Color Coding 102 - Solving a Problem

The first step to finding a solution is knowing what the problem is. The next step is doing something about it.

If you haven’t already read my post entitled “Color Coding 101 – Theory” you should go back and read that first before you continue here. That post will lay the groundwork for this series of posts on Color-Coding Your Life.

Once you really understand the theory and processes behind color-coding you will see a whole new world open up to you. All of a sudden, your mind will come up with so many great ways that you could organized a variety of different things using color. As a matter of fact, let me caution you to take it slow.

If you go crazy with color- coding you will go crazy. Seriously. If you implement too many systems you will forget your system.

As you begin on this new adventure of color coding you should start by asking three main questions:

  • What isn’t working?

  • Why is it not working?

  • Will a color system help to solve the problem?

Lets talk through a couple of examples~

1. Bathroom ~

Your fabulous children are perfect in all ways except that they don’t seem to manage to pick up their towels off the bathroom floor. Of course their dirty clothes are always picked up and put in the dirty laundry hamper. There is never water on the floor. The shampoo bottles are never in the floor of the tub. The toothbrush and toothpaste and other misc health and beauty aids are always neatly put in the drawer right where they belong. Right? (Ok, if that really does describe your house then you should stop reading right now and go thank you children!)

If you are laughing because you know these children don't exist, then take heart and know that your family is pretty normal. While we aren’t going to discuss organizational systems for all those common occurrences we will talk about the towels being on the floor.

So the common problem with the towels on the floor is that you don’t know to whom it belongs. If you keep picking it up yourself then you aren’t holding your children accountable for picking up after themselves. So how do you figure out whose towel it is? Assign your children a color and give them a towel in that color. If you have three kids to whom you have assigned the colors blue, green, and yellow and the yellow towel is on the floor, then you know exactly who left it there.

If you really like the towels to match the décor in the bathroom then buy all the same color towels and sew a piece of ribbon in the correct color onto the towel to know exactly who it belong to. Better yet, add a loop of cotton twill tape in the appropriate color to the center of the long side of the towel and use the loop to not only hang the towel up on a hook, but also as evidence of the identity of the culprit. In this case color-coding is very helpful.

2. Kitchen~

Again, your children, perfect in every other way, are somehow forgetting to clear their plates after meals. Though you claim to know everything, because all moms do you know, sometimes the children all sneak away to go out and play and by the time you turn around 2 of the 3 plates are cleared and no one is left to hold accountable for the crime.

If your system is that each child clears their own plate and then is dismissed from the table, then either assigned seats or assigned colors of plates will do the trick. (Plastic plates are available in a variety of colors at most stores and especially during the spring and summer.) The law abiders are in the clear and the forgetful one can be called back to repeat the learning process. Again, the goal of parenting is to raise up small people into big adults. So the more times you do the job for them once they are capable, the less opportunity they have to practice and learn to do the job themselves.

However, if your kitchen cleaning process is that each child has a designated job then color coding dishes and assigned seating doesn’t really help. My system is that one child helps prepare the meal, one sets and clears the table, one puts the food away as well as wiping counters and sweeping the floor, and one child does the dishes. (That works with 4 kids but must be revamped with more kids or less.)

So in that system, while I remind my children to clear their own plate, it is ultimately the responsibility of the assigned child to clear the whole table. So if I turn around and all my children have gone out to play I have a much bigger problem than just one not clearing their plate. The whole lot of them has abandoned their kitchen duties. In that instance the whole troop needs to be called in for a reminder in responsibility rather than just one child. Color-coded dishes won’t help with their memory.

So as you begin this new adventure in color-coding start by asking yourself lots of questions and really think through reasonable answers. Don’t try to persuade yourself that something will work when you have tried it repeatedly with unacceptable results. Sometimes just a change of pace will inspire you and your children to new heights. At the same time, if something in your household is working, then by all means don’t change it!

Until next time….

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