Q: We're struggling to get our children to be organized and keep their rooms clean. Do you have any tips that would help?
Jim: As the father of two boys, I know how you feel! Every parent has his or her own method of handling such challenges. It's fair to say that "discipline" isn't usually the best way to deal with a situation like this. As a matter of fact, a hard-nosed approach could prove counterproductive. You could end up transforming thoughtless irresponsibility into premeditated rebellion.
We recommend you take full advantage of "natural consequences." Use masking tape to mark off a boundary at the doors of your kids' rooms, between their personal "messyzone" and the rest of the house. Then say, "Inside the messyzone, you can do as you please. But if you want anything that's been left on the floor outside the messyzone, make sure you pick it up before bedtime. After that, it will be confiscated and placed in quarantine until you have enough money to buy it back. The going price is $1."
If nothing else, this is a good way to reduce clutter in the house. It can also provide you with a handy fund for a family pizza night. The mess inside their rooms will likely disappear when they get tired of it and when they realize you're not going to hound them into doing the job.
If these strategies don't work, consider whether there might be something more serious going on. Our counseling team notes that there can be physical or emotional causes, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), for a child's inability to follow through on simple tasks. In that case, you should see a family counselor who is trained to diagnose and deal with such conditions.
More than likely, your kids are just being kids. Best wishes as you help them take responsibility for keeping their rooms presentable!
Q: How can I find age-appropriate movies for my teens? So many movies are not family-friendly, and the current movie ratings can be misleading.
Bob Waliszsewski, director of Plugged In: I'm glad you asked! And I feel your pain. Here at Focus on the Family, we often hear from parents who feel "sucker punched" when they take their kids to a PG or PG-13 film, only to encounter content that is entirely inappropriate.
That's why nearly 15 years ago we began offering content-oriented reviews online. We believed (and still do) that parents needed more than MPAA ratings. They needed to know for themselves what's actually in a film, so they could make wise choices for their children. As such, our Plugged In website (www.pluggedin.com) can be your one-stop destination for anything playing at your local theater. Each review contains information about a film's overall themes and messages, as well as details about sexuality, crude language, violence, drugs and alcohol. There's also an archive of past reviews of movies that are now on DVD or streaming online. We offer similar evaluations of music, TV shows and video games.
From our website you can also access our blog, Facebook page, podcasts (available via iTunes) and other great tools. My favorite is the Plugged In app for iPhone or Android, which offers the same analysis in the palm of your hand.
I know it sounds like we're tooting our own horn here, but we're convinced this is an essential service for families. Your time and money are limited. Why waste them by attending a movie that ends up assaulting your senses with inappropriate content? We won't tell you whether to go or not (thankfully!), but Plugged In will equip you with the information you need to avoid those pitfalls.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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