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.

Five Simple Projects to Minimize Back-to-School Stress

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Last year around this time, we offered six tips to Get Organized for Back to School. This year, we’re highlighting five simple home projects that are guaranteed to make your family’s school-day routines flow better, faster, and with much less parental stress.

Make space. Clear out and donate old clothes, sporting equipment, outerwear, and so forth. When you do thisbefore school and fall sports really get rolling, it helps your kids to more easily and independently assess their wardrobe options, decide what to wear, and find what they need under the duress of morning rush. Dirty clothes are also more likely to end up in the laundry, and having sufficient space for clothes smooths laundry workflow overall—yes, things can actually be routinely cleaned, folded, and put away!

Purge and deep-clean the kitchen. When you’re done with closets and drawers move on to your kitchen, inspecting and tossing expired foods and deep-cleaning your fridge, freezer, and cabinets. This will give you space to stock up on nutritious, energizing snacks and fast, easy-to-prepare weeknight meals.

Make several weekday menu plans. Waiting until ‘day of’ to decide what’s for dinner is a recipe for overspending on food, increasing food spoilage and waste, adding to daily mental stress, and falling into food and nutrition ruts. Plan out a few weeks’ worth of rotating weeknight menus and shopping lists to keep things interesting, nutritious, and cost and time efficient.

Take inventory. As you are freeing up space in your home—and before hitting those big back-to-school sales—make an inventory of what you already have and exactly what you need in terms of clothing, athletic gear, school supplies, snack foods, and so forth. This enables you to shop with precision, saving time and avoiding impulse buys.

Make an easy checklist system for kids to manage on their own. A story went viral recently about a school principal in Arkansas who is turning away parents seeking to drop off forgotten items such as lunches and lunch money, gym clothes, and homework. The principal’s goal is to encourage kids to problem-solve on their own. But, some kids are just naturally disorganized. Even if you don’t have a chronic forgetter on your hands, try hanging a dry erase or similar board by your exit door. Encourage your kids to create their own daily checklists and take responsibility for collecting what they need before leaving the house. This has a triple benefit of relieving your personal mental workload, avoiding SOS calls and trips to school to deliver forgotten items, and teaching your kids skills that serve for a lifetime.

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