Question: How do you get your children to stop fighting over whose turn it is to wear the cowboy hat, and turn that energy into cleaning the couch? I'll tell you. Take a page from Tom Sawyer.
I got a cool thingy for Christmas, it is a Sonic Scrubber. It looks like a big electric toothbrush, but had different attachments to clean different things. One of those attachments is an upholstery brush, so I thought I'd give it a try on our couch cushions. Here was my plan:
Step 1. Get scrubber and a small bowl of water. Do not look at children, but go to couch and start scrubbing.
Step 2. Giggle uncontrollably as I clean.
Step 3. Do not make eye contact with kids, keep everything to myself.
Step 4. Kids wander over to see what is going on.
Step 5. Continue to giggle, and try to hide what I was doing.
Step 6. When asked, "Can I do that?" Answer with, "I don't know, honey, this might be too hard for you. Besides, I don't really need help, this is pretty fun, and I'm fine on my own."
Step 7. Giggle some more, and scrub with glee.
Let me tell you, it worked. I finally "gave in" and "let them" do it. The kids took turns scrubbing the couch, and they did well taking turns since they knew that if they didn't the opportunity would go away. The couch is clean, and I got to make lunch at the time, uninterrupted since they were so enthralled with cleaning. Sometimes, I amaze myself.
Here's a passage from Tom Sawyer, after Tom gets all his buddies to whitewash the fence, just by making it seem fun. I love this:
Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it – namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement. There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and then they would resign.
I gotta remember this philosophy.