Inside: You'll get a quick tip to end your child's meltdown. It costs nothing and all you need is paper and markers. I did add an affiliate link as well.
Chores and cleaning are never anyone's favorite way to spend time.
So it should come as no surprise to me that every time we have a weekend cleanup day, one of my kids pitches a fit about it.
They take turns, bless 'em.
One week my 7 year old daughter will hop right to it and get her room picked up, lickety split. Which means it's my five year old's turn to wail and cry for who-knows-how-long about the injustice of having to put away his LEGO.
Last week it was the sassy pants 2nd grader telling me that it was unfair that she had to clean her whole room, while the LEGO master put on some bouncy music and got right to cleaning.
This week in the middle of the 5 year old's regularly-scheduled fit, I tried something new.
Ending Your Child's Meltdown with a Crappy, Hand-Drawn Chart
I drew a time chart. I am not an artist. They are just lines. Anyone can do this.
In the middle of the crying, I scooped him up, gave him a hug and said, “Come here I have something really important to show you.”
I explained that the top line is how many hours we have until dinner.
I quoted one of my all-time favorite children's books by one of my all-time favorite authors and reminded him that “Chores divided by everyone equals family.”
I showed him the second line, where the highlighter represents the time he would spend cleaning. The green represents the time he will have to play after he is done.
We had nothing on our schedule that day. They were free to play the entire rest of the day.
I showed him the next line, with the red. This represents his time spent crying. He would still have to clean when he was done crying- because in our house we all pitch in- and then he would have less time to play.
As a compromise I offered the bottom line, whereby he would clean for a bit now, then play for a bit, so long as he agreed to clean again after lunch.
I have explained over and over the thing about “more crying now means less play time later,” but it never landed.
This visual representation seriously clicked with him.
He composed himself over a few minutes and eventually asked his sister what kind of music they should listen to while they clean.
I saved this crappy, hand-drawn chart in case we need it again but it was so vivid for both kids that they have referred to it to help each other since the first time we discussed it.
If you have a kid who is pretty reasonable, but tends to lose his $#!+ once in a while, I highly recommend this method. It could be used for a play date, or school drop off, or really any situation where your child could be having a good time if only he or she would realize the time being wasted.
If you only have two things (crying versus the fun thing) then just use two colors. We are basically just trying to convey that our time for fun is limited, and the time you spend crying takes away from that.
I can't guarantee it will work for every child, or for every age- only you know your child. But it can't hurt to try- what have you got to lose?
When Not to Use a Crappy Chart to End Your Child's Crying
Obviously this will not turn off every instance of crying, nor should it. Common sense still applies. Of course you don't whip this idea out any old time, just because you want your kid to quit crying.
If your child is crying because he or she is hurt, had hurt feelings, or has a reason to cry that needs to be nurtured, obviously this is not the solution for the occasion.
Like, you know, don't go and tell the kid, “Look- the longer you cry about your broken arm, the less play time you have” or “Hey, the longer you cry about being bullied, the less play time you have.”
But there are times we all would agree that your kid might be crying just to cry. Or stall. Or to try to get out of a chore. That is what this crappy, hand-drawn chart is for.
Would this work for your preschooler? Have you tried something similar? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!