Thursday, January 22, 2015

Another Stick Update

I have been trying to write this post for the better part of two months. Since the last update on the sticks, the situation has evolved.

To refresh your memory, the jobs as we last left them were:
Lunch boxes put away
Shoes and socks where they belong
Room responsibility
Cat food/water or scoop cat box
Get ready for bed when told without nagging

I have finally (FINALLY!!) gotten Olivia's pictures printed so she can have an easy job list. She hasn't asked me what her jobs are or moaned that she doesn't know what to do once since the pictures were put on her door. The funny thing is that I don't really think she looks at them. Grace has taped something on top of one of the pages. Maybe she looks, but I am inclined to believe her pleading ignorance was a delay tactic.

So how are we doing?

As soon as I assigned the bathroom job, they promptly stopped using their bathroom. This is frustrating. Their not unreasonable thought is that if they don't mess it up, there is nothing to clean. This is true except Sam is the only one consistently using that bathroom now, so it is a mess still. Why must children drip soap all over the place when washing hands? Why must the soap be blue so that we have blue splotches all over the bathroom? That idea pretty much went up in flames. I think we will adjust the job to the more concrete 'hang up your towel and washcloth after bathing' rather than the abstract 'make sure the bathroom is clean.' Perhaps they will start using their bathroom again.

After two months of them keeping their room up, the crud in the corners and in the cracks got to be too much for me. One afternoon I decided to clean out the crevices, but I didn't give myself enough time to do it which turned out to be a disaster. I am astounded by how much stuff Olivia keeps tucked in her bed. I was about 75% done when I ran out of time and the room looked awful. I nearly despaired. It seemed like all our hard work had gone up in smoke. It took a couple of weeks to get it back in order, but we managed eventually. Since I am the one who made the mess or at least brought the mess to the forefront, I didn't penalize them for it, but their room still isn't back to the condition it was before I had to rock the boat.

I am struggling with how strict to be with the room. My inclination is to be a hard-butt about it. For the room to be put back perfectly everyday. My better judgement says this is unreasonable. So where do you draw the line? How do you explain that this particular piece of toy crap on the floor was acceptable yesterday, but that particular pile of toy crap is not? So I tend to let things slide. To err on the side of mercy. I don't feel like I can impose too harshly on their room when the whole rest of the house is a disaster area. It's too hypocritical. So I should probably accept that their room is going to require periodic clean-outs and I should schedule plenty of time to do it, but at least the floor is clear most of the time now.

Also look how many pencils I pulled out of their room. This would be 62 writing utensils and an assortment of sharpeners and erasers. The foot long ruler is for scale.


Another ongoing issue is the evening time crunch. I really don't like having to ride herd all evening to get the jobs done and having these jobs be the last major interaction we have for the night. There is also the problem of finding infractions after they are in bed because it is too disruptive to bedtime to stop and do a thorough inspection beforehand. We are trying two approaches to see if we can mitigate some of this. First, I identified two jobs for them to complete as soon as they get home from school: the cat job and the lunch boxes. These are tasks that, once they are completed, can't be undone later in the evening. I want them to have these done before I get home from work. It is going to take some reminding to get into this rhythm and I might have to send a reminder via chat to Dave for him to remind them. I think we are trying to cram too much stuff into the period right before bed. Moving a little bit to the afternoon should ease things.

The other thing we are going to try is to set the kitchen timer after dinner for 30 minutes for them to complete their remaining jobs.We are usually finished eating and up from the table by around 7pm. If we set the timer then, they should be done by 730 which will give us the better part of an hour to wind down. We had previously attempted to require that their jobs were done by 830 which theoretically is bedtime. This did not go well because they would procrastinate to the last possible minute and then run around like mad chickens and inevitably either a) get angry when we told them time was up or b) freak out on their own when the clock struck 831 even if we hadn't called time yet. We hope by compressing the time in which they have to work, they will be more efficient instead of dragging out the agony, I can do inspections and pull sticks if necessary and then we CAN MOVE ON WITH OUR LIVES! We will have time to do other activities besides chores every single night.

Sam is still lobbying for his own sticks and jobs. I have taken to calling his normal nighttime routine his job, but I am not interested in formalizing anything with him right now. He sometimes will jump in and do a job for one of his sisters so it seems like we should do something for him. Maybe a sticker chart. I think he wants sticks more than anything. For now, it seems like too much (for me) to add him into the mix.

Grace has asked for a raise. She thinks they should get a nickel a job each day which would equal 35 cents a day and $10.50 a month if they did everything every day. She also wants everyone to know she did that math in her head. I think that is veering too far into chore chart territory. I told her she hasn't been required to do more so we weren't going to pay more. She also thinks we should move into an earning stick mode instead of losing stick mode. I explained to her why I thought losing the sticks is better: she gets more money that way and isn't penalized for my laziness. But both of these suggestions indicate that the system is not working as well for Grace. I can see the problem. Grace does her work, mostly on her own, with only a small amount of moaning and whining. I am still having to pull Olivia along. The difference is in their ages, but I can see where Grace feels like it isn't exactly improving for her.

I am also having a moral dilemma about their cash payments: they don't really care. Now that's not really true. They love their sticks. They love keeping up with how many they have lost and what that means for the cash at the end of the month. They love getting paid. The disconnect is that once they have their money in hand, they promptly drop it anywhere and everywhere and don't keep up with it at all. I have a pile of cash sitting on the computer desk that belongs to them, but they haven't missed it. I guess the real problem is they still have no concept of money. I am sorely tempted to reuse the money I already paid out to them, but that would be wrong. Right?     

The reason it has taken me so long to write this update is that after the room fell apart, Christmas came and then we were out of town and then we were all sick. There were several weeks in there where almost nothing was getting done, but I wasn't doing any inspections either. They kept their sticks because I wasn't enforcing the work. After the falling apart, we are slowly trying to ease back into the routine. The newness has worn away so we now have to buckle down to the hard work of creating habits while not being excited anymore. For January and probably February too, I don't anticipate the jobs changing.

Stay tuned and see what happens next...


Melanie Bettinelli said...

We have the same issue with money here. Bella has a sense of how much money is worth and does the best at keeping up with hers. But she's also a scatterbrain, so sometimes hers does get lost. I've been thinking I need to get each kid a piggy bank or a wallet to keep their money in. Right now Bella has a piggy bank and Sophie has a wallet. Ben and Anthony don't have a place to keep any money they get.

i'm still on the fence about implementing a stick system of some kind. Right now things tend to be ticking along pretty well and things are being kept reasonably tidy most days. The girls' room does tend to descend into chaos pretty quickly, but honestly, I'm not sure I want to assign myself the task of policing and inspecting each night. It doesn't matter enough to me. Which I'm going to take as a sign not to mess with the status quo.

Anonymous said...

We too are struggling with our routines after sickness/break!

I really like how you used photos for the visual schedule. I bet that is a lot more effective than the stick drawings I usually do!