Restructuring my kids responsibilities-- How I did it? What worked, what bombed! The other day I was throwing away the 20th gold fish wrapper, collecting water bottles from literally the strangest of places, cleaning up cough drop wrappers from in between couch cushions (keeping it real!) and I said to myself, "Franki, it is time to make a change. What would you say to yourself if you were your own behavior coach?" See, when you work for yourself and you are your own boss, you have many of these conversations. I instantly got sidetracked thinking about WWFD (What Would Franki Do) merchandise and if it would sell. Then I took a deep breath, reread my own blog article about how to have a parent/child meeting and got to planning.
1. Come up with an ideal time
I talked with my husband Jeff and he was instantly on board. We came up with a time that all of the kids would be home, no one should be overly hungry or tired and no one had an activity (not an easy task with three kids!).
2. When you start the meeting, set the tone. Be explicit!
I began, calling to order our family meeting, fake gavel and all. My kids appreciate my flair for the dramatic. OK, everyone but the tween does! I explained that I thought our house was way too messy. I had the kids give me some examples, and we were all in agreement. Jeff and I honestly talked about how we weren't naturally neat! The kids gave examples of friends they have who had perfectly tidy lockers and desks. Avi, my youngest, exclaimed that he had a friend that even made his own bed (mom fail on my part that that was so newsworthy).
3. Keep your tone warm and inviting
This is why I infused some grade A "mom jokes" with my "air gavel!"
4. When you start the meeting, see if they can come up with the reason why you've asked to talk and let them describe in their own words
The kids did this by helping us come up with a list of Parent responsibilities and Kid responsibilities. Again, no judgment, no correcting. I just took notes. They did a great job. I then took an opportunity for a "teachable moment." My oldest, who is almost 13, made sure to get making lunches down on the parent responsibility checklist. I explained, "That's interesting. I know you want this on the parent list because you don't like making lunches even though you are old enough to do so. That is OK with Dad and me and we are happy to help you. In order to do that we will need help on some of our other responsibilities, so you will see some additions on your individual chart." I then ignored the eye rolls and moved on!
5. When you have discussed what may be the cause of the behavior (if your child knows) then brainstorm ways to work on improvement together!
We all agreed that no one in our family was a natural cleaner so that made it tough for us. We also agreed we liked a clean house. I proposed that each kid have a list of personal responsibilities including self care and keeping their rooms clean and personal items put away. I then suggested that their "extra jobs" to contribute to a clean home rotate similarly to how they do it in school with classroom jobs. I also explained that if they wanted to make extra money, I would have a list of "money making" opportunities ready for them! If they didn't complete one of their responsibilities they would owe Jeff or me $2 per job do it for them. My tween was not cool with parting with her money. So we came up with a second option: they would lose 30 minutes of screen time per responsibility not followed through with.
6. Use this time as an opportunity to also praise your child on ways their behavior has been positive, so that the conversation doesn't feel all negative. Maybe you're impressed with the conversation itself; tell them!
Jeff and I thanked them for their participation in our meeting.
7. Come up with a plan that is mutually agreed upon. Ask them what kind of help they want from you, how and when they want it. Then it's your turn to tell them very clearly what you expect them to work on and change.
Draft one of each kid's plan is pictured below. I'm sure this will need tweaks along the way, and I'm excited to get started. *You will notice they are already dirty since someone spilled something on them before I even hung them up, #momlife!