Tuesdays With Mooch & Fuss: My Kids Don’t Always Pick Up Their Clothes

The most common question I get asked is, “If your parenting style is so relaxed, how do you make the kids brush their teeth, pick up their clothes, practice piano, and such?

Let’s get this part out of the way. I wouldn’t call my parenting style relaxed. I’m not laid up with coffee while my kids run amok. I’m scheduling, driving, teaching, helping, cheerleading, cooking, counseling, and loving all day every day.

The short answer is: I don’t make them do those things. I don’t like nagging. The girls do things for us, and we do things for them. I don’t keep track of how many socks I’ve picked up or books I’ve put away any more than the kids keep track of how many times they’ve made me breakfast (almost everyday), brought me my iron to take, or cleaned out my car. We all work together. I’m instilling the idea that if you see it needs to be done, please do it. We’re a team.

I remind occasionally about toothbrushing, but ultimately it is a choice. They know the consequences of not brushing their teeth. The youngest came and asked me to have a turn at brushing her teeth the other night because she didn’t feel she had done it well enough. They haven’t had cavities, but if they did, they’d be paying the co-pay for those visits. Responsibility and accountability are huge in this house.

I told the eldest when she was six to please wear socks with her tennis shoes. I explained what would happen if she didn’t. She chose not to and got a foot fungus that smelled disgusting. After spray and powder, it went away, but the lesson will never disappear. She’s worn socks in all the four years since until recently when she started losing socks (or the dryer ate them … we can’t tell). I told her if she kept misplacing socks she would have to wash them in the sink, buy her own new ones, or go without. It is in my job description to provide food, clothing, shelter, education, and love — not to fund carelessness. She chose to go without once she had used up her laundry. Her fungus is back and *she* bought spray the other day to treat it. I hope the smell didn’t knock out her friends at dance class yesterday.

The girls don’t do any extracurricular activities that they didn’t choose themselves. If they don’t practice, the money for the subsequent lesson comes out of their own pockets. If it continues, that activity goes bye-bye, unless they’ve made a commitment to a team or are under contract. I refuse to hound kids to do something they claim they love.

These are not fights that I want to have with the girls. If I inform them, model good behavior, and remind them occasionally, they’re smart enough to make the right decisions. If they don’t, that’s fine! I’d rather them make mistakes now while they’re under my care and tutelage than later when the damage could be irreversible.

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