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How I Do Things

by Amber Bolick
(Taylorsville, NC, USA)

My husband and I have a total of 10 children between us. At any given time, we usually have more than 5 of them in a 2-bedroom trailor. Organizing is a must. Project management is also a must. Especially when planning anything for the kids. I think I could offer a whole other section simply for project management and how it relates to being an organized mom.

Anyway, most of my children 'help out' around the house. I don't use chore charts. However, I do use reward charts. (rewarding takes a lot of planning when living on a very tight budget). The rewards are always different, and mostly any extra money we get goes toward the children. I am totally against 'child worship', but I think my kids have earned it. For instance, we all began working around the house in March after my husband went back to work. The children's ages are 2-12. All boys and 1 girl (the 12 year old). Working side by side with my kids through the Spring and early Summer has allowed me to enrich their lives in other areas. My children have a deep appreciation for nature and a love for fellow man. I am building their EQ while developing their IQ. By IQ, I mean teaching my kids how to think not what to think. I go over the process time and time again asking questions. At first, it was tough (training phase). But now, everything comes second nature to me. All I did was start imagining how I wanted my life to be. Then I realized the only thing standing in my way was lack of funds. I am currently working on the lack of funds, by earning my BS/ITSE from the University of Phoenix. (A whole other project in itself)I always explain things to my kids on their level. You'd be surprised at how much they understand early. Since everyone is being groomed as a future leader, the younger ones really look up to and respect their older siblings. I know what types of traits it takes to be successful in this world, and I am teaching those traits to my children through example. I try to explain my reasons for everything, which is usually called a "No, No" depending on who you talk to. It creates arguments in 2 and 3 year olds because they have a limited understanding of the world around them. (I haven't personally had this problem, but I've talked to moms who have. Every child learns at their own pace, so some may need to simply wait until the child gets older) I have found that when one leads by example, the results are really surprising. Not just when interacting with kids, but other adults pick up on it too.
Tips for kids:
2-year old: When they spill something or make a mess, show them how to clean it up. Then offer to let them help. Let them follow you sometimes. My little one learned how to unload the dryer just by watching me. Anything they see you do, they will try to do too. That is why it was said to start early. (I showed my one year old how to clean up spilled milk last night to prove the point "When mommy makes a mess, she cleans it up"
4 year old: Explain why certain chores are important. Explain why keeping an eye out for smaller siblings is a must. This is also a really good age for introducing emotions and EQ (how certain actions can make others feel) I have a "harm none" philosophy around my house. My four year old had really picked up on that.
7 year old: I'm still working on this one (my oldest girl)I can get her to help me do things, but I can't get her to do things completely on her own yet. Because she is a big girl she has big chores: Sweeping, emptying washing machine, helping out with younger siblings, washing dishes, etc. I still have to help her with these tasks. I will help her as long as it takes for her to learn to do them efficently. We also have a "Do it until it's right" rule. If something is not completed as expected, I look for small things the kids can do to make it right. (Perhaps she just missed a small bit of dirt while sweeping, all she would need to do is go back and get what she missed) The point here is that a task will be done over and over until it's right. These seperates the lazies from those who truly can't do it. Once it is suspected that the bar is set to high (NEVER set a child up to fail, if you realized this is the case apologize and explain immediately. Doing this when you make mistakes really drives home the point that we are all still growing and learning, and we all make mistakes from time to time. If the mistake is genuine, it should be forgiven. (We don't hold grudges, we seek understanding in our relationships because understanding leads to knowledge)
The 9 year old. He is my husband's youngest with his previous wife. His daddy has really instilled a sense of hard work pays off ethic. He is loving and caring for those around him. He doesn't need help completing small chores around the house. He is so confident we is always volunteering to take on big projects (Summer surprise swim party). I honestly wouldn't know what to do to motivate him if he suddenly changed.
The 12 year old- (My husband's oldest girl) Doesn't want to do much of anything. I am training her by showing her how hard work pays off. Even if it doesn't pay of immediately it will pay off eventually. It almost always does. She is really catching on and trying to learn more.

General Tips:
Spark an interest in learning early on. Explain why learning new things is important, and how it will help them in the future. (When the occasion arises, point out things they have already learned and how those things have helped them)
Never be afraid to explain something to a child. Ignorance will not protect them from this world, and it is not bliss. I don't raise sheep, I'm raising shepherds.
Teach unmotivated teens what happens when little ones work around the house and get rewarded for it. We are a working family. We are so large we have to be. I have tried doing all this myself, and I spent 2 weeks in 2 different mental hospitals after a meltdown. Everyone works together and everyone plays together. Things are earned, (I refrain from actually giving them money to blow if I can help it because younger ones will typically blow it on something they won't play with in a week) Giving responsible teens spending money should be encouraged. I have a 16 and a 14 year old step son. Neither one of them want to do anything to help out around they house. They feel that every privilege (laptop, new swimming pool, cell phone, xbox Live card, etc) should just be handed to them. I tell the little ones that this is what's wrong with America, Everyone has this sense of entitlement. Like, just because they have had a hard life, the world owes them something. This is counterproductive reasoning. My little ones understand that. (Never be afraid to explain)
Everything has a place and everything should be put in its place. This is perfect for toddlers.
Practice patience. Just like any other skill, this has to be developed. Learning to be more patient has allowed me to train my kids better. Most of them actually enjoy "work".
Strive to be the best example you can be for your kids. You want to show them the best way possible, or help them find the best way possible. Bad examples are not a bad thing, but should be used only with close monitoring. Every family has those bad examples. It is crucial to point out the bad example and why it's 'bad'. Around our house, causing malicious pain to someone else is bad. I let my kids see the bad examples messing up. Then I predict what will happen because of the bad example's action. The 'prediction' comes true, my kids think I'm a fortune teller. My bad examples usually takes months to work out into a learning experience for the kids, but it's well worth it. My daughter knows the bad examples in our extended family to look out for, and the good examples to live by. I let other people teach my kids the bad (hate, hurt, war, violence, rage) I try to teach my kids the good stuff (peace, love, happiness for all, directed anger, and healthy stress)
Listen to other parents. Never stop learning. Of course, critical thinking skills are needed to decipher good information out of all the crap that's around the Internet nowadays. I learn from everything around me. I look at things other parents have tried, but I mostly look at what my parents taught me and how it's helped me. I want my children to learn from mistakes (it doesn't matter who made the mistake, it's still a learning opportunity). Because my talking with other parents in my family, I am able to share my input. Of course, I am always met with these excuses. Typically when someone truly wants to do something, they don't let anything stop them. Well that's how I see it. You make a conscience effort, and then put it into action.
I would love to write some tips for you for project management (specifically for kids. I my take on that could help those people out there wanting to do something really special for their 'little helpers', but can't afford it or don't know where to start.

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