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Posts Tagged ‘life skills’

We’ve been talking to the kids about scouting for ages.  Adam was a devoted Boy Scout through high school.  I enjoyed a brief stint as a Girl Scout.  But we have no interest in Derrick being a part of a program that openly spreads bigotry, and I think Girl Scouts are…well…boring.

So, what are we to do?

Invent our own scouting program, of course!

Adam still has all of his scouting books, and there are hundreds of companies that stock spiffy patches that can double as merit badges.  We presented our idea to the kids, and they are psyched!

Step one, forming the “laws” and “pledge” of our troop of pint-size viking warriors. That’s in the works…coming soon!

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What fun! :o)

I got a chance to break out my glass paint that has been collecting dust all these years. I have to say that I’m excited that it was still usable.

I painted The Gem Bank…

The sort of fireworks thingies coming off of the “m” are glow-in-the-dark paint. Cool, huh?

This is Derrick’s creation:

And Kaitie’s…

Last, but not least…Gracie’s:

They look great! Now, it’s time to fill them up with hard-earned gems! You can do it, kiddos! :o)

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Now that the kids are back from their kick-off-the-summer mini vacation, I wanted to try a new idea to reinforce their behavior and contributions to the household. In the June/July edition of Family Fun magazine, there is a Creative Solutions article by Malissa O’Brian. Her idea is to assign value to each chore or behavior, and kids can earn a gem or marble for their specially decorated jar.

I love it. Brilliant.

I like that it gives the kids more control over what they do. I like the healthy competition (“I want to do the 3 gem chore before Gracie does it today.”) . I love that they will learn that laziness does not pay (I suspect that lesson will be learned when sibs are off enjoying rewards without them).

So, I re-lined the white board in the hallway and put up the list of chores that the kids need to do and can choose to help with. Each chore has a value of 1 to 3 gems. Tomorrow, we are planning a trip to Michael’s to pick up some jars to decorate and gems to fill them with. I discussed the concept with the kids tonight, and explained all the ways that they can earn…or lose…their gems.

In order to earn gems, they need to complete chores from their list. They can also earn bonuses for “being caught being good”. Losing gems can occur when they choose to behave poorly. They were also told that stealing from others’ jars is completely unacceptable, and the thief would lose all their gems, to be divided between their sibs’ jars.

Once their jar is filled, they get to choose a reward from this list that I posted on their cork board:

What can you earn when you fill your Gem Jar?

Pick any ONE reward below!

(time and date of reward to be determined by Mom & Dad)

Taking a trip to the park

Spending the night with friends

Spending the night with grandparents

Going to a ball game, play, or concert

Playing mini golf with Mom or Dad

Eating out with Mom or Dad

Painting ceramics with Mom or Dad

Baking something in the kitchen with Mom

Planning a day’s activities for the family

Riding bikes with Mom or Dad

Going camping in the backyard with Dad

Going fishing with Dad

Staying up 30 minutes past bedtime

Going to the movies with Mom or Dad

Choosing the menu for a family meal

Going for a picnic with Mom or Dad

Going skating, swimming, or bowling with Mom or Dad

Ordering pizza…you choose the toppings

Going for a hike or letterboxing with Mom or Dad

Going canoeing with Mom or Dad

Choosing a special family breakfast

Playing a game with mom or dad

Getting an extra 30/60 minutes of computer time

Playing or renting a video game

Watching or renting a movie

Earning $10 to spend anywhere you want

Receiving a magazine subscription

Going out for ice cream with Mom or Dad

Going to the zoo with Mom or Dad

Receiving 5 scratch-off lottery tickets…you keep the winnings

Choosing a special dessert for the family

You are a gem! You can do it!


They are really excited about it! The questions were flying! What if we fill our jars at the same time? What if we choose the same reward? What if…? It was great to get them engaged in the idea. They starting choosing chores right away, and I marked their temporary gems on the whiteboard so I know how many to put in each jar tomorrow.

Here’s hoping this one “builds character”!

To be continued…

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Why am I a Mean Mommy? Well, for a lot of reasons, I guess.  My kids seem to be pretty sure of it. They have a lot of convincing evidence to support that claim. For example:

“Gavin’s Mommy doesn’t make him do chores!”

“Yeah! And Connor gets to play video games whenever he wants.”

“Chores are not fun, Mommy! And they’re hard! I don’t like to work.”

Yep. Mighty convincing. But do I waver in the shadow of the Marshmallow Mommies that are all the rage these days? Dream on, kiddos.

