Monday, December 7, 2009

Clean your Room!

I'm not a gimmicky parent.

In other words, I don't have a bagful of tricks to get my kids to obey me. I rarely play games with them to get them to eat their food or pick up their toys. When it's time for us to leave somewhere they really want to be, I just say, "Let's go," and expect them to follow me. I don't usually try to distract them with something else when I say, "No, don't touch that."

I don't do it much, because I think there's a lot of value in learning to do something even when it's not wonderfully fun.

And it also means when the situation is desperate and I need to use a gimmick, I get magical results.

Last night was a perfect example.

"Go clean your room" doesn't usually work in our house.

"Go clean your room" ends inevitably in whining, punching, and every kid complaining that they're the only one doing any work. Last night I said, "Go clean your room," while I was trying to cook dinner. As I stood over the stove I heard the rumblings of discontent beginning in the bedroom. When I went back there, Anna was lying on the floor in the hallway close to tears, Gabe was wandering around staring at the mess and groaning, and Olivia was trying to boss everyone around.

So, I gave into the gimmick.

"Okay, kids, clean your room and when you're done I want to see The Reveal."

Now, for those of you who don't watch HGTV, you may not know what a Reveal is. My kids love watching HGTV. Olivia's favorite is Divine Design, but she'll watch basically anything on that channel. We love the part when, after the designer finishes the room makeover, he or she reveals it to the owner of the house. It's the climactic moment when you find out how much the owner likes the makeover. And you, as the viewer, get to see the completely finished room for the first time too.

Well, as soon as I said the word "Reveal," the kids perked up. After that, it was a race to get into the room to clean up.

As Anna ran, she called over her shoulder, "We'll make it look like a hotel!"

"Okay," I called after her, "I'm excited to see it."

When the job was done, NaiNai and I had to close our eyes and Olivia led us down the hallway to the bedroom. The Reveal was incredible: beds made, dress up clothes in the basket, trash picked up. I could actually walk through the bedroom again without tripping over something! Amazing.

So, three cheers for incredibly handy, discreetly-used gimmicks. May they all work as well as this one did.


  1. Well done on all counts! I agree that the norm should just be obedience, but the well-placed trick now and again is fun!

  2. Hey, thanks for the comment. Good to know my blog is actually being read.
    And that's a really clever way to initiate room cleaning, kudos!