Grouchy Grouch McGrouch.
Somebody’s been waking up on the wrong side of the bed A LOT. He complains about siblings, chores, meals, school, baseball practice, swimming class, birthday parties… yes, even birthday parties. At first you tried to appease him, then you tried to ignore him, now you’re just trying to stop getting mad at him. You tell yourself to relax, he’s still your baby after all, but then he rolls his eyes at you again and you… want to cry.
Put him to work.
We’re pretty familiar with kids who whine. Sometimes it’s because they’re tired, sometimes it’s because they’re hungry, and sometimes, it’s just because. But if annoying behavior’s crossing the line, it’s time to put your foot down. Figuratively. Stomping around won’t fix anything, and losing your temper only teaches them how to up their game.
When one of our boys grumbles mildly, we start the sentence ‘But at least…,’ and if said Grumpster fills in the blank and stops complaining, problem solved. When he’s a little more grumbly, we might head to another room and turn up the tunes. But when his grumbling spirals out of control, resulting in bad moods all around, we need a little more negative reinforcement, aka kicking it to the curb. Lately, we’ve been turning to one of our absolute fave’s to eliminate any bad habit: The Cleaning Jar. Yes, that would be ‘cleening’ according to our almost-seven-year-old.
The concept’s simple. We wrote a bunch of chores down on separate slips of paper, put them in a jar, labelled it, and voilà. But the beauty of this small glass container lies in its application. Anyone grumbling too much/fighting too much/picking his nose too much? We give one polite warning and if the less than stellar behaviour continues then bam: to the jar. It’s one step below a timeout, which helps enforce timeouts too since they’re saved for the real misdemeanours.
Here’s why the jar works:
- We all had a say, brainstorming and writing the ideas together on a rainy day. The boys’ suggestions were encouraged, and we all agreed whether each idea was jar-worthy. This explains why walking our battery-operated toy dog is considered a “chore”.
- We’re consistent with when it’s pulled out. They know when they they’re up to no good and they also know we’re watching. If it’s a new offense and they’ve ignored our initial requests to stop/change/do it somewhere else, mentioning The Jar typically puts the kaibosh on that undesirable behaviour faster than a speeding bullet. Anyone else watching a lot of Superhero movies these days?
- We live the rules too, so we also have to bow to the jar when it’s our bad. And boy do they LOVE pointing that out! Let’s just say we had no idea how much potty humour was ingrained in our everyday vocabulary until we had to curb our four year-old’s ‘poo-poo-head’ taunts.
- We enforce it. What started as a fun game – seriously, they used to beg to pull out a chore in the hopes they’d get to whip out the Swiffer – quickly became seen for what it was: bor-ing. So their grumbles about everything else turned into grumbles about the jar, which then turned into flat-out-no’s. To which we scoffed, pshaw style. When they first decided to test the waters and refused, we responding by refusing their requests for toys/snacks/activities/events. Only took a couple of empty bellies and missed parkdates before they decided to suck it up and get ‘er done.
An extra bonus is that what we initially thought was a cute little activity has actually become a fairly significant help. One day last week we were pulling out the vacuum to clean up a paint flake mess in the boys’ room (for a Mom/Son project that we labelled the ‘March Breaker’… which is still ongoing) when our older son transgressed, headed for the jar, and pulled out the ‘vaqume’ slip. The universe was definitely smiling on us that day and he did a great job. We’re already planning Jar 2.0 to include loading the dishwasher, reading to sibs, and diaper changes. Woot!
Kids LOVE being part of the solution instead of always feeling like the problem, and they also thrive when they have some control. “As long as you live under my roof,” is as archaic as spanking and neither one teaches children anything except resentment. Discipline is about teaching positive behavior and life skills, and once you’ve mastered enforcing it without nagging/yelling/losing it, you might enjoy it so much you’ll be hoping for some misbehaviour. Who wants to clean anyway?
Email us if you’d like to know the rest of the chores in our Jar… and how we tackle speling misteaks.