Thursday, October 11, 2007

The War at Home

The kids and I have been battling for some time now on the issue of cleaning up after themselves. It has escalated into a daily struggle. It usually goes like this: they make a mess, and then they look at me in shock when they are asked to clean it up. They sit there motionless for as long as possible, until I notice that they have not cleaned up, then I ask them to clean it up again, with a louder and firmer tone. They cry that they need help. If I help them, they sit there motionless waiting for me to clean up their mess. If I do not help, they continue to whine. Eventually, they do clean the toys up, but it is too often after a series of increasingly unpleasant consequences, ahem. This cycle has repeated itself too many times for my liking.

I'm taking a parenting class at church called Love and Logic for Early Childhood, and it has actually been really helpful in a lot of areas. The theory from the book on this particular issue is that I should ask the child, one time, "Do you want to clean up your toys or shall I?" and if they don't clean it up, I should say, "No problem," and proceed to take away the toys. No yelling. No nagging. No lecturing. No warnings. No repeating myself. This is the theory. Easier said than done.

Then, according to the book, my child will learn from these consequences that one should take care of one's things and listen to one's mother the first time, and we will all live happily together in our Loving and Logical home. Mmmmkay.

So that's this week's Experiment in Parenting. Remember this post about Tommy, and how he learns things the hard way? It applies here, too. So far I have collected four garbage bags of toys and put them up in the closet. To be fair, some of the confiscated toys are Katie's, who seems to be following in her brother's footsteps on this issue.

Twice this week, Tommy decided he wanted to play with a certain toy that he just couldn't seem to find, so he completely ransacked his room looking for it. Twice. And both times, I informed him that the toy he was searching for had already been taken away, and that by the way, now you need to clean up all those toys you just threw everywhere. And twice, he refused to clean up the toys, so twice I have gathered up his increasingly meager belongings and put them up in the closet. (Incidentally, when he tearfully asked me when he could get his toys back, I snapped, "NEVER", which is not a response endorsed by the authors of Love and Logic for Early Childhood. Just so you know.)

Then today when I asked him to clean up his room, he responded, "Well, I don't feel like it, Mom, so go ahead and take all those toys away." The authors of Love and Logic for Early Childhood did not provide a suggested response to this scenario. I checked.

So now I'm thinking about just having a garage sale. A bonfire crossed my mind, too, I'll admit, but the City would probably get involved, so that's no good. Another option would be to wrap the toys up and give them out as Christmas presents.

What I'll probably do, though, is just keep taking them away and hope that he learns his lesson before he gets down to zero toys and is forced to entertain himself with rocks and sticks in the back yard. The main drawback of that plan is that I think he would enjoy the rocks and sticks quite a lot. As long as I don't ask him to clean them up.


  1. rocks and sticks are fun, it's true. I need to find a way to stop with the repeating myself, too. Yesterday MQ had a time out for the first time in a long while, for something she does ALL THE TIME which is not respond to me on the first request, or the second, third, fourth.... etc I need to find a way to make this stop as well, and I'm trying to make myself do one request, one warning, then consequence. I am hoping to work myself up to skipping straight from request to consequence, but I think it would be too big of a shock for both of us. ;)

    And I am off to do the meme you tagged me for several days ago. sigh.

  2. Hee hee. You are so funny. I had heard of the taking away the toys thing and I tried it with Ben once. I said, "Ben, please go in and pick up your animals or I am going to put then in a bag to give to some other children who would take care of them."

    He said, "Okay. You can give them to those childwen"

    I figured he was bluffing so I got the bag out and started putting the animals in. And you know what he did...He started helping me put them in to give away.

    So I thought, well maybe he just doesn't care about the animals that much. So I moved on to his books on the floor. Same thing. He totally started taking books OFF HIS BOOKSHELF to give away.

    I don't know if he missed the point or has a big heart or is just the most manipulative 3-year-old on the planet, because I got so exasperated I stuck that bag up in the closet and walked away.

    I totally feel your pain.

  3. My daughter has also given me "permission" to take her toys away rather than clean them up. I guess Love an Logic can't address that, because really, a 3 year old asking to have her toys confiscated is not logical. Good luck...I'll be looking for updates to this. I read the Love and Logic book, but it becomes clearer and clearer to me on a daily basis that I need to reread it. It is probably the only book I should ever read until my youngest leaves for college.

    I spent a week - A WEEK! - of my life totally cleaning out the playroom and it looks like a garbage dump again. AAAAAAAAA.

  5. You could have been writing about my children in this post. This is a never-ending battle in our house. And my kids would say something like, "Then just take away the toys," too.

    I totally empathize.

  6. I know you posted this a while ago, and I just am getting to read this. I laughed so hard b/c that is me!!! I, too, have listened to the tapes and have tried the Uh-Oh and the trying not to raise my voice and take the toys away. All of which I have done, but not well or consistently enough for any lesson to be learned. And, now Christmas is coming and I love Christmas presents! UGH! Vicious cycle! :)


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