It happened again this week.
As I went around picking up the shoes scattered on the ground, the jackets thrown around the house, and yes, of course, the nerf bullets, I lost it.
I did not lose it at my children or at my husband, I just lost it. I went into my room and flopped on the bed. Why??? Why do I have to repeat the same things over and over?? Why do I have to make the same request again and again??
I asked these questions out loud to myself and only received a lazy meow from my cat who was not too bothered by my ramblings.
And then, it hit me: initiative is a myth. My kids are not going to pick up their shoes or their jackets or the nerf bullets on their own. The constant reminding and pleading and sometimes even begging will have to continue for a while longer.
I was expecting my kids to initiate doing the picking up, and then becoming frustrated when it would not happen. But since initiative is a myth in kids (and maybe sometimes husbands as well!), then I need to figure out the most effective way to communicate.
My kids and your kids are not waking up excited to see what they can pick up today. So this means that I will have to continue to ask for help, and I will have to give very clear instructions.
What I Have Learned
#1 Stop Being Passive Aggressive
Being passive aggressive about picking up around the house is just not going to work. In fact, it will breed contempt.
For example, “It seems I am the only one around here who knows how to throw anything away.”
That is certainly a passive aggressive comment and one that will not get the results I want.
My kids do not feel sorry for me that I have to bend over 200+ times a day to pick up trash and toys.
With a passive aggressive comment, I am looking for sympathy that is just not going to be found.
#2 Stop Using Indirect Instructions
In other words, hints are not going to cut it.
For example, “It sure would be nice if someone would come pick up these Legos in here.”
I might as well not even say anything.
My kids are not going to pick up on that indirect instruction to pick up the Legos.
#3 Stop Asking If Anyone Notices
Why should you stop asking if anyone notices? Because they do not notice. It really is that plain and simple.
For example,”Can anyone see what is wrong in this room?”
I have seen it first hand and have even done some of my own experiments in my home.
I have left trash on the ground purposely to see how long it stays without being picked up. It was in a hallway that is used numerous times each and every day.
I let the wrapper sit and fester for a whole week, and guess what?? No one noticed or picked the item up.
Nope, hints are not going to cut it.
#4 Start Giving Direct, Concise, To the Point Instructions
Now we are getting somewhere. This is what we should be doing.
No more wasting my breath with sarcasm, hints, indirect instructions, or passive-aggressive comments.
A simple direct, concise, to the point instruction works just about every time.
For example, “Kinsler, I will need you to pick up all of these trains before you can put your shoes on to go outside.”
One more pointer: make eye contact. Do not give the direct, concise instruction while they are running around having a Nerf gun battle.
You need to stop the child, look them in the eye, and possibly even touch their shoulder. The eye and body contact are critical to getting a busybody to pay attention.
Last Thoughts on Initiative
Be sure that you are not being too hard to please.
While my kids do not always pick up their rooms to my satisfaction, I am proud of them for giving it a try.
If I am too hard on them or always run in and do it myself, then I am doing my children a disservice.
It is important that they learn the life skills of maintaining a home.
So the next time that you lose it like I did, stop and remember these pointers on initiative.
Start using clear, direct, concise instruction, and you will see the results you desire.