We've found that our kids don't appreciate their things. Toys end up scattered all over the house throughout the day and I spend a lot of time yelling to get kids to pick things up (especially since I'm having a harder time bending over as the pregnancy progresses and this baby slips down even further). Al had a frustrating Sunday morning with the kids (while he allowed me to take a luxurious nap before church) and decided it was time for a change. He started gathering toys that were left lying about and told the kids he'd throw them away. This did not go over well with the kids, but he was hoping to sort of shock them into, "Take care of it or lose it."
After some discussion between Al & I on Sunday we decided to dive right in and make some changes and iron out some details through our weekly family meeting after church. So we sat down with the kids and started negotiations to establish family government.
What is family government, you might ask? We basically had a meeting with the kids to discuss specific things they can expect from our family government - protection, food, shelter, safety, allowance, rules and consequences, learning opportunities, you get the idea.
Once we determine what our government will do for us, we discussed family government rules (laws). We kept it simple to start with, especially since our oldest is only 5years old. The rules are pretty basic- don't hurt others, respect others spaces and things, listen without talking back (a few of the struggles we deal with daily). Then we worked out consequences and rewards.
Now I'm not a big fan of allowances for chores. I feel that everyone has a role to play in a functional family and we all do our part because that's what is necessary, not because we're paid to do so. So we decided that allowance is simply something the government will provide and each person is responsible for completing their chores and if they don't, they pay mom (or someone else) to do the chore. Much like in life. If there's something you don't want to do, you find a way to pay or barter for someone else to do it for you. Afditionally, the timing to discuss allowance couldn't have been more perfect as Connor came home from church this very same day with a tithing envelope! We knew it was time to approach the subject of allowance and an understanding of money. We hope to get into some personal and family savings concepts, but we decided too many new ideas at once might be overwhelming.
We did decide on a reward system. We'll be using dots, (small glass beads like the ones you find in the bottom of vases with artifical flowers) and the kids can earn their dots. Our morning routine starts with everyone getting up at 6am, we have breakfast together, read scriptures, have devotional and then begin our day. The kids get dressed, brush teeth and do chores (we have three chores we rotate each week). They can receive a dot for each of the above items. We start these by 7:00am and complete them by 7:30 am. If a kid is dragging behind (Connor tends to forget what his task is and instead of getting dressed sits on the floor and plays with his toys which results in mom yelling at him to "GET DRESSED, NOW!"). So if Connor, for example, we're dragging and hasn't completed the above items then not only does he not get his dot, he has to begin paying mom by 7:30. If he's not finished by 7:45, he pays mom again. If all goes smoothly we begin school at 7:30 with a clean house and fed children.
Once school is over each child can receive a dot for school and then we have a free day to do whatever we'd like. At 6:00pm, the dot system begins again. We start cleaning at 6:00pm. ALL toys must be off the floor of each room of the house or it goes into a trash bag. We figure this is a way to weed out the toys the kids are not so excited about. We stash the toys until the end of the week when the kids can use their acquired dots to "buy back" toys or they may save the dots and once their dot jar is full then can turn it in for a big prize...for example, a one-on-one trip for a milkshake with mom or dad, a chance to go swimming, a free movie pass or whatever seems to be of interest at the time.
We have last call for food at 6:30 (this hopefully elminates kids lying in bed whining for food). While the kids have a snack we have family reading time, our book right now is Peter and the Starcatchers. Then the kids can get dots for brushing teeth, putting on pajamas and having a clean bedroom before going to bed.
Day one was most effective...we gathered an entire trash bag of toys! We plan to keep the toys for three weeks and if they're not bought back by week three then we assume they're not very important and it's time for them to go. Goodwill will love us for awhile!
We learned about family government from a wonderful woman by the name of Nicholeen Peck http://teachingselfgovernment.com/. We met Mrs. Peck at an LDS homeschooling conference earlier this year and found much benefit in her system of self government. We were also influenced by another homeschooling couple from the same conference who shared their dot system. We use our dots differently, but the original idea was not ours. I also gathered some ideas from Al's brother and his wife who have started using a self government system for their older children. We took all these ideas and tailored them to our needs for a smoother running household where hopefully there will be less surprises and mom can stop yelling so much!
We'll keep you posted on how things are progressing and what is working and the things that aren't working.