Friday, April 1, 2011

Molasses Drop

Yes, yesterdays blog titled "Procrastination" was an attempt at an April Fools Joke -how did I do??   Anyway...

When someone at home is putting off  a task or taking their time to get ready we have an affectionate name we call them - "molasses drop". At times we have a sticky group of people living with us! Procrastination is something that can drive parents crazy! The natural reaction for parents is to take over for a child when they are taking too long to complete something. When Jr. is dawdling while putting on their shoes, we step in. Taking too long to finish a story, we finish it for them. Slowly putting their toys away, we pick up an arm full and complete it. But we do our kids more harm than good when we take over for them. Part of parenting is getting our kids to independence - do we really want to have to tie our 17 year old shoes and zip their jacket??

We must be motivators when it comes to independence. Teaching our children how to complete the task, clearly  and patiently - oh, did I say patiently! Little kids can only repeat 1 step instructions, by 1st grade they are up to 3 step instructions. We must be willing to break down a task into completable steps for their age, or picture clues as to what come next. In my pantry I had labels for where I wanted the food to be stored, partly because I'm weird and partly because no one had an excuse for not putting groceries away where they belonged. And do you know how much time you can save when you don't have to hunt for the olive oil? This works great for toys, clothing and tools.

Next, it is key to leave "wiggle" room. (no, not for watching a group of men sing children's songs) but margins for completing a task. If you need to be out the door in 5 minutes - you should have given the warning 15 minutes ago to clean up, get dressed, pack a snack. Every Sunday Cam gives us the departure time for that day - there is no excuse not to be ready (one of his famous lines is "I'm in the van"!) We all like to know how much time we have left so use that technique with your kids  and yourself. I tend to get "lost" when I'm on the computer, but if I set a time limit for myself, there is not excuse to look up and realize 5 hours have gone by!This also works well when leaving someone elses house - it helps  to cut down on the departure meltdowns! Give your kids a time warning and then stick with it. Setting timers is a great visual for kids or playing a song - when the song is done, it's time to clean up or you can sing the Barney clean up song while you put toys away. It also helps for homework - if they are dreading a difficult project have them work for 20 minutes - once they get going, it may seem more doable!

As kids become teenagers a different problem crops up - selective hearing! Lists and notes are great for communicating with teens. It takes all the emotion out of the situation - it's hard to roll your eyes at a piece of paper. When I leave for work in the morning I will often make a list of chores they can do when they get home from school - a full, clean dishwasher may seems obvious to you and me to unload, but to a teenager, not so much. I tape the note to the door knob so there is no excuse!

I love lists! What I like the best is crossing off the item once it is accomplished. Sometimes if I make the list in the middle of the task, I will write a finished job on the list just so I can cross it off. Help your child learn to focus on how he'll feel when the job is finished - not how he feels while he's doing it. It's also a good idea to build in small rewards for finishing an unpleasant task - when I finished doing my taxes I had a big bowl of ice cream.

Crummy jobs are part of life - we all have to do somethings we don't like. Putting off, delaying, procrastinating all prolong the agony. But when we set our minds to completing a job, approach it positively, set goals along the way, the self satisfaction is well worth it - and trust me, nobody likes to be called a molasses drop!


  1. April Fool's joke...not so much...but still a good post :) And yes, you are wierd (since you mention it). We had some fun the other night. The living room looked like a tornado had hit it, I think every toy we own was out. I set the timer for 5 minutes and said "let's see if we can clean it all up in 5 minutes than we can have a bowl of ice cream" With help from all four of we all had ice cream :) It was actually fun and Morgan asked to play again last night. We are out of ice cream but she still wanted to do it!!

  2. my pantry shelves are all labeled...

  3. Try to keep your April Fools Jokes in the right month next year!

  4. Mary, I swear you are the exact opposite of me, which is why I need you to post more often. LOL. I am a terrible procrasinator.


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