15 Sep Use a “Parent Inbox” to Encourage Responsibility
I’ll make this brief. I’m a total school nerd. I dive into my boys’ backpacks the moment they walk in from school in search of graded schoolwork, calendars, and notes that need my attention. Because of this, my kids have never missed a reading calendar signing, t-shirt order form, field trip permission slip, etc. (That sounded as if I think I deserve some kind of Most Paper-Attentive Mom award, as opposed to the awkward social silence this weirdness probably warrants. Haha.) It dawned on me the other day, however, that my kids would likely fair better in the future if I could let go of this insistence to have my hands in their sea of school papers and allow them to take some responsibility for it instead. Since we’ve created a website that focuses on developing these kind of responsible qualities in kids, I figured this would probably be a worthy endeavor. 😉 But how? A step-by-step coming your way.
Step One: Purchase a chicken-wire basket for no other reason than it’s cute, and set it on your side counter in your kitchen.
Step Two: Stare longingly at your really cute chicken-wire basket as it sits, purposeless, on the side counter in your kitchen. Spend an unusual amount of time wondering what it could be used for.
Step Three: Contemplate how to help your kids take responsibility for their own flood of school papers that follow them home everyday.
Step Four: In a moment of brilliance (or desperation for a purpose for your sweet basket) realize you could hang it at eye level next to where your kids hang their backpacks and have it serve as the answer to what you contemplated in step three. A “Parent Inbox,” if you will.
Step Five: Screw that basket to the wall and label it “Mom” (or “Dad,” “Parent,” “The Bomb,” whatever–no judgements here).
Step Six: Inform your kiddos of your promise to keep your hands out of their backpacks, and your confidence in their ability to sort through and be responsible for their own onslaught of school papers. Emphasize it’s their responsibility to go through their own backpacks (daily) and fill your inbox with graded schoolwork, and papers that need parental attention. (In other words, if it doesn’t make the inbox, you won’t see it!)
Step Seven: Check your inbox every night (to uphold your end of the bargain). Mark important events on your calendar, “file away” (aka: “chuck”) graded papers, and sign papers that need your John Hancock. Return the signed papers to your kids so they can put them back in their backpacks. Side Note: If you have room on your wall next to your kids’ backpacks, it may make sense for you to have two baskets–an inbox, and an outbox. You’d use the inbox as described above, while the outbox would be used to hold papers that’ve been dealt with on your end and are ready to go back into your child’s backpack. Getting their papers out of the outbox and into their backpacks would be an added responsibility. The possibilities are endless really. And very, very exciting 😉
Step Eight: (This is the hardest, but arguably the most important step in actually teaching them to take responsibility for their paperwork.) Allow the consequences to follow if they end up failing to keep up their end of the bargain of getting important papers to your inbox (missed field trip notes, late reading calendars, etc.)
So far, it’s been great! I mean, it actually works. My little inbox has been full of graded schoolwork and art projects, as well as school papers that needed my attention/signature/etc. (Though their papers are rarely placed as neatly in the inbox as my staged picture above might suggest.)
I know this little “mom inbox” of mine won’t always work perfectly. I’m sure one day soon, one of my boys won’t get something to the basket that needs my attention. And when that day comes, I’m going to try my hardest to sympathize with them over whatever natural consequence results from their negligence, then assure them “I’m sure they’ll remember next time.” No sense in saving them from the consequence, otherwise I bought that cute little rustic basket for nothing! Its job is to teach my kids to take responsibility for their school papers, and if they fail to do so, I’m confident in the consequence’s ability to be a fair and memorable teacher.