice stopping whatever they are doing to come right away.  I sort of feel dorky yelling "CHEETAH" off the balcony at my children, but then again, they really respond well to it, so who cares.  Plus, I don't have much of a voice because of this cold.

Meal times are going much better with manners (at least with the older two), but I don't think practicing outside of meal times will help much, so we are just going to be super on them when we sit down to eat.

I never made it outside yesterday to practice speaking with adults because I took a nap instead (we're going to blame it on the cold), but we had a dinner guest last night and the kids did really well.  After that, I know we need to work on the Interrupting Game A LOT, but not just with hand signals, also with just practicing listening.  I  have never met a child who NEVER interrupts, so I think this is a long term goal.

A comment on an earlier post this week talked about a little script that this particular family uses to remind of obedience (that isn't nagging) and I love it!  We have done something similar in the past, but this one is longer, and I tried it yesterday and it seems to give the kid some time to think through his response.  We changed it up a tiny bit to fit us, but basically it goes like this:

When a child isn't obeying, or is complaining, or ignoring, etc)

Me: What is obeying?
Kid: Doing what you say, when you say it, with a respectful attitude.

Me: When do we obey?
Kid: First time.

Me: How do we obey?
Kid: Without complaint

Me: What do choices have?
Kid: Consequences

Me: What do good choices have?
Kid: Good consequences

(and I've been leaving it at that, even though I taught them "What do bad choices have?"  "Bad consequences", but I am assuming that they will make a good choice, which goes a long way toward how they will act!)

Anyway, we are going to be adding this, as it also calms me down when I start getting frustrated with disobedience.  I have a script which we have taught in advance.

Let me say this: We do not believe that children should be controlled by their parents.  We have come to this after a lot of trial and error with our kids, a lot of reading books, being instructed by other parents, and by taking parenting classes.  We are not "obey simply because I said so" people for the most part.  We do believe in choices and consequences and discipline, but not in an authoritarian sense. Hence the training.  We are doing this to create habits and associations.  We've only been doing this parenting thing for 8 years, so we have a lot to learn, but in those 8 years we've learned that, at least with a couple of our kids, expecting immediate obedience with no dissent at all times followed by a harsh discipline (spanking, solitary confinement, etc) doesn't work all that well.  And the goal isn't to have perfectly little obedient children.  The goal is to have self controlled, wise, Jesus loving, understanding adults. This is contrary to much of the Christian parenting we've observed/been taught, but with our "method" if you can call it that, we feel like we are teaching our children to understand how to offer dissent respectfully, how to reason through actions, how to create habits, and how to treat real authority.  Please know that I am NOT claiming to be an expert, and we are probably doing something "wrong,"  but God's grace is bigger than our parenting mistakes!  Haha!

And one thing I've learned over the last 8 years: There is no one right way to raise children.  I know wonderful adults who were spanked, wonderful adults who were not.  I know wonderful adults who's parents used time outs, and ones who's parents wouldn't dream of isolating their children.  What I've learned is that discipline is love and that the Word of God offers little in terms of methodology, and a ton in terms of motivation.  :)  So, walk in grace, parents, and love your children well!  And know that the Father and Creator of the Universe is with you, guiding you and giving all wisdom!  

And "wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical."  James 3:17

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Scott Family Responsible Child Boot Camp: Day 4

Yesterday was MUCH better!  I have discovered something about myself during this. I am a little lazy!  I never would have said that about myself before.  I mean, I can ALWAYS act lazy at any given time, but I've always considered myself a very hard worker.  But, I'm sort of having a hard time sticking to the plan everyday, because, well, I'm a little lazy.  That, and a little bored.  Plus, LittleK is in preschool in the mornings, and he needs the training more than anyone, and he's missing most of it.  I'm going to have to remedy that.

Here are some specifics: So yesterday we did the Messy Scavenger hunt.  That went super well, and we talked about how easy it is to get a job done when we just focus and work hard for a short time.  I gave them a blow pop at the end.  Then, a little bit later I asked them to pick up a mess, and GirlM asked for a blow pop as a reward!  Backfire!  Augh!   This is why I generally don't like rewards for expected behavior.

