Convincing Your Kids to Chip in around the Holidays

kids-help-holidaysIt’s tempting to use the holidays as a carrot to elicit positive behaviors from kids such as helping more with tidying and cleaning around the house. But there are helpful and not-so-helpful ways of going about it. Here are a few tips and tricks for getting more help from your kids while avoiding unintended drama or consequences:

Emphasize the nice part of the nice-naughty dichotomy. ‘Are there old toys we might declutter and donate to make space for the new?‘ Or, ‘For every room you dust, you can earn a dollar to donate to our local food bank’ (adding points to your ‘nice’ column just in time for the holidays).

Game-ify. For example: ‘Whoever finishes cleaning their room first gets to lick the cookie-icing spoon or hang a favorite decoration.’ OR ‘Whoever clears the table after dinner gets to open and enjoy today’s treat from our holiday countdown calendar.’

Chores before beloved holiday traditions. ‘If we get the house cleaned this morning, we can [fill in a favorite holiday activity] this afternoon.’

Deploy ‘outside agents’ with extreme care. Understand there’s an inherent creepiness in having one’s behavior watched and judged in every moment, either by an omniscient gift giver from the North or even an active spy in your home (e.g., Elf on a Shelf). While some kids will delight in the spy’s mischievous antics, others may be secretly terrified or stressed out by its presence. But making sure the spy seems super benevolent can backfire, too. Should you decide to invite in the spy into your home, know that kids will discuss and compare their antics amongst themselves at school, adding pressure for you to be creative on a daily basis at an already-hectic time of year. You can relieve some of the pressure by borrowing ideas from others or creating a unique version of the concept to do away with the comparisons altogether.

Create opportunities for redemption. Let kids know that the great holiday gift giver is an eminently forgiving soul and that helping more around the house is a great way to redeem past mistakes they might be fretting about in secret (and all the better if the help is unsolicited!). You can also avoid ‘rebound’ bad and unhelpful behaviors by resolving to extend positive incentives for nice behavior throughout the entire New Year.

Throwing a BIG summer bash? Take these tips from the experts!

maidpro party

With graduation, summer cookout, and pool-party season upon us, we asked a few people well accustomed to entertaining dozens of guests at a time to reveal their best secrets for pulling off big summer bashes with aplomb.

Plan a menu that can be prepared at least 90% ahead of time and eaten with fingers or just a single utensil. Unless you have table seating for all guests, nothing you serve should require cutting with a knife. Make comprehensive ingredient and shopping lists by store and give yourself at least a full day to gather and prepare (even if it means taking a day off from work).

Have a rain/thunder/lightning contingency plan. If your party space won’t handle a crowd (even a temporary one), consider scheduling a rain date with your invite.

If you expect your party to last for several hours, pay close attention to food safety. Serve spoilable foods in flights and replenish as needed, or use large pans or chafing dishes to make ice beds for serving bowls.

Offer games – volleyball, horseshoes, badminton, croquet, wiffle ball, cornhole, spike ball, cards, etc. These serve the dual purpose of keeping kids occupied in positive ways and providing entertainment or engagement opportunities for shyer, less sociable, or elderly guests.

Place plenty of clearly labeled receptacles around for recyclables, trash, compost, etc. This will save you big time on party cleanup.

Have supplies on hand to label serving dishes if people will be arriving with food in hand. Otherwise, you may end up with a collection dishes requiring detective work to return to the right people. If you don’t want lots of leftovers, have a supply of take-home containers handy and encourage guests to load up as they leave. Other supplies to have for guests: sunscreen for anyone who forgets to bring their own and bug repellant if your party will still be going after dusk.

Take notes. If your summer bash is a hit, it could become an annual event. Write down how much food, utensils, ice, etc. was actually consumed so you can refine your calculations for next time.