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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bye bye timeouts, hello clean-up time!

I just had a cunningly clever idea. I am so stunned that this thought never occurred to me that I’m kind of in shock. Ok, to back up a teensy bit, here’s some background:

When the kids misbehave badly they spend five-minutes in timeout. To be 100% honest, this is as much to remove them from the situation and give them some time to think as it is to give *me* time to calm down before dealing with whatever they have ruined, trashed, or destroyed. Because they can push my buttons like nobody’s business. Don’t even get me started on their rabid fascination with sneaking illegal and expressly forbidden water and sand mixtures into the house and spilling them every single time. Every Single Time. Without fail. Not even kidding. Drives me mad. (breathing, breathing…)

Anyhow, one of the girls snuck a contraband cup full of frothy sand, water, and dirt into the kitchen today, and, of course, spilled it. And in the middle of gritting out “Why?!!!!! Why do you do this?!!!!!” and breathing really deep so I would stay cool (since I lost it yesterday when they stealthily ran upstairs and covered the bathroom floor with wadded-up toilet paper, crayon, and water and then I felt terrible) suddenly, I thought of a better solution. Screw timeouts! Now, when one of the girls has been warned and still does something she KNOWS she’s not supposed to do (like wrapping her legs around her sister’s waist and pulling her off the monkey bars gladiator-style), she spends five minutes in clean-up time. I set the timer, point her at a mess (there is always a mess), and instead of sitting on her butt being bored/frustrated/annoyed, she cleans up for five minutes.

Ahhhhh, it’s a win win. A redirection of energy that just happens to benefit ME. Heh heh. Tried it today and it worked like a charm, by the way. Our playroom is now spic and span. I think I phrased it something like "If you have enough energy to schlep all that sand into the house when you know you're not allowed to bring it inside, you have enough energy to help out the family by cleaning." The girls are actually excited about it, little sweeties. We talked about how it would work, and Ree said “How about six minutes, mama, I can clean really fast if it’s six,” and Ro said “No, how about eight minutes, because I can do a whole room in eight minutes!”

Why haven’t I ever thought of this?! I almost can’t wait until the next twinrageous offense.


  1. Aw man! You're way ahead of me... I didn't manage to come up with some of my best mommy ideas until I was 20 years into the job!
    Kudos for the great idea, let us know how it works :)

  2. Awesome! Think it would for my 3 yr old twin daughters?

  3. Glad I'm not the only twin mama who has lost her cool. I'm gonna have to try the clean up thing.

  4. You see? This is why I like coming here. I'm taking notes.

  5. Perhaps their next punishment could be to go to a readers house and do "clean up time?" It's a give-away that benefits you AND us! LOL!

  6. Anonymous6/24/2010

    you will have one clean house! Hee hee.

    Hey, were you going to do a post topic a while back about how frustrating it can get being a mom and how you deal with it? Maybe I missed it, but if not, I would love to read it.


  7. I hope it really works for you. One question, what will happen if they don't want to clean? I got a feeling you are going to run into that. Plus, if they like the whole "timeout clean-up time" then doing naughty things won't get them scared of going timeout since they "like" it. Emma hasn't been in timeout for years BUT she will have her naughty moments like every little kid. What I started this month is that for every bad behaviour I take away a toy. If she doesn't pick up the toys she played with then I take them away and she can't play with another toy until she puts away the first toy. Of course this only works when she is with me and not with her friends. Since she has so many toys I also told her that for every new toy that we buy her and need to take away two toys and these will be given to children who don't have toys. The timeout toys I tell her I will give them to her friends (which I don't but I do give them away) It hurts her a little that her friends will enjoy her toys and she can't. I've only taken one toy since she has been so good since then but I am sure that will change.

  8. Anonymous6/24/2010

    When school let out, I told my 4 and 5 year old that if they tell me they are bored or fight too much then they will clean the baseboards. My 5 year old had a taste of this once when she didn't want to go to school so I kept her home and she wiped all the baseboards in our 3000 sq ft house. It made a huge impression on her because she knows not to push my buttons too much.

    We also ran into an issue with the kids not keeping things in order. After a week of searching for missing Barbies, stuffed dolls, etc., we all spent 3 hours on Monday putting things back where they belong. When my 5 year old gave me attitude I gave her a few minutes to remedy her tone and then took the remaining things on the floor and put them in the 'bye bye' box. They can earn the toys back one at a time but we will not buy ANY new things until the box is empty. There are quite a few toys in there. They can choose to donate the toys but I give them a guilt trip and make them think long and hard before giving away a toy their grandmother or dad gave them. Sometimes they do give them away and sometimes they do extra things to earn them back.

    Those are my two methods. The baseboards seem to really scare them. I think it's because it's boring and I don't stay with them while they clean. It's a very open floor plan so I can hear them and I do check in but I go about my day.

    So far our vacation has been free of meltdowns and huge messes.


  9. If the Tongginator whines about being bored, I give her chores to do. Because then she's too busy to be bored.

    If she slams a door, then she has to spend time "practicing" how to open and close a door properly.

    If she runs repeatedly through the house like a tornado, I tell her she must need to run AND she must need to remember the rules about where to run, so she runs around the house XX number of times.

    If she uses her words meanly, she loses the privilege of speaking for a set amount of time (she's six, so that's six minutes).

    And on and on. Time-outs don't work for my gal, but this does. And if she doesn't cooperate, she loses something HUGE. She has only tested us on that three times. In five years. Just three times.

    Don't mess with her lovey Doggy. That's all I'm saying.

  10. You just made my day with that idea!! You are a genius!

  11. LOVE it!!!! I will HAVE to try this one out!!!

  12. Read your blog regularly, but don't comment as often as I mean to. Love it, by the way!

    For the kid I nanny for, we have "bean cups." Pretty self-explanatory: good behaviour earns you beans, bad behaviour loses you beans. When the cup is full, you get a reward.

