At the time I am writing this, we are closing out a week of Easter activities and fun. Amongst the chocolate bunnies with no ears, headless Peeps, and halves of plastic eggs in every corner of the house, I sat back and thought about how many times we had “egg hunts” this week. I chuckled to myself when I thought further about it…we threw a bunch of plastic around in the yard and the kids thought it was FUN to pick them up. Literally hundreds of kids at the neighborhood hunt lining up for an opportunity to fill their baskets. We spend the other 51 weeks of the year trying to get our kids to pick up after themselves, but they have been begging to pick up Easter eggs all week.
What can we learn from this?
Am I over-thinking this one? I don’t think so. I think there is something to be learned from this. Why do kids have such a great time picking up eggs in the backyard, time and time again, but have to be reminded over and over again to pick up their socks? Most of the time there is nothing in the eggs. Heck, we used half-pieces of eggs for most of the week…here is why.
1. We get excited and make it fun!
We put a good bit of energy into making it fun. Imagine putting those eggs out and demanding all the purple ones have to be picked up, “NOW! Mister! If you leave a single one out there I am going to come out there and you’re not only going to pick up the yellow ones, but you’re gonna have to get the green ones too before you even THINK about playing your Nintendo!”
Your attitude absolutely matters. Next time there are things to be picked up or cleaned up, come at it with a little better mindset and make it a little more interesting.
2. There is something to be gained.
Sure. The obvious answer is that there sometimes is a piece of chocolate inside the egg. It is not all of them, but some of them. Some have stickers, others have gum, some have pennies (I always hated those). That is part of the fun.
Now, throwing a Tootsie Roll inside the dirty socks in your kid’s room is a bit weird and a lot nasty, but the idea remains true. It is OK and appropriate to have some incentive (reinforcer) for a job well done…for picking up those dirty socks. I have several ideas from previous posts about how to do this, but consider the main idea one more time: when teaching kids to “pick up,” there might need to be some extra reinforcement for doing so.
3. The rules are clear…the boundaries defined.
“From that tree to the swingset, over to the fence, and back to the driveway.” The parameters of where the eggs are have been clearly defined. The rules are easy: pick up every egg you see. Don’t pick up anything else (especially if you have dogs in the backyard). Just the eggs.
Too many times we break this rule: “Go pick up your room and make sure its clean.” Your “clean” might be different than your kid’s “clean.” So many times parents are not descriptive or specific about what the parameters are. Where are the boundaries? What do I pick up? Make this abundantly clear. Define what the “eggs” are.
4. No pressure.
Recently, I heard of a city that stopped the community Easter Egg hunt because the parents were so poorly behaved and over competitive. Hopefully, this is not usually the case and there is not any pressure on the kids to perform. There is not a “need” for the kids to get a certain amount in a certain period of time. It goes back to the “fun” part.
On the other hand, I have run across several parents who say they will tell their children to clean their rooms then, if the kids have dragged on it, the parent will “go in there and MAKE” them do it. Yikes. I always wonder what this means. What I do know is those parents usually complain about having to do that all the time. What that means to me is their strategy is not working. They get it done by applying the pressure, but ultimately it blows up on them in several ways.
Rooms have to be cleaned, I get it. It is not exactly like picking up eggs, I get that too. But, if you set things up by doing the first three things on this list, you can come off the pressure a bit. Hey, if it does not get done tonight, it is not worth freaking out over. Have your plan.
Put it all together
If you are having compliance problems, think about an Easter Egg hunt. Look at the bold headings above and see how you are doing: Are you making it fun enough? Are you reinforcing compliance? Are you defining the boundaries and rules? Are you applying too much pressure? Make it a year-round effort.
Oh, and get out of the Bunny suit.
Photo by chimothy27 via Flickr