Then, there was a small mess last night that I asked BoyD to clean up, and I could tell he really had no plan to do it, so I asked, "Do you think you've had enough training to get this done, or do we need to do some more?"  He just nodded and immediately went to work.  This is MAJOR improvement!

We had some friends stop by yesterday to take BoyD to baseball, and he had the opportunity to greet the man.  His first reaction was to be shy and walk away and ignore, but when prompted, he turned around, looked the man in the eye, and gave some mumbled response because he wasn't sure what to say.  He then came into the kitchen and asked "What would have been a good thing to say?"  That tells me he is trying, and that we need more practice with all that.

So, here is today's plan of action. I'm REALLY going to try hard to stick to it:
This morning before LittleK goes to school: Code Word Calling, and "TIME TO GO" 
Breakfasts are difficult when he goes to school, so I'm gonna do my best to enforce bottoms in chairs, napkins in laps, etc.  If it doesn't really go well, then we will practice when I get home from taking the little one.

I've discovered another problem that we have, and that is coming in the house after we've been gone.  The children tend to scatter to the far ends of the house and we end up hollering a lot to get everyone back together.  So, at least with the older kids, we are going to practice like 10 times, getting out of the car, and following some set of instructions when they get in the house.  "Walk straight in and wash hands and sit at the table."  "Walk straight in and sit on the couch."  "Walk straight in and head upstairs to your bedrooms."  

We are going to play the Quiet Game for 6, 7, 8 minutes (we're a little behind on that one)

Around lunch time, we're going to walk around the block and visit a couple of friends and practice greeting and speaking with adults.

We need to have another Messy Scavenger with LittleK around, as well as several rounds of the Interrupting game.  My littlest one has a REALLY hard time waiting if he wants to talk to me or ask me a question.  I think practicing when he isn't dying to tell me something, might help give him some tools to keep him from getting so frustrated.

I've pinpointed some of the reasons that I've struggled with this training in the past.  When I am totally "there" and involved with the kids, there with body, mind, spirit, focused on them, it works better (seems obvious, right), but if I'm distracted, talking on the phone, answering an e-mail, visiting with a friend, trying to clean my room, ANYTHING that has my attention, they kids feel like they don't have to obey.  They aren't motivated to do what we've practiced.  They know I'm not going to notice immediately if they get distracted or just ignore me.  I'm not sure how to remedy this.  Any thoughts on this are welcome.

Ok, to see descriptions of each of the games that we are playing, see the post from Day 1.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Scott Family Responsible Child Boot Camp: Day 3

Yesterday, the Scott Family Responsible Child Boot Camp was more like a torture camp.

It was a disaster.  I mean, we did very little of the fun, sweet, cute games that I had planned, and I did a lot of getting frustrated and yelling.  So, I get the bad mom award for the day!  I ended up trying to get some "work" done around the house.  For some closure for me, I wanted to get the crib out of the boys' room, seeing as BabyJ won't be coming home to us until he is over 2.  That was probably too emotional of a chore for me to do. Also, we are having a bazaar at church to raise money to put in a nursery, and we are supposed to take stuff to donate for them to sell.  I thought, for boot camp, I'll just put the kids to work helping me sort though stuff, etc!  Bad idea number two.  The kids were WAY more interested in playing with the stuff that I was trying to get rid of.   By the time the afternoon rolled around, I was irritated, and the kids were, too.  BoyD had to rehang up his pants on hangers like 4 times because he would just stop working and sit there and stare into space.  So, I would take all the pants he had hung up so far and take them back off, saying he needed practice.  Boy, the games from Day 1 worked so much better.

