I’m not one of those people with an ultra-anal type of personality, nor do I have an organizational fetish, but when a newly blended family comes together, the details are important. What kind of details? Wiping sugar granules off the counter when there’s a spill instead of leaving it there for the ants to enjoy; lining up shoes at the entrance instead of tossing them anywhere there’s a free spot; and picking up the newspaper outside the front door instead of walking right by it day after day.
These are only some of the details. Do they really matter one by one? Not at all, but when the details accumulate, it becomes absolute chaos and a formula for insanity.
So a week before school, with five kids at home and no cleaning help, insanity hit its peak. Used dishes and glasses were left like treasures in the most inconspicuous nooks of the house, new and old school supplies were strewn everywhere in preparation for the start of a new grade, and soiled hamster shavings were scattered around the house as a result of a sudden impulse to give the little guys a clean, new home.
So how do I teach five kids (three of whom are teenage boys) to pay attention to the details? As a person who coaches people for a living, you would think that this would be easy for me …
Do I yell and scream and make a fuss? No.
Do I grab them by the ear and show them the mess they’ve left behind? No.
Do I complain to my husband behind closed doors and take my frustrations out on him? Well, maybe just a bit.
Do I hold it in and build my resentment while cleaning up after them myself? Not a chance.
Instead, I invented a new concept and shared it with them. It’s called ‘the details’. It’s the phrase I use to describe a situation that requires a bit more attention; like putting dirty cups in the dishwasher when they are finished being used or wiping the seat after a minor splash. It works particularly well when I show them ‘the details’ that someone else has not taken care of. Somehow they get it when it’s not aimed strictly at them. They are way more open when you use an example that does not reflect their own oversight. It’s amazing how it works.
When it comes to achieving success with a houseful of kids, here’s what works even better … acknowledging them for taking care of the details, saying thank you, and offering up a high five. It’s always easy to criticize people when they’ve made a mistake; it’s harder to change your thinking and notice a job well done. I’m on a quest to notice the details that are taken care of, and to make a big deal out of them.