In the last post, I described my plan to use a token system to monitor my three oldest kids' keeping their rooms clean. In this post, I'll tell you how it went.
Before I get into this, I want to reiterate that the "new system" is a perfect example of Mark and I working through parenting problems by making it up as we go along.
I am trying hard not to think too far forward in this endeavor. I'm afraid if I start asking questions like
- "How long can we keep this up?" and
- "Is my oldest going to still have a jar of popsicle sticks on his shelf when he's seventeen and a half?" and
- "Will we ever be able to just dispense with the sticks and have them do their job without worrying about it?"
then I will become paralyzed by the fear of being inconsistent.
And the truth is... their rooms are all cleaner now.
+ + +
So. I wrote a checklist for each of them. The checklist has three items on it.
- Floor clear
- Covers pulled up and no big piles of stuff on the bed
- Closet doors shut.
Yes, this does in fact imply that they can totally clear their floor -- if not by putting everything on the bed -- then by stuffing everything in the closet and shutting the door. I didn't actually tell them that. I was hoping they could discover it as a sort of Easter egg hidden in the checklist.
I set an alarm on my phone to remind me to check their rooms, but I warned them I might do it at any time between breakfast and bedtime. If any of the three items doesn't pass muster, I pull a token from their jar. At the end of the month we count them up and pay allowance.
+ + +
The first month was March, but I didn't come up with the idea until there were only twelve days left in the month. At the time, we had built up an indeterminate backlog of unpaid allowances, so first Mark gave them each a generous lump-sum payment to settle up the past months. That's when we sprang our new plan on them.
Since there were only twelve days left in the month, I figured it would make a good dry-run month. I issued each of the three children a jelly jar containing twelve tokens (popsicle sticks that I signed with Sharpies). I told them that each popsicle stick that remained at the end of March would be worth a dollar to them, because we were starting with a partial month, meaning that they could get a maximum of $12 allowance in March.
"But next month, assuming your dad and I decide we like how this is going, you'll get thirty tokens, and each will be worth fifty cents at the end of the month."
"Will we get thirty-one tokens in May?" the oldest wanted to know.
"No. I like round numbers. Keeps it simple. Thirty tokens every month." I was determined not to let the system get bogged down with too many details.
"But that isn't fair! That's like having a day where we get nothing!"
"Do you really want to talk about what's fair?" interjected Mark. "If we go by fairness, you'll owe us money."
You'll get a bonus in February," I helpfully added. I don't think he was impressed.
+ + +
Fast forward twelve days. After dinner on March 31st, Mark sang, "Bring out yer tokens!" I opened up my wallet.
The seven-year-old had four remaining tokens. She was proud, and pleased to get four one-dollar bills.
The ten-year-old had seven remaining tokens. He was happy to receive a five and two ones.
The thirteen-year-old showed me his ten tokens, and received his two five-dollar bills. He had stopped complaining, but he still wasn't terribly happy about it.
+ + +
That's not the only important result. From this morning:
Trust me, this is immaculate compared to before. And I didn't have to say anything to them about it.
Even though the bottom picture does not show that only one of the boys got to keep his token this morning, because the other one left a pair of underwear on the floor in front of his closet door (out of the frame).
+ + +
An additional positive result: As soon as this experiment started I realized that I was not going to have much moral authority unless I, too, endeavored to keep my own room clean to the same standards that I was insisting the children absolutely must learn to do.
So I've been making my bed every morning and throwing stuff from the floor into my closet and closing the door.
I like it.
+ + +
Another thing: Because I'm checking their rooms every morning, I didn't forget to have cash in my wallet (including singles) on the Day of Reckoning. So I didn't have to owe anyone any allowance.
+ + +
As I was sorting clean laundry yesterday I discovered another bonus: I don't have to tell them to put away their laundry anymore. I can just put the basket of clean laundry on each child's bed and leave it there. It will have to be stuffed into the closet by morning. Win.
+ + +
And I also decided that next month, Doing One's Own Laundry Once A Week will be the targeted task. I hope to let you know how that goes, mid-May.