But, God is so gracious and His mercies are new every morning and I get to start over today! I got to tie some strings with my kiddos last night and apologize for yelling at my daughter when she kept trying to pack "goodie" bags with (what I consider) trash for street children.  I kept telling her that we don't know any street children, and even if we did, they wouldn't want old wipes and chewed up toys in an old bottle carrier!  Oh, the shame.  Now, let me say that even though her heart is SUPER big and she was trying super hard to be thoughtful, I had told her to throw that stuff away!  Ok...I digress.  There is no excuse for ever yelling at my kids...unless they are about to run in front of a car or something...but that wasn't what was going on.  Oh, how I wish I was that mother that never yelled at her kids.  Is there such a mother?  Maybe I don't want to know.

Anyway, to get back on task, I am sticking with the plan today.  We are going back to Day 1.  I am adding in a lesson on how to put books on a bookshelf.  We are going to be practicing that.

I only had to remind one kid one time to hang up a towel, and one other kid to flush.  After each offense, we just sang our song and practiced some more.  When I am focused on the training the kids do so much better.  If I get distracted and start doing something else, they are off as well and it is hard to bring them back.

So, LittleK is feeling better, and I'm just tired, but today is full of the Lords favor and blessing and presence.  I am going to walk in that!  Have a great day!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Scott Family Responsible Child Boot Camp: Day 2

Well, Day 1 of the Scott Family Responsible Child Boot Camp went much better than I expected.  We didn't get to everything because LittleK and I are both sort of sick.  Well, LittleK is very sick with throat infection (we actually took him to the doctor) and I am sick with a cold or something that makes me feel pretty crappy, but not bad enough to stay in bed.  Plus, we had a surprise visitor which was so much fun, but sort of threw us off our schedule. And, it gave the kids excellent practice with polite greetings! Those kind of interruptions aren't all that unusual for us anyway.

So, all that to say, the kids were very helpful, enjoyed the games, and generally had great attitudes about everything.  I even had kids washing clothes (extra work) without me asking.  I was a little lazy this afternoon seeing as I felt pretty crummy, so they started to get lazy, too.

So, Day 2 is going to be a repeat of Day 1, except that we will be having the Quiet Game for 3, 4, then 5 minutes.  We will be practicing way more of the Code Word Calling game, as they had fun with that.

Please pray that LittleK and I feel better today, as it makes it less fun when there are fevers.  Plus today is busy with dentist appointments, errands, etc.

Hopefully I'll feel better and I can give a more detailed report.  But either way, I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Scott Family Responsible Child Boot Camp: Day 1

Good Morning!  We are ready for this.  If you want to know more about the Scott Family Responsible Child Boot Camp, then head on over to yesterday's post for an explanation.  The kids have known about it for at least a week, so today is the big day.  We practiced our morning routine last night, giving each child a chance to act out what they have to do.

They are to wake up, make bed, get dressed, and put away PJs.  Easy, right?  Um...we'll see.  I'll let you know how that goes.  :)  If it doesn't go well, no biggie, we are just going to practice it several times.

Then we will do breakfast.  Breakfast is where we will continue to train on manners, explaining all the things I listed in yesterday's post about table manners.  We will obviously be enforcing the manners each time we eat.

Next is the Bathroom song!  Thanks to hubby, we have made a poster and a song that I will teach the kids.
The Bathroom Song 
(sung to the tune of Row, Row, Row your Boat)
Potty, Wipe, Close and Flush
All Because we're Big!
Wash and Dry and Clean Things Up,
Because I'm not a PIG!

We are going to the bathroom and we are going to sing our hearts out in all different voices...singing like a British woman, singing like a gruff man, singing like an opera singer, singing like robots, singing like a country star...all the while giving each kid a turn to practice.  Anytime a child enters the bathroom for the next week, they will have to sing this song loud enough for all to hear.  (The "wipe" in the song, by the way, is to wipe any missed pee off the rim of the toilet!)

Code Word Calling: This is a sort of game where the kids will pick a code word.  When they hear the code word from me, they will come running to my side.  I will use this code word at various times through the day, giving a sticker to each child that comes to my side immediately.  This kind of training has worked for us in the past, we just got lax on it.

