Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Signs, signs, everywhere are signs

Over the past three weeks or so I have started putting in to place some very clear and defined expectations of certain routines in the house-- how the morning routine goes, how the bedtime routine goes and how the clean-up routine goes. I went so far as to post signs throughout the house describing exactly what the routine is, when it should happen and what, if any, repercussions there are if it isn't finished in a timely manner. I thought to myself, oh man, I am really putting on my hard-ass hat now. I hate being a mother who barks orders at her kids all day long, and this is just going to make it worse! But you know what? It has already helped immensely.

Here are two of the signs that I have posted. Eloise can't read them, but Iris (and her parents!) can. Now that we have been adhering to these specific routines we never have to read them, but they still serve as a simple visual reminder to us all.

Case in point: this morning when Eloise woke up and wanted to head upstairs before anyone else Iris reminded her "you need to get dressed, brush your teeth and hair before you can play!" Oh, my heart swelled. She really does get it. And for the most part, they just do it now, with very little coaxing. Sometimes I will say, "It looks like you are playing with that toy, are your teeth brushed?" and they will drop the toy and head towards the bathroom.

The morning routine involves basically being completely ready for school before playing or watching tv. In the past the struggle was the girls would get up and jump in to play and then it would be 10 minutes before we had to leave and I would start screaming for them to get dressed and all of the rest.

The bedtime routine involves a specific order things are done in and time that it begins. I would say bedtime in our house was always so all over the map, the girls never quite knew what was going to happen. Basically the routine truly starts at 6:30, which is when I tell the girls they have half an hour to get the playroom cleaned. Once 7:00 hits they get a tv show (or lately they have been choosing to play with a couple of toys a little longer instead of tv) and then at 7:30 the teeth brushing and all of that begin. The other huge change we made a while back in the bedtime routine is that Iris can come back upstairs after books are read to stay up a little later and wind down.

The biggest hurdle we've been overcoming (I won't say "overcome" because that is a sure-fire way to make it all fall apart!) is the playroom clean-up. My children have a huge, beautiful room filled with toys, games, books, arts and craft supplies, dress-up bins, etc etc. They tend to make huge messes and be really lazy at cleaning it. I got so mad the other night I made a rule: if the playroom isn't cleaned by 7:00 pm then it is CLOSED (and the toys in it unavailable) the whole next day. So far, it's turned out to be a pretty awesome motivator and I haven't yet had to close the playroom (god help me when I actually do! lol). Not only that, but I've had to set clear expectations for what clean means (lord knows that every person in this house has a different definition). The toys have got to be in their correct bins. The desk has to be clear of everything that has a home somewhere else. The floor has to be clear of toys that have homes, etc etc. The playroom clean-up does extend to the rest of the house in that if there are toys in other rooms, they need to be put back in the playroom.

While the girls are cleaning the playroom, I do my own chores so that we are all working at the same time. Usually I clean up in the kitchen. I announce periodic time updates, ie "15 minutes left!" and that is IT. I will usually do a walk-through about five minutes before closing time to see if they have missed anything, but I don't help them.

It might be worth noting that there is no morning routine on Fri-Sun when neither girl is in school. Sometimes the bedtime routine will get pushed a little later Thu-Sat night but I very much wish it didn't. The consistency seems to help immensely. Of course, we do have other things come up in our life or choose to do a movie night or something, in which case the routines are the same, just pushed back a bit.

So, on the one hand, I have cracked down hard on expectations. On the other hand? I fight SO, SO, SOOOOOO much less with my children over the daily routines. I actually bark orders less than ever, because I don't need to. They know what to expect and so do I. It's quite relieving.

We are still very much working on other things, like how Iris is expressing her anger-- but I am working on setting up expectations with that, as well. I am also working on praising all of the good behavior I see and letting her (and her sister) know that such-and-such thing they just did is wonderful and exactly what I want to see from her.

I see Iris getting it. Some days are harder than others, but it is definitely heading towards overall improvement.

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