So Catie didn’t have school on Monday because it was Columbus Day. Usually things like this (as in things like adding another child to my daily routine) are indelible in my brain. Like a chant…”Columbus Day is coming, no school for Catie…” that I repeat while I go about my day of breastfeeding through the white-hot pain of mastitis or walking through parking lots with at least three kids attached to me. I may be marching along and counting little hands, but I’m also thinking, only nine more days until Catie is off of school and hyped up on the adrenaline of a kid on vacation. What will I do with them all? What will I do with them all?
Except this time.
Somehow I forgot about Columbus Day UNTIL SUNDAY NIGHT.
There I was, unknowingly developing mastitis, when I realized that the next day would be at least ten hours with me and all four kids. And I hadn’t even seen it coming. I had no plan.
So, I got on that like a mommy on a Target sale. In two hours I had set up The First Annual Hergenrader Extravaganza.
Or Chores and Distractions and Bribery.
It worked like a charm.
Step One, I found prizes (bribes). Each kid could win a pass to Chuck E. Cheese, where M. or I would willingly take them and buy them a whole cup full of tokens. This was a huge sacrifice for us since we have led our kids to believe up until now that Chuck E. Cheese is only available for birthdays. Letting them see that a family could just go there for dinner would throw us into a new era we weren’t ready for. But we took the plunge for the good of blatant child labor. Another prize was a few pieces of candy, that I would actually let them eat. Or a bag of coins they could take to the mall and buy a small ($10) item.
Step Two. I printed several jobs on cards–everything from Clean out the Van (actually no small job) to Match Socks.
Finally, Step Three. I printed tickets and gave each job “prices.” Cleaning the Playroom would earn you two tickets, whereas hanging up your clothes would only earn you one.
Parents, I’m here to tell you…it worked like a charm.
My kids were completely motivated by that candy. Even Sam, who’s known to “forget” to finish almost every job I give him, plunged into three one-ticket jobs for a handful of Smarties and Dum Dums that I had stolen from the pantry.
Ellie finished her jobs at light speed for the luxury of eating a piece of candy every few hours for the rest of the day.
But the dark horse of the day was Catie. Gone was the questioning and stalling that usually accompanies her doing chores. She worked her little tail-end off to earn TWO Chuck E. Cheese passes (one for a friend) and the candy, to keep up with her brother and sister.
So, try this at home! But only once. The novelty had worn off by four o’clock. And I did have to explain to the kids that no, they could not earn tickets by picking their seven pairs of shoes off the steps. The Extravaganza is definitely a one-day novelty idea.
Which means I’d better start NOW to prepare for the next student holiday.