Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Automated Car Unloading System

We came home from a camping trip a few weeks ago. Since John is 12, we expect him to help us unload the dirty clothes and groceries. It's not a lot of work. If everyone helps we get done in about 10-15 minutes. We have light things Hannah can carry and even Cote gets in on the action.

But wow, John did an amazing job of making it a miserable for everyone. He complained and berated us. He spent five minutes getting himself a glass of water and even sat down to play video games. He was upset because he didn't think Hannah was pulling her weight so he took her stuffed animal from her and placed it above the curtain rod in her room because he thought "it was a distraction to her."

I got to thinking that every time we bring home groceries, it is the same thing, but not as intense as a camping trip. My mother and I did some John brainstorming that night. We talked about how groceries were not as routine as just coming home on a normal day and camping was even more out of the normal. We talked about how it wasn't really much work and he always imagines it's way worse than it actually is. I recalled my own aversion to having to unload in those instances too. Together, we came up with a new plan.

Now, the kids have each been assigned 2 or 3 cloth grocery bags and special loading/unloading laundry baskets for more bulky items. Their items have been color coded with pieces of duct tape.

They love the new system. I don't even forget my cloth bags when we go to the store anymore because they each want to carry their own.

There are no timelines on how quickly they need to unload when we get home but they know they aren't supposed to go past the kitchen until their bags are back in the van. Each child carries in his or her bags and unloads them *gently* onto the counter or the table in the kitchen and takes the bags back outside. Then, I put all the groceries away.

John is more comfortable because it seems equal to him that Hannah has the same number of bags as him, even if they don't contain as much. He knows that no matter how slowly she moves, she's not manipulating her way out of work. He also isn't afraid I'm going to keep him working for hours or doing ungodly amounts. He knows he has three bags, no more than that.

It has worked very well. No one is jealous of the other. When I was in college, we talked about giving children ownership. I didn't even think about this when I was doing it, but those little pieces of colored duct tape have given them more than a new assigned task. They've given them ownership in the process. We've even used the duct tape to label eye glass cases and their favorite sword fighting sticks.

What kinds of things have you done to stream line having the children participate in the responsibility side of the family equation?