Now, don’t get me wrong..my kids are awesome, but they each doggedly maintain a different level of disobedience that drives me to drink (Red wine for me, please. Thanks.). Derrick is uber-lazy and rebellious. Kaitie has her head in the clouds and “forgets” what she is supposed to do as she dances around the house. Gracie is generally the best behaved of the three big kids, but is sneaky and has a mean streak that rears its head once in a while.

So, what do I (and my brood) think makes me a Mean Mommy? For starters, I expect my children to be kind, respectful, and productive members of society. I know, I’m evil…let the hate mail roll in! But seriously, here’s the basic break down of the situation:

  • My kids do chores to earn their allowance. If they do a half-ass job, I half-ass pay them. If they want something, they have to earn the money to buy it. This includes their clothing, should they choose to destroy it.

I have a white board divided with the chores the kids are responsible for each day. They have two chores each day, and earn $.50 for each one, totaling $5 each week. All of the chores are focused on the areas of the house that they are responsible for. For example, I don’t ask them to clean my bathroom, but you’d better believe they are responsible for theirs. They also have a list of other chores they can do if they want to earn extra money. They are taught how to do each job properly and are expected to try their best to do a good job without whining. Whining would be in blatant violation of our No Whining Policy, anyhow.

If they have their heart set on a new toy or if they destroy something they have, they need to buy it with money they have earned so they understand the value of it. I made a big mistake the first time around and spoiled my twin daughters with way too many toys. As a result, they have little respect for what they have and treat their possessions as if they are disposable. But the proverbial straw broke the camel’s back when one day, they were told to clean up their room (which, incidentally, always looked like a tornado had hit) or their toys would be put in the garbage bag I’d hung on the door. They proceeded to put their toys in the garbage bag, claiming, “It’s ok! Gramma will buy us new toys!”  Yes, really. That was the end of that! Since then, we have put a “less is more” policy in place and their Veruca tendencies have been gradually improving. Although they did suffer a major setback on Easter this year…we keep trying!

Another case in point…my son seems to think clothes grow on trees. He has several pair of size 10 pants that he was meant to be able to wear for a while and grow into. But he likes to walk on the bottoms instead of pulling them up and rolling the cuffs, so now he has no size 10 pants. By the time he grows into them, he’ll have horseshoe shaped holes exposing the backs of his legs. He also decided it would be fun to wear holes in the toes of not one, but TWO pairs of sneakers by dragging them. He recently bought his first pair of shoes with his own money that he earned. It took him more than two months to do so because he does not like to work (even with a goal to motivate him), but he did it. Hopefully, these will remain intact for a more reasonable length of time!

  • They have to behave themselves in order to earn electronics time. Our TV is off for the most part, and their video games must be Mean Mommy approved – no violence or excessive “Chewing Gum Factor”.

This is way up there on the list of why my kids think I’m mean. I mean, really! Why can’t they just sit on the couch and stare at a screen of flashing, colorful images all day? How evil can one Mommy get? Pretty darn evil, I suppose.

But seriously, I don’t think electronic entertainment does kids any favors. Sure, there are educational games that help them learn useful skills, but they learn much more from creative thinking and social interaction with their siblings. Also, I have seen first hand what violent games inspire in their creative play. I’m all for kids working out their feelings about violence through play, but when they are enjoying being the bad guy and routinely being mean to their sibs, it’s SO not ok!

Another problem is the Chewing Gum game. These are the mindless, pointless games that the kids get no value from other than wasting time. Sure, they’re fun once in a while, but keeping them to a minimum allows for more time engaging in learning activities. Sorry, kiddos! Electronics are a privilege, not a given.

  • All homework must be completed before 4:oo (an hour-and-a-half after they get home from school). Any homework not completed goes back to school and is graded accordingly. Sloppy homework that is not done to the best of their ability must be re-done. Lazy, sucky homework attitude is rewarded with grounding for the rest of the day.

Yes, that’s right. I’m a Homework Nazi, too. The girls aren’t a problem. They finish their assignments quickly. They are in Kindergarten, but they are way above grade level academically, so it’s too easy for them. My son, on the other hand, HATES anything that looks, tastes like, smells like, or even remotely resembles dreaded work. Some nights, homework time is like pulling crocodile teeth. Sadly, he is the reason for the homework laws.  We have spent too much time fighting his laziness and bad choices, so he wasn’t experiencing any natural consequences for his behavior. I’m a big believer in natural consequences. There really is no better way to learn, IMHO. I also expect them to do a neat job that displays their best work. Sloppy messes show that they don’t care about what they are doing and are not learning from the assignment.

  • All TV and movie content is carefully selected. I do not approve of many of the children’s shows and movies made lately. The kids in them are rude, obnoxious, whiny and mean. Why in the world would I want my kids watching and imitating that garbage?

