The box…


I live with 4 boys. I say 4 boys like they are all the same age but really it’s 3 little boys and an older boy and although there is many years between them they are remarkably similar in so many ways. They love making strange noises using various parts of their bodies, they all insist on playing with their bits and bobs (I never knew it could str-e-tch so far!) and they all leave their belongings lying around the place like they have a bevy of servants who will tidy up and magic everything into cupboards again. I can deal with the smells –you’d be amazed at how many things you can actually ignore, I can sort out the playing with bits and bobs – ‘It’s absolutely fine to do that but please in your own room and not in front of your mother!! But I have struggled with the leaving stuff around the place. I admit it. I’ve turned into the bevy of servants who tidy up after them so you won’t be smelling burning martyr whilst reading this blog more reading about the steely determination of a loving mum who realises she’s doing no one any favours especially the future partners of her boys. I kind of got myself into this mess (quite literally) and I need to get myself out of it…

Shouting doesn’t work, begging didn’t either in fact I could scream myself blue in the face every day and though things would magically be picked up and put away that day under quiet hushed murmurings of ‘Quick let’s do as she says as she’s really going to blow this time!’ But when I get up to the tidied house the next morning slowly things start be left out again. I trip over shoes in doorways –they have cubbie holes to put their shoes in! Stand on bits of Lego –that’s a form of torture surely?? And risk life and limb trying to get up the stairs that twist round whilst holding a large amount of washing. Heaven knows how I’ve survived them…

I live groundhog day over and over and although you would have thought the boys would have got tired of my naggings and moanings and just done what I asked for a quiet life the answer is no. Apparently not.

I saw a link on Facebook where a woman had labelled a box with a witty rhyme in which anything that was left out on the floor was put in the box and the children had to do a job/chore to get the thing out again. This sounded a fabulous idea and one that appealed to my sensibilities. I chatted about it with Hubbie who agreed (I think he thought it was worth a go just to stop me moaning) and I talked about the idea with the boys to see what they thought. Oh my life they LOVED it and quickly leapt off the bench to go and get Hubbie’s shoes that he had left out that morning to put in the box. Whilst I admired their enthusiasm I did have to remind them that he was at work and, therefore, it was wasn’t fair to implement a system that he hadn’t known had started. Always a stickler for a rule my boys they sagely agreed.

There has been much debate over what jobs should be given but because the boys were keen to start none were really made official and certainly nothing was written up (carved in stone) but this has not dampened their enthusiasm one iota. This morning they got up and were hunting through the rooms to find anything they could to put in the box. They found a sock of Tobes’, a book about castles and, weirdly, Ollie put his own shoe in there. (remember what I said about being sticklers for rules?) They all thought this was tremendously funny and ate breakfast giggling about the box. We chatted through ‘pan-oh-doo-dahs’ (what we call pain au chocolates) and we all agreed that having something in the box meant you had to do a job that it wasn’t an option. I think we were all thinking about Henry who would probably have no shoes and no pants by the end of the day and not really care a jot about it. For fairness, and decency’s, sake if you have something in the box you have to get it out by doing a job. After breakfast had finished I asked the boys what they think they should do and they all agreed (all this agreeing is a little unnerving you know) that they should clear the table so…that’s what they did. First the plates, then the cups, next the milk and finally the butter and jams which Henry put by the side of the fridge and politely asked Ollie to put in the fridge for him as he couldn’t reach.

Hubbie and I looked on astounded.

The job had been done, the box had been emptied and the table had been cleared with no fuss and no arguing.

The result was that we left for a day out this morning with a tidy house and the boys had helped with the tidying.

Now I know it’s all a novelty and that it will soon wear off. After the initial enthusiasm has waned I will be left with a box full of random bots and bobs and a naked, or certainly shoeless, Henry wandering about the place but at the moment it’s working like a dream and I am living in the rose tinted spectacled idyll that I really have found the perfect answer to my messy house and that I will breed cooperative, beautiful, but above all tidy husbands of the future. Either that or I will have bred the world’s best snitches if they way they eagerly put their brothers’, father’s (and mothers!!) things in the box is anything to go by. I was pleased though about the way they came up with the jobs/chores that needed to be done as it shows that I was wrong to assume that they didn’t know what needed doing, that they were being ‘man’ blinded by housework no, the best thing to come out of this so far is that they have proved that they know very well what jobs go on in this house. I now know that and things will indeed change. Expectations will be raised as stereotypes will now not be made excuses of. Boys can see what needs to be done but somewhere along the line they have had a lovely person who loved them a little too much and cleared up after them all the time. I need to toughen up and in this way, love them a little differently and make sure that they do their bit in the house.

So. Tomorrow morning I will have 3 excited little boys who eagerly search out things to put in the box to make sure the rules are followed. They will think of great jobs to do in order to get these items back and they will happily (yes happily!) do these jobs as per the deal. They will smiles as they did this morning and even say how much they enjoyed it (oh yes, they did!) and I will hope this lasts for ever. I really hope they learn that jobs can be okay that they are a necessary part of life that need to be done irrespective of what they feel about them. That it isn’t right to leave your mess around on the floor as they would be however unconsciously, be expecting someone else to deal with it. I like it. It’s a great idea and I will tell anyone who wants to listen.

…just after I’ve got my shoes out of the box!

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About littlewhitecottage

Emma is a qualified teacher with 14 years of teaching in many different settings. From teaching adults and children at a music school to choosing to work in a demanding primary school that was failing (which meant moving from an outstanding school – her colleagues were aghast!) to running her own sewing business for the last 5 ½ years teaching all ages how to sew: Emma loves to teach.
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3 Responses to The box…

  1. Claire Rance says:

    I love this idea! Have 2 little boys who never tidy up unless nagged and completely know where your coming from with standing on lego and trying to walk up stairs with washing. I think it’s time we had a box x

  2. Nikki J May says:

    This is such a great idea, can I do this with older men too? Lol my little boy clears up after himself has tizzys if there’s a mess left somewhere and he knows all toys have their place thankfully I implemented all of that when younger so now is a habit for him I just hope it rubs off on my 5 month old boy too when he gets older of course, but I wish they’re father would do the same, lol surely there’s got to be a way to teach him to do it too without me having to how him his iniative

  3. Linda says:

    Fabulous idea and i loved the fact your blog echoes my household…i am normal! lol xx

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