Ah, the joys of having young children! Aren’t they wonderful? They look up into your eyes so lovingly, sit on your lap for night time snuggles while you read to them, pick little flowers from the yard and bring them to you with the biggest, dirty-faced smile! It makes my heart so very full just thinking about it.
They draw the sweetest pictures of you and make you the most precious gifts. You are the smartest, prettiest mom they know and they can’t wait to marry or be like you when they grow up.
When you get home from work they jump into your arms with the biggest hug and completely melt away the tough day you’ve just had….and then as you walk through the house, holding them in your arms, you trip over their toys….. again!
Didn’t you just ask them to pick that up? And oh my goodness, while your toe is still throbbing from the toys you just tripped over, you turn the corner and the dining room has been turned into an entire city that looks like a tornado just blew through.
As they get older, it’s the balls and bats that they’ll “pick up later.” And the school books that “must be left out” so they don’t forget to do their homework or perhaps, their Barbies have set up multiple residences in every inch of your house.
You’re pretty sure that the leftover snack on the counter was something that had been eaten two hours ago and, yet, the empty plate and crumbs are still sitting there.
The bathroom sink is caked in dried toothpaste and the faucet has crusted spit all over it, but hey, at least they brushed their teeth, right?! I’m certain you’ve taught them how to wipe up after themselves, at least 1,342 times!
This past weekend I ventured upstairs and the site I saw from the boy’s bedroom door was atrocious (and my guys are turning 19 and 22 this week!) I’m certain an F5 tornado has gone through the house, but oddly enough, only touched the upstairs! Seriously, friends, I’m absolutely tickled I have them both at home, but something has to change.
An important role that we have as parents is teaching our children to be self-sufficient. I’ll admit, though I’ve taught them how to pick up in the past, and they’re completely capable of seeing what needs to be done and just doing it, I certainly haven’t enforced those rules in a while.
As I sat there in awe of the disaster that was once their rooms, I quickly flashed back to a time, years ago, when I had all three of my guys (master Rotzoll included) sitting on the floor while I gave a very stern lecture entitled “It isn’t just mom’s job to keep the house picked up.” I explained that every one of them was also responsible for this. (It should be noted that in their version of this memory, I’m pretty sure they pictured me in a schoolhouse setting, hair pulled back tight, ugly glasses at the end of my nose, and holding a ruler in my right hand while hitting my left palm every time I needed to emphasize something important. In fact, my hair may have even been made of serpents in their story.)
My next flashback was of some great advice a friend gave me about getting the boys to pick up after themselves and it was pure genius! (Thanks, Kelly!)
Are you ready for it?
It’s called garage sale! But wait……it’s probably not what you’re thinking.
I imagine you’re thinking I gathered everything up and put it all into a garage sale while making the boys play cashier for their once loved items. Though that would definitely be a powerful punishment for them, I think my friend’s idea was even better!
Here are the rules for garage sale
*Special note: this does require giving the kids a small allowance.
- Spend an entire week, nonchalantly, collecting everything (and I do mean everything) that is sitting out and shouldn’t be. Put it all in a garbage bag.
- Garage Sale day! At the end of the week, make a big production about gathering everyone around the table.
- Hand out their weekly allowance.
- Working with one item at a time, slowly pull out something from the garbage bag.
- Once the item has been identified, whoever it belongs to has to pay .25 cents to buy the item back. Start a tally of all items.
- Work your way through the entire bag until it’s empty and then proceed to inform them that the new week starts immediately.
- Tally up what they owe you and have them hand the money from their weekly allowance back over to you.
- If there’s an item in the bag that is needed before “garage sale day” (such as a glove for baseball practice, a book for school) they have a choice to make. Buy that one item back now, but at a premium of .50 cents! Or they go without until garage sale day.
- If they tell you they no longer want the item and to “just put it in the donation pile,” calmly say, “no problem. But you have to buy it back first.” (Guess which little genius of mine tried that one!)
Oh my goodness! It’s a game changer, right?!
The first couple times the bag will probably be full, but when they begin to realize that you mean business and they won’t have as much money at the end of the week, items begin to find their home again!
So as I look at my boys’ rooms and am reminded of that wonderful trick we used, I’m thinking dollar signs! And now that they have jobs, I think they’ll have to pay a little more than they did when they were little!
In fact, I’m seeing a nice vacation for my husband and I on the horizon. Seriously, friend, that’s how bad their rooms look right now!
So I’m off, garbage bag in hand, to do some picking up. And after that, I think I’ll book a nice cruise for my husband and I! (Thanks, again, Kelly!)
Do you have a good tip for getting the kids to pick up after themselves? Please share it below! We could all use the help!
Need another great tip for teaching money responsibilities to the kids? Head to The #1 Tip for Smart Back-to-school Shopping.
Until next time, my friend…
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Tammy Rotzoll is the founder and owner of Footprints of Inspiration and podcast host at A Faithful God Podcast (which can be found on your favorite podcast player). She lives in Virginia with her husband and together they’re learning how to navigate their fun, new adventure as empty nesters.
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