Using a Saturday Box To Teach Responsibility

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Want a simple way to get a messy house straightened up at bedtime? A way to address a messy room that doesn’t involve threatening, nagging, or even reminding?

My friend Melissa used something called “The Saturday Box.” The Saturday Box is an effective way to use natural consequences to help your children pick up messy rooms.  She introduced it to her family like this:

“This is the family Saturday Box. I will tell you this time, and only this time, that tonight before I go to bed, I will pick up anything you’ve left out in any room but your bedroom. It will go in the Saturday Box. You will not get it back until Saturday. No matter what.”

The first morning, the messy house was neat, but there was much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Clothes, shoes, and toys had disappeared into the Saturday Box. But even more weeping and wailing occurred when homework, athletic shoes, and other “important” things disappeared as well.

Here is where my friend’s great strength of character showed. No matter how much she wanted to remind them at bedtime, she bit her tongue and let the Box do its work. No matter how much her children protested, nothing could be retrieved until Sunday. If it was something that Melissa needed, she got it out of the Saturday box, used it, and then put it back.

What? Someone got an F on their homework. – And never left it out again.

What? Someone didn’t have their cleats for soccer practice. – And never left them out again.

What? Someone didn’t have the charger for their electronic device. And behold, it ran out of battery until Saturday.

What? There was no backpack to carry books to school. And grocery sacks don't do a very good job but they will work.

What? The clothes in the washer and dryer were unavailable until Saturday. (And pretty wrinkled.)

Melissa was willing to be slightly inconvenienced by some of these things knowing there was a bigger issue going on for her.

Her children learned to trust that she would keep her word, even it inconvenienced her temporarily.

Her children learned that picking up was their job, not their mom’s job to get them to do.

Her children learned to pick up after themselves without reminding or nagging.

And the best news of all was that, after the first week, Melissa’s Saturday Box was almost always nearly empty.

And the house was tidy.

(What about their rooms? That’s another issue, for another post.)

Since 1992, Dr. Robinson has worked in a variety counseling positions. She is also a popular author and speaker on topics ranging from childhood development and sexuality, teen issues, family dynamics including caring for elderly relatives, and church resources for families.

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