Getting my children to pick up their crap is my eternal struggle. I feel like 90% of being a dad is asking these two questions: What is this? Why is it on the floor? Each evening I try to get the kids to pick up the living room while Mel makes dinner. I don’t know when this started, but we’ve been doing it for yeas. Most evenings things go well once I get the kids moving. But sometimes it’s hell. And getting the kids to make the transition from what they are doing to picking up is almost always a battle. I’ve made some crazy decisions to get my kids to pick up their crap. Below are a few of them.
Regularly commenting on my own madness: When trying to get my kids to clean, I seem to constantly be mentioning my eventual madness, “Pick up your crap or I am going to snap,” or my current madness, “This living room is making me crazy.” Sometimes I just mention something crazy that is about to happen: “If you don’t pick up every Pokémon card, I’m going to light the house on fire.” I’ve heard people say that if your parents are not crazy by the time you leave, then you’ve done something wrong. If this is true, than clearly my children are doing a lot of things right.
Taking away basic human rights: Tristan is notorious for suddenly needing to use the restroom two minutes into cleaning. Then he will screw around in there for 15 or 20 minutes in an attempt to get out of cleaning. Norah, she always needs a “Little drinky of water.” Then she will sit at the table and take little sips for ten minutes to keep from cleaning. This has caused me to instigate a no restroom and water policy during cleaning time. When I think about this rule, I suddenly feel like an international interrogator doing anything necessary to get information.
Bribery: Just a few weeks ago our living room was a huge mess of toys, PJ’s, scraps of paper from art projects, cereal, Lego’s, and so on. It was the end of a long day (I’d just had a 6 hour job interview). I wasn’t in the mood to yell, and I wasn’t in the mood to fight. I wasn’t in the mood for Norah (five-years-old) to go limp on the floor and tell me how I’ve made her sad. And I wasn’t in the mood for Tristan (7-years-old) to bury his face in the side of the sofa like an ostrich and act like I’m not speaking to him. I knew that if I bribed them, they’d get to work. But I also knew that they would expect bribery for the next several evenings. But after a long day, I just didn’t care. I bribed them with popsicles. The living room was clean in less than 10 minutes.
Scream: When I was a kid, my mother would scream and clap her hands when trying to get my brother and me to pick up our things. I always thought she looked crazy, and I couldn’t understand what it was about a messy living room that would turn her into crazy red-faced monster. I told myself that I’d never scream like that at my kids. But then, one day, when Tristan and Norah had spent more time fighting than cleaning, and I’d had a long night because Norah wet the bed, and an even longer day at work, I suddenly found myself screaming and clapping my hands. Once the living room was cleaned up, I sat down on the sofa, placed my face in my hands, and had the horrible thought that I assume most parents have experienced: I’ve turned into my mother.
Create an unhealthy competition: Tristan and Norah like to race down our hallway to see who’s faster. One evening, I tried to see if I could use this new passion for competition to my advantage. “Let’s see who can pick up their toys the fastest,” I said. Both kids’ eyes lit up, and suddenly they were running back and forth down the hall with toys in their hands. I don’t think I’d ever felt so brilliant in my life. But then, near the end, when I commented that Tristan was winning and that Norah needed to step up her game, she tripped him. Then she jumped on his back and suddenly the two were in a full on fistfight. Tristan called Norah a fart face, and Norah called Tristan a poop face. Suddenly both kids were crying and needed to be sent to their rooms. We never did finish cleaning the living room.
Creating ridiculous names: Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, when the kids are really fighting me to clean, or when they are dragging their feet, or randomly disappearing for long moments to get out of cleaning, I want to call them lazy. I want to say snarky things about their characters in hopes of motivating them. I want to lecture them and bring down their self-worth in hopes that I can mock them into getting things done. In my struggle to not call my kids really hurtful things, I end up calling them ridiculous names like Messy the Mess Face, or Norah the Slow Walker, or Tristan the Disappearing Child. I’m not sure what this is doing to my children.
What are some of the crazy decisions you’ve made to get your children to pick up their crap?
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.