Next we will take a minute (literally) to practice sitting still and quiet.  I will have stickers in my apron pocket and we will time the kids sitting still and quiet for 60 seconds.  Just for now, we will call this our Quiet Game.  Next time we play it, the kids will sit for 2 minutes.  Then 3.  That is all for today.  Tomorrow we will work it up to 4, 5, and 6 minutes, all the way to 15 minutes on Friday.  So, if one of them talks during the minute, we start over.  When the time is up, they get a sticker.

Next will be a timed race called "TIME TO GO!"  (you have to holler the name of the game...not just say it.)  The kids will be racing against themselves, I will time them, but they won't be competing against each other.  So here is the premise.  They will be barefoot and playing and I will yell "TIME TO GO!" and that is like a secret code phrase that means they are to rush as fast as they can, put on socks and shoes (God forbid I say that in the wrong order around here and say "shoes and socks" cause socks MUST go first!  haha!) and grab Pink Piggy in the case of LittleK, and rush to stand by the front door.  We will do that race several times to try to get the fastest time possible.  We will be doing this a couple times each day.

By this time, we will need a break, so we will be having Tea With the Queen of England.  This is basically a tea party with real tea and cookies, where we will be practicing our table manners again. Napkins in laps and everything.  But before the fun can begin, we will be practicing and role playing proper greetings both in English and in Spanish.  Practicing looking in the eye, speaking clearly, all that jazz.  Then comes the fun of cleaning it all up.

We will then do another round of the the Quiet Game for 2 minutes.

The Interrupting Game is another role playing game where we will take turns learning how and when to (or not to) interrupt.  Like practicing saying "excuse me," etc.  My mom taught me a couple of hand signals to use when a kid is interrupting...Hold up a finger for wait here, fold your fingers over your other hand for go sit down, letting the child know what they need to do.  I will first explain the signals, then we will practice them, letting each kid be the adult.  I will of course have to start using those signals around the house with them.

The next game is going to be the Messy Scavenger.  I'm going to place messes throughout the house (piles of clothes, piles of toys, books dumped over, but all mixed up) and the kids are going to have to work together to pick up the mess as fast as possible.  Once the mess is cleaned up, they can run to me (as a team) and get a clue as to where then next mess will be.  Once all the messes are cleaned up, they get a treat!  Probably a sucker, depending on how close we are to lunch at this point.

After that we will play "TIME TO GO!" again, just to review.  :)

Lunch will be another practice with manners, as well as cleaning the kitchen.  While waiting for lunch to be ready, we will play the Quiet Game again, this time for 3 minutes.

After lunch, we will just review any games or things that the kids had trouble with in the morning.  We will for sure play Code Word Calling and our Bathroom Song several more times.

Then tonight at bath time, we will just practice and enforce picking up the bathroom after a bath, as well as hanging up towel.  We won't really have a game for this or morning routines, just being intentional about doing it correctly every night/morning.

Suggestions?  Ideas? Thoughts?  Love to hear them!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Scott Family Responsible Child Boot Camp: The beginning

So, the back story.  A little while ago, we had some friends over for dinner.  We often have friends over for dinner, but this particular evening must be set apart.  This particular night, our children morphed into monsters.  They made faces at the guests, the wouldn't greet anyone, they rolled their eyes and whined when told "no," they crumpled up their noses at the food that was served, they interrupted throughout the entire evening, they yelled and screamed up stairs, they destroyed their bedrooms, disobeyed by playing in our room, had no table manners, wouldn't say goodbye, and basically revealed every area of training that we had neglected over the last few years.  That night, after putting the little terrors to sleep, Brandon and I decided something.  Things were going to change.

Let me clarify something: Our kids do not always behave this way.  They rarely do it all at the same time, on the same day.  They are not always terrors.  Generally, I enjoy being around my kids.  This night did reveal, though, the areas that we had been just a little too lax on, too permissive, too inconsistent.  That night revealed more about our parenting than it did about our children.  And that is a hard pill to swallow.  Thus was born the Scott Family Responsible Child Boot Camp.

