Thursday, March 24, 2011

Organizing books

This has been the week of organizing books for me.  Books about organizing, that is, and not actually organizing the books themselves.  The timing is serendipitous since with spring coming I always get the spring cleaning itch.  This is despite the fact that it snowed very lightly last night.

Anyway, last Monday when A. and I were at the thrift store, I found a copy of Confessions of an Organized Homemaker: the secrets of uncluttering your home and taking control of your life.  This book has been on my list of books I want to read for a long time.  But since the library's copy is listed as missing, I have never had a chance to.  (Does anyone else find the idea of a book on organizing being lost slightly ironic?)  I was thrilled to see it sitting on a shelf as I walked by and happily paid my quarter for it. 

Then on Tuesday, Large Family Logistics: the art of science of managing the large family by Kim Brenneman arrived.  J. had been given a gift certificate and had used some of it to buy me this book.  (Sweet, huh?)  Being a brand-new hardcover, it was unlikely that I would shell out the money for it, and even more unlikely that it would ever appear in my library.

Of the two, I am liking Large Family Logistics better.  While the Confessions of an Organized Homemaker is full of useful information, it is really stuff I already knew, but is helpful to be reminded of.  But the Large Family Logistics book is written by a mother of 9 who is a little further on her journey of child rearing and homemaking than I am.  I appreciate her insights and have picked-up some helpful ideas.  I think it would even be helpful to a mother of fewer than 9 children as well since she spends a lot of time on raising children.  And she has some great quotes in it, such as this one by Elisabeth Elliot:

"The principal cause of boredom is the hatred of work.  People are trained from childhood to hate it.  Parents often feel guilty about making children do anything but the merest gestures toward work.  Perhaps the children are required to make their beds and, in a feeble and half-hearted fashion, tidy up their rooms once a month or so.  But take full responsibility to clear the table, load the dishwasher, scrub the pots, wipe the counters?  How many have the courage to ask this of a ten-year-old?  It would be too much to ask of many ten-year-olds because parents have seriously asked nothing of them when they were two or three.  Children quickly pick up the parents' negative attitudes toward work and think of it as something most sedulously to be avoided."


David and Amy said...

I love that quote. Seeing as how my 10 yr old had a meltdown ALL DAY today over being asked to unload the dishwasher... because I wasn't going to pay her to do it. It's hard when they come into your family at 10 yrs of age. I've been trying to ease them into the chore thing, but they are kicking and screaming the whole way.

MRK said...

Fantastic quote. We are really trying to ensure that we work through this with all the kids (ages 3-8) in a way that sets a precedent for the family that can be carried on for the future. We've definitely had to rethink it as the family grows and try different things. Do you pay for ANY tasks or give any kind of allowance ?

thecurryseven said...

We used to give allowances... way back when we had one or two children. And even then, I was horrible at it and often forgot to pay the child. Since then I've rethought the whole allowance-thing and decided that jobs around the house are something that everyone does because it helps the family and not something we do because someone pays us. We do pay children for special jobs... things that are above and beyond a child's normal responsibilities.

While I don't agree with Alfie Kohn about a lot of things, I think his book Punished by Rewards has some fairly thought-provoking ideas. The things that has stuck with me is the study someone did on the effect of money. The really short synopsis of it is that money as a reward completely decimates any intrisic reward for a task. As a result, I try to be very careful about what I pay for. Cleaniny my bathroom because I don't want to do it? Yes! Reading books? No. My message would be that there is nothing intrinsically rewarding about reading and needs to be coerced. The same for personal jobs and duties around the house. We do them because it makes the home a nicer place to live in and because there is some satisfaction in a job well-done.

I could go on and on... and I'm not sure I've been entirely clear. Take what is helpful.


MRK said...

E, Yes, I definitely agree. We try to generally avoid sticker charts and rewards and have been amazed by some of the studies showing how giving a reward completely destroys the instrinsic pleasures in doing a job. A book you might like is "Montessori: The Science Behind The Genuis" as there are several interesting studies in there (and even though it is about Montessori schools, much of the material could be applied, I think, to schooling in general, and the Montessori system is definitely anti-reward based). This is our first year not in the Montessori system, and it is killing me to see my kids come home from their traditional school with cheap little trinkets that they cashed tokens in for due to good behavior. They should listen and walk nicely and share and respect others, etc., because that is appropriate, not because they get an 10 cent piece of junk for it. I, too, could go on and on. :-) We used to pay only for jobs that were above and beyond, but we found that the kids would ask for jobs that paid when I didn't have things that needed doing and that they only wanted jobs that paid a certain amount, etc. I didn't like the way it was working. So we've been trying an allowance system with a twist: you don't get paid for any jobs. Instead, at a certain age and demonstration of responsibilty, you get the privilege of a weekly allowance. This privilege is one that goes to all children who are helpful, respectful, responsible members of the family, and that means many things, one of which is doing what your parents ask you to do when they ask you. This gives us a lot of flexibility in terms of chores we want done and when we want them done and also allows me to revoke the allowance privilege if you are not showing that you have reached the level of respect and responsibility at which one is able to earn a "wage." I still struggle with it, though, because in some way I just don't like paying the kids! HA! But it came in handy today when we were in a store where my son wanted a bottled water for $1 and I knew we'd be at someone's house in 10 minutes where there would be drinking water available for free. I didn't want to buy it and offered him the choice to buy it with his own money, and he did. We were both satisfied. Ours is definitely still a work in process, though, and I'm sure many tweaks to the system will be introduced.


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