“To get your kids to enthusiastically clean, all you have to do is become Messy Monster,” I explained to my friend.
“What is Messy Monster?” my intrigued mom-friend inquired.
“You just proclaim to your kids that you’re Messy Monster while using a funny voice and you tell them that you loooove messes… when they clean, you start to die (or ‘get defeated’ as my mom would say) and when the room is completely clean, you’re dead (or ‘defeated’)! When they pick something up off the ground, you exclaim, ‘No, put that back on the ground. In fact, dump it out to make it messier in this room!’ It seriously works – they are super motivated to clean and it’s fun!” (as fun as cleaning can be anyways).
At this point I should take a moment to give some background information on my friend. My friend is a mother to five boys, ages nine and under.
“Lol! I’m not sure that would work at my house. They’d probably just whip out some Nerf guns and swords and beat the crap out of me.”
Touche, my sweet mother-to-five-boys friend, touche.
This conversation took place months ago, but I still think about it… and not just because of the hilarious visual of my friend utilizing my advice to motivate her kids to clean and it horribly backfiring: her kids mercilessly attacking her as she desperately tries to explain she’s not really Messy Monster (although, no lies, that is part of the reason I’m still thinking about it!). I think about it more because it really made me realize that every family is very different.
No single piece of advice is going to apply to every single mother/family. Messy Monster works so well in our house that I just kind of felt like it would work for everyone else, but the truth is that it won’t. Everybody is so different that it is naive to think that a certain thing will work in every household. And it’s not just Messy Monster, it’s everything. Schedules, feeding, cloth diapering, sleep training, baby wearing, crying it out, introducing solids, discipline, etc.
So when you are feeling judged by (most often) well-meaning people for keeping the pacifier too long, because you have your kids do chores, or whatever it may be, and you feel that wave of frustration because chances are that you have good reasons for doing things the way that you’re doing them, don’t be shy to say something like, “Thank you. I will keep that in mind, but for now this is working for my family.” Boom. I will keep that in mind is a great way to say thanks but no thanks (or you really can keep it in mind and try it if you haven’t already!).
They aren’t living in your house. They don’t know your kids or your life. Maybe it worked well for them and their house but that doesn’t mean it is the sure-fire way to accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish in your house. (This also backwards-applies regarding judging how others are doing things – just don’t! Or at least try not to do it).
Another thing that I have noticed that is worth mentioning is how contradictory so much advice is! We couldn’t please everyone even if we tried. If you mention that your baby isn’t sleeping through the night you may have one person telling you to let your baby cry-it-out and another person telling you how harmful it is to do cry-it-out. We definitely cannot please everyone because that is impossible. We can only be in tune to ourselves and work to learn about what works best for us. After all, it is us who lives with our decisions.
I have a friend who is torn between cuddling her baby and people telling her she is cuddling her baby too much. If she takes their advice, will she regret not cuddling her baby more? If she continues to cuddle her baby, will she regret having cuddled her baby too much (if they become undisciplined and she sees a connection)? I do not know the answers, and she doesn’t either, so at the end of the day she can only do what she feels best about so that in the future she will feel good about her decisions and know she did her best.
It’s natural to have opinions about what is ideal and how to make things work. It’s important to listen to different ideas and try things, and to give advice and take it. Knowledge is power. There are so many things I didn’t know when I first became a parent and now that I know so much more, I do things quite differently than I originally did, and I feel like I have found a parenting style that really suits me, but it comes with some trial-and-error and exposure to new ideas etc.
So maybe when it’s time to clean up and your kids are not so excited about it, give Messy Monster a try. It might work its magic and make cleaning up way faster and more fun, or you might end up beaten up with various Nerf weapons, but you’ll never know unless you try it!