When the girls were little, I was quite a bit more lenient about TV shows. But…Swiper struck. You know the fox I’m talking about, right? When my girls started watching Dora, I figured they’d incorporate the show into their creative play by pretending to be her or Boots. Nope. Not my girls. They started acting like Swiper…complete with the evil laughter when they took something from each other. Needless to say, Dora was verboten after that, and I started screening their TV time much more carefully. Any show that includes characters that are mean to each other or display traits that I wouldn’t want my kids to have are off limits. And, no, I don’t care how many lunchboxes or backpacks that character is featured on.

  • We do not eat chemical-laden processed garbage food. They are provided with healthy, tasty, appropriately-sized meals which they are expected to eat. If they waste their food because they don’t feel like eating it, $1 comes out of their earned allowance money.

Two of the three big kids are picky eaters. Derrick thinks vegetables are evil, and he’s slowly recovering from a long stint as a food neophobe. Gracie doesn’t like the texture of meat, and would be happy to eat pb&j or mac & cheese at every meal. Kaitie eats like she has a hollow leg that needs filling – I rarely have to worry whether she will eat her meals. So, while I respect the fact that not everyone likes every food, it’s not like I’m trying to feed them tripe and brussels sprouts! I’m an excellent home cook, and the meals I provide them are always tasty and do not contain exotic ingredients. They are given healthy amounts of food, and they are expected to eat it. Period. Yes, food does grow on trees (and such), but money does not. We’re feeding a family of six, and can’t afford to waste food just because someone doesn’t feel like eating it.

Recently, Derrick, who Hates soup, decided he would go through the lunch line at school (which is something he has never been given money for) when he was given soup in his thermos. He charged the meals of chemical-and-additive-laden pizza and pb&j to his account. We only found out about this more than a month later when we kept getting calls from the school that one of our children’s school accounts was overdrawn. He finally ‘fessed up, and it was explained to him that what he did was stealing because he couldn’t pay for the food. We went into the school and froze his account to ensure it would not happen again, and he worked in the cafeteria after lunch to pay them back for what he took. We were very grateful to the staff for allowing these natural consequences to work their behavioral magic.

Gracie’s thing is hiding food. It really is quite disgusting. We have found tupperware full of chicken salad in her backpack a week after it had been sent for lunch, an empty bottle of chocolate syrup in the back corner of their bedroom closet, and recently her lunch bag erupted with maggots who were devouring some rotting ham that had been packed for lunch as a homemade, natural “lunchable”. My stomach turns just remembering it. She’s also been known to drop chunks of meat on the floor under the dinner table. Because she does not care for meat, I always give her a smaller portion than the rest of the kids. But I firmly believe that kids need animal protein for healthy growth, so it will stay on her plate for now.

  • Poor behavior at school earns consequences at home. Changing your color card earns grounding for the day and $1 fine comes out of their allowance. I take their behavior at school very seriously, and disrespect towards the teacher and classroom rules is not tolerated.

Kaitie & Gracie don’t have behavior issues at school, really. They had a smiley face in their behavior chart every day this past year. The trouble is, they have picked up all kinds of nasty behaviors from the ones who don’t get smiley faces every day. Lovely. I can wait another 10 years for sassy girls, thank you very much!

Derrick, however, seems to think it’s fun to get in trouble at school. Some days, he forgets to raise his hand to speak. Some days, he tries to act like the bad kid because he thinks it’s funny. Other times, he runs his mouth or decides to walk circles around poles when he’s supposed to be standing in line. Stupid stuff, thankfully, but it has a cumulative effect and is detrimental to his education, the other children’s education, and his relationship with his teacher. I’m please to report, however, that his behavior has gradually been improving each school year. In kindergarten, he kicked people, talked incessantly, and rarely sat still for circle time. In first grade, he managed a few weeks of the school year with all green cards, but he talked and played at inappropriate times and broke the classroom rules almost daily. This year, he got in trouble once a week (on average) for not raising his hand and blurting out answers before anyone else had a chance to try. His worst offenses, playfighting with rulers in the classroom, getting up and dancing in front of the class when the teacher asked them to sit quietly while she had a quick bathroom break, and shaking a girl by the shoulders. But he did get mostly greens and yellows, though. I can remember maybe 6 blue cards (the next step, red being the worst) all year. Definite progress! I’m hoping that next year will be better!

So, that’s about the size of it. Please note that I welcome constructive comments, but not marshmallow mommy hate mail. I like to discuss different ideas for raising men and women of strong character, and would love to hear from you!

:o) Kim

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