Tonight we had a parade through the Maxwell house! Usually the children delight in parades, but for this one, they were uncharacteristically warm and subdued. One child had on her heavy winter coat, sweatshirt, stocking cap, and an extra pair of shoes over her hands—all in addition to her normal clothing. Another child sported her sweatshirt, bike-riding dress—over her play dress—with shoes dangling on her shoulder. The other three of our younger children had donned varying degrees of similar costumes. They were all busily marching around the house. Soon each one returned to Mom eagerly asking her to come see what they had just accomplished. You might ask, what exactly is going on at the Maxwell house?
We were reaping! Unfortunately, Mom has become slack in giving consequences to the children for leaving their things out. Steve has regularly encouraged me to have the children wear or carry whatever of their personal property is not properly put away. His suggestion originally came because I brought him the ongoing problem we have in our home of sloppiness. My efforts toward positive training of the children in orderliness were not being fruitful.
I have done some mental calculations of what it would be like at the Maxwells’ if we didn’t stay on top of picking up. There are ten of us living in this home. If we were each to leave out ten items a day, which wouldn’t be terribly hard, we would have one hundred things lying around at the end of the day. After a week, a whopping seven hundred pieces of Maxwell personal property would be strewn across the house.
I truly believe in the importance of training our children to put their things away properly. I am certain that their spouses will thank Steve and me if we are successful, and they will be disappointed if we aren’t. My children report to us that they really prefer to live in a neat home. This information generally comes after they have visited in a cluttered or messy home. Putting each item where it belongs is a valuable time saver. How many hours have been lost looking for a child’s missing shoe? “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6).
Our home is also a testimony—of Christ, homeschooling, and, in our case, large families. We regularly have non-Christians stop by our home unexpectedly. Tonight it was the British Army officer for whom Steve is doing some work. Last week it was our policeman neighbor from across the street. Sometimes it is the retired bank president for whom Sarah gathers the mail and papers when he and his wife are away. I am convinced that if the house looks more than simply “lived in,” the testimony of each area it represents, such as homeschooling, is tarnished.
Having the children wear what they have left out has been a most effective way of getting them to pick up their clothing. However, if Mom is not consistent with consequences, the children manage to lose the good habit they have acquired! “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul” (Proverbs 29:17). Tonight we were having a retraining session. The children were wearing clothing items they had left out while they searched the house for other things that belonged to them. They were now eager to put their belongings away. Then they were happy to come ask Mom for an inspection. This was because the removal of each extra piece of clothing was dependent on Mom not finding any more of their things out.
Despite all the benefits I know there are to be gained from teaching my children to put their personal items away when they are done with them, I still struggle with being consistent. When I am consistent, they succeed! When I am inconsistent, they fail!
So, if you pop in at the Maxwell house and observe five children wearing very odd outfits while busily rushing here and there, you will know what is happening. May I encourage you in whatever area you need to be more consistent with your children. It is not too late. It is not too much work, and it is certainly well worth the effort!