The Roomba Method
Here's how I described it in an e-mail to my mom last night:
because the Mermaid Girl has SO MUCH stuff, and plays with so many things that have dozens of tiny little pieces, that if we only make her clean every once in a while then the mess will be too overwhelming for all of us, and also because since she's allergic to dust we really have to vacuum in there every week or two. So, ergo, she has to clean her room every night.
So far we've been using The Nagging Method, which has been about as effective as that method usually is (i.e. not very). She stalls for as long as she can, sometimes an hour or more, only cleaning when we come in to glare at her. It drives us all nuts and makes us and MG totally exasperated with each other.
So, starting tomorrow, we're going to be using The Roomba Method, named after that cute little vacuum robot. It's gonna work like this:
1) We give MG half an hour or so in which to clean up her room.
2) We give her a five-minute warning five minutes before the end.
3) At the end of the allotted time, The "Roomba"--in the form of a parent with an empty box--enters the room, picks up everything that's left on the floor, and puts it away in the box for at least a week.
The crucial elements to this succeeding are:
1) We have to be totally cheerful, empathetic, and low-key about it and not express disappointment or exasperation with her
2) We have to be totally hard-hearted about it and not give in when she starts weeping and wailing and begging.
One problem that I can see is that as the Roomba Time approaches she could just start stuffing things anywhere, without regard to where they belong, which will lead to a total mess in her bins and shelves in very short order. To alleviate that a bit, I suggested that she can have a "To Be Filed" box that she can dump anything into that she doesn't have time to put away properly. Anything that *she* puts in the To Be Filed box before the Roomba comes in, she gets to keep. If she can find it! (which is the same problem that RW and I have with our own "To Be Filed' bins...)
We explained it to her this evening at dessert time, and she didn't fall apart as much as I thought she would. So, we'll see. We're gonna try it for a couple of weeks.
Today is the first Roomba Method day.
She had a friend over after school this afternoon. They pulled out a bunch of stuff and scattered it about the room. MG declined the opportunity to clean up with her friend before the friend went home for dinner.
She's in her room now.
She sounds very cheerful, humming and banging about.
The 5-minute-warning bell just went off.
Any bets on what I'll see when I go in?
It could've been worse. The place was still a pit at the 5-minute warning mark, and MG was scurrying around randomly stuffing things into bins, having obviously totally piddled away her cleanup time with playing and daydreaming. But she wasn't whining or furious or demanding help or despairing at the impossibility of it all as she usually is by that time; she was quite cheerful as she informed me that "It's still pretty bad!"
When I came back in with the basket 5 minutes later, almost everything was off the floor, and the To Be Filed box was overflowing. I moved in slowly, and she grabbed the last few items and put them away before I could get to them.
She was so pleased at her success that she immediately whipped up a "Roomba Chart" for herself and filled in the first square with an empty basket. She informed me that if she has more empty baskets than full ones by the time the chart's complete, she gets a smiley face. I was expecting her to start angling for some monetary or food reward in exchange for a good chart, but the smiley face that she came up with seemed to be all she wanted.
If this keeps up, I predict that her bins and shelves will soon be in complete chaos. But at least everything will be off the floor, and we won't be at each others' throats of an evening.