What is the Scott Family Responsible Child Boot Camp?  Well, boot camp in the military is a sort of initiation to life in the military, with strict discipline, hard work, breaking down the recruit in order that they can be rebuilt into the soldier that the military wants.  For exercising, boot camp is an intense period of super hard, concentrated work, geared to jump start a new way of life.  To basically teach the trainee that they can accomplish what they never knew they could accomplish.  Our boot camp is going to be similar.  We are done having to call a child 10 times to the dinner table.  We are done begging the children to get their shoes on when it is time to go.  I am done nagging the kids to flush the toilet or to pick the hand towel off the ground.  We are done with instructing the kids to pick up a mess, only to find them 30 minutes later playing with said mess, actually making it worse.

There are many things that my kids need to learn in order to make them responsible human beings. There are more things than I could possibly put down in a little checklist.  This week isn't about cramming in all life lessons a child needs to know.  Just as boot camp for a soldier doesn't teach him all he needs to know to do his job in the armed forces.  The general goal of this boot camp is to get my children into shape!  To get them to a place where continued training can happen with a solid base of good habits.  One thing I've learned in many years of working with children, is that if you want kids to do a task correctly, they must practice, practice, practice.  If I want my kids to be able to go to a restaurant and have an enjoyable meal, we must  practice manners at home, waiting patiently, etc.  This is the essence of our boot camp.

So this week, we are forgoing normal homeschool, and we will be practicing a series of skills that my children obviously need to know.  It takes 21 days to make a habit, so this week alone won't do it.  But after this week, my kids will know what to do, how to do it, and will have practiced each skill over and over and over again.  Sounds like a good starting point, right?

What will we be teaching this week, you ask?  Here is a list of the specific skills that we will be working on this week.  Each day, I will post the daily plan, complete with games and a schedule that we will attempt to use to practice the skills.

1. Table Manners: Keeping bottoms in chairs.
                             Using napkins (not shirts!)
                             Using utensils (not fingers!)
                             How to pass food.
                             Speaking at the table: taking turns, no interrupting,
                                     no ugly words, inside voices
                             How to deal with food you don't like.
                             Being excused from the table
                             Clearing the table after dinner
2. Bathroom etiquette:  Clean of rim of toilet (for boys)
                              Closing the lid and flushing!
                              Hand washing and keeping sink/counter dry
                              Hanging up towels after use (hand and bath)
                              Picking up after bath
3.Bedroom:           Making bed
                              Keeping floor picked up
                              Habit of picking up toys after use
                              How to keep books on bookshelf
                                      (upright with spines out)
4. General Etiquette: How to greet an adult
                                      (greetings in Guatemala are very important)
                              How to answer questions from an adult
                              Yes Ma'am and yes sir, etc
                                      (they do this with us, but not as much with others)
                              Picture posing.
                                      (My children do NOT know how to sit still for a photo!)
5. General Obedience: IMMEDIATELY coming when called.
                              Getting ready to leave the house
                              bed time / morning routines
                              Following a list of instructions w/o getting distracted
                              Working up to 15 minutes of sitting quiet/still

Many of you will see this list and think "WHAT!  Your children don't do those things already?", and many of you will think "WHAT! You are expecting WAY too much out of your kids!"    Let me also say that we have taught all of those things at one time or another.  It just didn't really stick.  So basically, we have been inconsistent at best.  There are also a lot chores that we will be working on, but I don't want to add more than I can manage in one week, so we will be working more with chores after we get a handle on these basic things.  Our kids are already pretty helpful with dishes and laundry.  We have a maid, so figuring out how to work in regular cleaning will be more of a challenge, although I know our kids need to know how to scrub a bathroom.  I am reading a book right now that I will be talking about later in regards to chores.  And, thanks to many of you on facebook, I am putting together a comprehensive list of what a responsible child should know, and I hope to begin working through that list soon!  Give me a couple of days and I'll post that list.

So, for this Sunday, we are going to be sorting laundry, practicing our bedtime routine and morning routine (just role playing it and doing it over and over again), the kids are making their own dinner (PB&J sandwiches) and then cleaning the kitchen.

Look for Boot Camp Schedule Day 1 on Monday morning!  I'll let you know how it goes!