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I am the meanest mom in America. The other day my son whined, "Why do you always have to torture me?" He's seven. I asked him if making monkey bread, playing the Wii, and reading stories together was the definition of torture. I guess those things don't count if you make your child do their homework. Because for him, that is the definition of torture. Apparently he already knows everything. But homework and reading are extremely important to my husband and I, so we continue to torture him day after day.
After school at our house is a little like Grand Central Station. Kids coming and going, snack time, homework, chores, reading time--it's a lot to get done before I have to start making dinner. So we've instituted a pretty strict routine we stick to to ensure it all happens each day. But sometimes, when your child is feeling especially "tortured", a routine is easier said than done. Sometimes, you have to get creative.
This week we had a few extra kids over, and knowing that getting them all to sit quietly and read instead of pull all the pillows off the couch to make a landing pad at the bottom of the stairs would be difficult, I made reading time a little more fun.
It happened to be Dr. Seuss' birthday, so we had a Dr. Seuss reading party. I satisfied their need to de-pillow my couches by having them build a reading room. They piled pillows behind the couch and piled themselves on the pillows. They each chose a Dr. Seuss book and took turns reading to the group. I couldn't believe how well it worked! They all wanted to be sure their book was read, and they listened quietly to everyone else's choice. Of course I rewarded this amazing behavior with Cat In the Hat marshmallow hats (via this blog) and allowing them to jump on the pillow pile when they were done. Whatever it takes.
The other reading strategy my genius husband cooked up has to do with my boys' favorite pastime: video games. For every minute they spend reading, they get one minute of time on the Wii or DS. We designed a little chart that I slipped in a page protector so we can record and update the minutes daily with a dry erase marker. They can read quietly to themselves, to a younger sibling, or to me. The remarkable thing is that they actually spend a LOT more time reading than they do playing video games! I am still shocked, but I often hear them say, "I'm going to keep reading so I can get more Wii time!" They seem to think that if they amass hours and hours of Wii time, they can play for hours and hours on end. Like all night. As if. But they haven't figured that out yet, so until then we'll keep this game going. Genius, I tell ya, genius.
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