    SO, I recently decided to introduce another way to earn beans: CHORES! Now my 10 year old loads the dishwasher (10 beans), unloads it (7 beans), cleans up after the dogs (7 beans), cleans the windows (3 beans) and so on. It's awesome!

    It's also funny, because you can tell which chores I hate by the number of beans assigned to them.... ;)

  13. Brilliant!!

    In the future you may want to use this in another way too. Friends of mine created an 'I'm bored' jar for the times when her kiddles came to her saying they were bored. Worked like a charm and they were suddenly much more creative when it came to things to do without stating they were bored. That being said, I can't imagine your creative little sweeties ever coming to you stating they're bored. They're the best at being creative!!

  14. Yes, sometimes cleanup works...sometimes they sit and moan and wine...rooms are cleaned on Sat am's at our house and sometime it could take my son 4 hours to clean his room. He gets to do nothing else until it's done, and he can drag out a 15 minute job because he's so adamant he doesn't want to do it. His friends are knocking at the door and I say sorry he's cleaning his room and they're like "oh I guess he'll be awhile." LOL. Cleaning is fun once in awhile. But most likely it will get old for them fast...sorry to burst the bubble...not saying not to still do it, just saying that chipper positive I want 8 minutes will probably disappear pretty quick. Unless you're luckier than me. Good luck!

  15. Brilliant! Now, where's my timer....

  16. Well-played!

  17. http://authorculture.blogspot.com/2010/06/pervasive-computer-age.html

    Just had to share this with you. I'm thinking you need some shirts like this for Ro and Ree! :-)

  18. It was the best day of may parenting life when I realized the kids were old enough to work off the punishments like that.

  19. I think you're very creative mama, M3, always being honest about the difficulties and always trying to find a way to solve them. I think it will be brilliant if that clean-up time works for your family. If you allow me to express my humble opinion, I'd like to tell you that my family used to do the same with me (probably not as friendly and kind as you do) and I ended up assimilating that housework = punishment. And I learned to hate it. Even now in my adulthood living in my own house I still struggle with housework. I can't focus on the end result (clean house) as my mind is always winding myself up with thoughts of being punished, of being obliged to clean. Anyway, it's just my unfortunate experience, maybe won't apply to anyone else. I'm sure your girls have loads of self-confidence and the hability to understand the way you discipline them. Best of luck. :)

  20. Anonymous6/25/2010

    I definitely do something similar. First it's ALWAYS been that any mess the child makes, the child cleans up. Even if it's an innocent/accidental mess . . . definitely if it's an on purpose/naughty mess. They can clean sand up as well as you . . .give a little direction.

    My favorite is when the girl is just having a disobedient day . . .she gets handed a rag and a bucket and gets to do all our tile on the main floor - which is a lot. She is surprisingly good at it. If she whines about it, I stand by with a pen and just add chores to her list. She usually quits whining pretty darn quick when she sees that after the floor she now gets to dust the house (with a norwex mitt, so fast and fun really) and then put laundry away.

    Raising your kid on chores is one of the things that will help build character and make them a productive person. You are on the right track, keep going.

    We never do time out - except for in a total melt down situation I'll put her in her room and ask her to stay there until she can get herself under


  21. I can tell you, I use this on my teenagers and it works like a charm. And no, they do NOT like to clean and it usually calms their attitude down quickly because they know that they're in for an hour of chores for their teenage tantrum plus if it continues, they'll have more work added. And their life comes to a complete halt until it gets done. Keep this one in your back pocket for later, even if you don't continue it now.

  22. You are a genius.

  23. Anonymous6/25/2010

    Im curious to see if this pans out as they grow up. Cleaning is something we have to do all of our lives, will they hate it even more than the average person because it was a punishment as a child? Kind of like not sending a child to their rooms as punishment because it tends to breed sleeping problems.
    ps, I would gladly sign in but for some reason my password isnt working.

    Wonderful discipline girl keep up the good work. There were 7 kids in our house hold when I was a kid all about 2 years apart. (I’m sure my mom should be nominated for sainthood!) She was a very warm and loving mom but we got away with next to nothing. (not to say we did nothing wrong) Her most common discipline was restitution (usually an onerous chore) followed by sitting on our hands on the end of her bed for 5 minutes followed by a very firm in-our-face discussion about why what we did was wrong and what rule had been broken. Her aim was to make us sorry, tearful, emotional and repentant. That was followed by a heartfelt apology to the wounded party either her for breaking a rule or a sibling we had hurt. The best part was that all of that was followed by hugs and forgiveness. We really hated having to sit on that bed and wait to face the music even though there was always a happy ending eventually it felt like 'death row'. I think the most effective thing about it was that she got through to our conscience every time. Never a dull moment in her life till the last of us was out on our own.

  25. I'm glad they like it! I hope they don't decide cleaning is just a punishment, or they'll hate chores in a few years. :) So sweet sounding.

  26. Good job. This is a reminder why it is easier with one, though LOL I make Lulu pick up after what she messed up already but would NOT be able to with another one (twin or not!)

  27. I LOVE it! I am going to try this with my 3 year old!

  28. Beth B.7/07/2010

    We took Parenting with Love and Logic classes last fall, and they call this "Replenishing Mom's energy," as in "Oh girls, it makes me so tiiiiiiired when I have to remind you of our rules over and over and over again, and clean up all the messes you make. This is so sad. You're going to have to spend some time replenishing my energy. You can start by cleaning up that mess." It's worked really well in our house too. Other tasks my kids do to replenish my energy: sorting laundry, dust busting, wiping down the kitchen table, shredding papers, hosing down the outside toys. It's definitely a win/win for discipline.