Who’s Job Is It Anyhow?

Turn Off Lights makes world smileAre you ever on the wrong end of your spouse’s critiques for things that you did not do? It happened chez nous most mornings after breakfast. The kids eat and leave their mess to brush their teeth or be on time for school. While I congratulate myself on their sense of responsibility, my husband enters the kitchen and comments on (complains about, critiques, swears over…) the cereals left on the table and dishes in the sink. My ego balloon busts.

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In the evening, as I lovingly prepare the family dinner and one son has dutifully left on his own for an activity, my returning husband greats me with, “The outside lights are on again. Why is the front door open?” Since the other children were doing homework in their rooms, I was the only one to hear the diatribe. So much for cooking with amour.

The Things-Have-To-Change Meeting

Big Daddy is right on these counts. I just happen to be at the wrong place at the right time…once too often. That’s when we held the things-have-got-to-change meeting. (Read Going for the Prize)

What’s Up, Doc?

First I clarified the problems:
- there were three regular “forgetfulnesses” which either wasted money or made life unpleasant for others (leaving lights on, keeping front door open to the cold, leaving the kitchen messy after eating)
- Mom was suffering the consequences of the children’s behavior

Define “Winning”

We parents realized that our desire (excellent performance) did not always match our children’s wishes (a prize).

So we stated the goal:
- To have the children reap the fruits (good or bad) of their actions.

Motivate Everyone to Change

Olympians succeed individually and as a team. Following their example, we devised a motivation plan where each winning child gains a prize and winning requires teamwork.

Then, we discussed the plan:
We reached a breakthrough moment when all realized we could put a win-win solution into place. (To help the children experience the GAIN vs. the pain of change.)

Our solution:
Every child would receive $5 more allowance this month (not a permanent deal) if Mom & Dad weren’t the ones to clean up, turn off lights, and close doors. Either all gain or none do. If a child finds the kitchen dirty, it’s no longer someone else’s problem; it’s his potential gain or loss too.

Everyone’s Win

- Win 1: Dad is satisfied: the jobs get done

- Win 2: Mom is pleased: her role is no longer to chase after the “culprit” to get the job done (or do it herself) The kids now have that role. If they don’t like it, they can understand how Mom doesn’t either.

- Win 3: Everybody prefers the new language: Instead of “BOYS, come here NOW.” We say, “If you want your prize, work as a team; either do the job or get someone else to do it.”

Power Pointers Boost Performance

Power Pointer turn off lightsFor the first week, the kids followed the plan well. By the second week, it became clear that the boys would benefit from a reminder. That’s where Power Pointers came in handy.

We created a Power Pointer for the occasion (download)
- to give the children a comical yet clear reminder of our deal
- to keep the deal in sight and in mind

“Mom, the Power Pointer looks so childish. What will my friends think?” replies our 13 year old. “Do you prefer them to hear that you can’t remember what we ask you again and again and again and again and again and again and again? Learn quickly and encourage your brothers too, then we’ll take it down.”

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1. On Sunday, March 7 2010, 17:14 by Denise

Our youngest child likes these Power Pointers. "Where's the paper, Mom?" It's like a confidence-companion when he keeps his older siblings accountable. "Look, I'm doing my part. YOU did not do this (and points)."

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