Personal responsibility was on the decline with my kids and I wasn’t sure why. Shoes were being left in the hallway, toothpaste clumps stayed stuck to the sink, and clothes were rolled under the bed or behind the dresser. At first I assumed it was just the bad weather, or maybe Spring Break had thrown a messy wrench into our routine. Whatever the reason, it didn’t exactly improve over time. I found myself constantly cleaning up after my kids WAY more than usual, and it started to take its toll.
I tried bribing them: “Keep your room clean for a week and we’ll get ice cream on Friday.” Nope. Next came the threats: “If you don’t keep your room clean I’ll take away all your toys!” Yeah, right mom. Nothing was working and I was starting to lose it.
It all came to a head last week when the kids walked in after school and threw their backpacks, jackets, and lunch bags all over the living room floor and couch. Mt. Vesuvius was about to erupt as I gathered up their mess and stormed down the hallway to their room. I was ready to dump everything on their floor and top the pile with some loud consequences.
But just as I was about to bring the heat, I passed by my bedroom. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of my own personal chaos. Stopping in my tracks, I took it all in; my bed was unmade and only partially visible under the pile of laundry waiting to be folded and put away. There was a cluster of shoes next to my dresser and another pile of jackets thrown on the chair by the window. Books were toppling near the side of my bed and the shelves on the back wall needed a good dusting. I didn’t need to round the corner to my bathroom. I knew what I’d find; the curling iron and blow-dryer on the counter, a wet towel on the floor, and toothpaste stuck to the sink.
Suddenly it all made sense. I knew why my kids had stopped caring about personal responsibility. They’d been taking their cues from me and I’d shown them how to drop the ball. How about that humble pie?
It’s true that life had been crazy lately. With ballet and baseball and speech therapy and house projects, we’d all been running more than usual. The time I’d normally spend cleaning up my own messes, I’d been spending on drop-offs and pick-ups and keeping the kitchen and living room clean. But it was clearly coming at a cost.
I walked from my doorway into my kids’ room and, without a word, put their backpacks and shoes away in the closet. As I walked back to the pantry to put their lunch boxes away, I made a decision. The old, “do as I say, not as I do” mode of mothering was no longer an option, and things would only change if I changed first.
Grabbing a piece of paper and pen, I sat down and made myself a chore chart. I put listed the basics like make bed, pick up clothes, wipe down bathroom, put away laundry, etc., and stuck it on the fridge. After inviting my kids to view mom’s recent artwork, I confessed to not being a good example of what it meant to take personal responsibility for my things. They were amused and intrigued and soon began working on their own charts for the fridge.
Being “mom” is a big responsibility. Sometimes I can get so focused on the training part that I lose sight of the modeling part. I bang my head against the wall, so frustrated that my continuous nagging and reminding seem to be going nowhere. They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. So, rather than lose my mind, I’m choosing to try something new. I’m serving myself a nice, big piece of humble pie and showing my cards to my kids, hoping they’ll see me as less of a dictator and more of a coach. Time will tell. If nothing else, we’re all going to enjoy a cleaner house.