Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Secret Weapon

My kids are fierce competitors. They make everything into a contest.  No matter how much I tell them that they are unique and special with their own strengths, they just roll their eyes at me, and continue to try to "one up" each other.  They're out for blood!  It reminds me of my own rivalry with my brother. It's been going on for 31 years now. After I had my first two children 15 months apart, I read a parenting book that said the optimal age gap between children was 3-4 years.  Oops. What do those people know about real kids anyway? My kids may squabble on a regular basis, but they are also the best of pals....and they'll defend each other to the death if anyone trys to do them harm.

Over the years, I've learned to use their competitive nature to my advantage. I try to channel it into something positive.  Instead of competing against each other, we try to work as a team. This is where my secret weapon comes in: they still compete....against the clock.  My kitchen timer is my weapon of choice.  Twice a week, when school is done for the day, we have a contest.  I set my timer for 15 minutes, turn on some good music, and we tackle the cleaning in one room. We all pitch in to help clean it as quickly as possible.  The kids try their hardest to beat the clock.  When the buzzer rings, we move to the next room and reset the timer.  One kid picks up clutter, one kid dusts, one kid straightens up the magazines, and I vacuum. Sometimes we can get two rooms cleaned in 15 minutes. At this speed, we can have the whole house spotless in less than 1 hour.  As a reward for a job well done, we'll go for a bike ride.  It's amazing how fast a person will work when the clock is counting down.

Ordinarily, my kids would take hours to clean their rooms on their own.  They get overwhelmed, bored, and unmotivated.  Then they get sidetracked into reading something on their floor and nothing gets accomplished.  I got tired of nagging them, and nothing seemed to help.... until we decided to start cleaning as a team.  The old saying, "Many hands make light work" has never been truer.  A messy bedroom can be spotless in minutes without being an overwhelming job.  I love teamwork!

I have also implemented the timer as motivation for my son to complete his seat work in a timely manner.  He sets the timer for 15 minutes per page, and ALWAYS beats the clock.  I think healthy competition is necessary, especially for boys.  It motivates them.  My son is always trying to improve his time without compromising the quality of his work.  It's like a game to him.  It also takes the focus off of his sisters. He no longer compares himself with them.  There is no more negative talk about who's the best. It's a win- win situation.

Whether it's emptying the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, or taking out the trash, no job is too tough when you use teamwork and a timer.


  1. Thank you for the reminder -sometimes its hard to remember
    what's in the arsenal!

  2. I LOVE the music!! I can just see you and the babies busy cleaning. Not to mention...Grammie loves that movie, I can see the little vermon scampering away. Love it! Love it!