A newspaper cartoon that I grew up was called “The Family Circle.” Several children and parents, and occasionally a ghostly character named, Not-Me lived in the home. Does Not-Me now live in your home?
You come into your family room and see that it is a mess. Susie is on her phone. Joey is locked into a World of Warcraft computer game, and little Emily is talking to her dollies around their tea table. After surveying the mess, you bark, “Okay, you guys. Who made this mess?” In unison, without looking away from their respective activities, your crew responds, “Not me!” That poor fella, Not Me, gets blamed for lots of messes around the home.
So, how can you delegate getting the room straight again, while also creating a teachable moment about taking personal responsibility? Several things come to mind. First, you might conclude that assigning individual blame is pointless, and the priority is to get the room straight again, to your standards. If that’s the case, have your children stop all activity and take 15 minutes to collectively straighten the room, with you delegating each responsibility. “Okay. Enough griping. The sooner we get the room straight, the sooner I’m out of your hair and you can get back to your activities.”
Second, you might conclude that everybody having fun is more important in the moment than how straight the room is. If the room’s messiness does not directly impact you, then no big deal. However, if you are having friends over in 20 minutes and you want to use the room to entertain them, then the messiness does impact you, and you ride heard to get the room straight in a timely manner.
Finally, if you want to use the circumstances as an object lesson for the kids, then the Not Me defense needs to be addressed. After the room is straightened, either sooner or later that same day, have a brief family meeting where you address the subjects of taking personal responsibility and lying. When my son accepted personal responsibility and took the time to make the circumstances right, I heaped praise on him and gushed my pride and his consequence was less. When he tried to dodge the circumstances, I asked him how much trouble he wanted. One trouble is making the mess. Two troubles is making the mess and then lying about it, and his consequences were double.
If Not Me lives in your home, use it to create a teachable moment for your children.