Friday, April 16, 2010

Putting My Foot Down

I'm fed up. I'm tired of having to walk over land mines of toys all day long. I'm tired of the girls not help me put away their toys. I'm tired of putting away their toys myself, while they take toys out at the same time. I'm tired of crap all over the house.

My girls are very fortunate. They have a lot of toys. We buy them things, and for holidays and birthdays (and I mean every holiday--Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Girls' Day, you name it), they get gifts from not only us and grandparents, but aunts, Sean's aunts and uncles, friends from college, other friends. It's truly crazy and disgusting really. There is no end in site to the gifts, so we cram more stuff into our house virtually every month. After Christmas I went through their things and threw out or gave away about a third of it. Stuff they weren't playing with, crappy Happy Meal toys, and broken things. It's April, and we are already back to the same quantity.

The kids' toys are in the main living area because that's the only place for them. The bottom four shelves of three bookshelves are kids' toys. There is a dollhouse taking up one corner of the room. There is a toy rack and play kitchen taking up another corner. When you walk into my house, the first thing you see are two toy shopping carts, and two baby doll strollers in front of our aquarium. They are all filled with toys and dolls. Most of the time, they are in the way and you have to walk around them.

That's when everything is put away. Once the girls wake up in the morning, the toys come out and they are ALL over the floor. I find myself tripping and slipping on things all day long. Every day each girl falls because she tripped over something.

Last night was the breaking point for me. They both told me no when asked to put their toys away. The timer didn't work, yelling didn't work, taking a break and coming back to it later didn't work, telling them to put their toys in time out didn't work, threatening to throw things out didn't work, actually throwing out a box of Dora band-aids didn't work. Nothing works. They just say no and know eventually Sean and I will put the toys away.

Well, no more. I'm tired. I'm busy. Penny wants to be held all the time right now, making it physically hard to keep bending over to get things off the floor. I don't have time to clean up after them all day long and I shouldn't have to. They both know where the toys belong. They are both capable of putting them away. And now, I'm going to have to be tough about it.

I've been trying to figure what consequence will be effective. I've really tried all the tricks I've read or heard about. My girls just don't care about any of it enough to clean up if they don't feel like it.

The one thing I haven't done is take away television and food. Taking away food when they're hungry kind of seems mean. We have one television in the house in the main living area. If I take t.v. from one, unless I ban the other to their room, I have to take it away from the other. That doesn't seem fair unless they're both not helping.

Well, I've decided that is exactly what I need to do to get some help around here. Before television and snack time that happens twice a day, they will help clean up and put everything away. If they don't, no snack and no television. If that means one is banished to their room while the other has snack and t.v., so be it.

I tried it this morning. I told them the new policy. I told them to help clean up. Ella did, Samantha didn't. In fact, she took things out as Ella and I were cleaning. I reminded Samantha twice of the consequences. She still refused.

So, after we finished, I told her to go to her room. She screamed, she ran away from me. She told me she was hungry. When I finally caught her, she kicked me, hard, in the stomach and legs and pounded her little fists against my shoulders. I dumped her in her room. Calmly told her why she was there. She could play in her room, but no snack this morning and no television.

I closed the door. For twenty minutes she screamed, pounded on the floor, and threw things against the door. I went in. She had thrown her sister's toys. I told her if she needed to throw something, she needs to throw her own toys. If she breaks her sister's toys, I will be taking away one of her princess barbies. She crawled into her bed and pouted.

I hate having to do this. I'm nauseous from it. But I can't stand it any more. I'm the mother, and they need to help clean up just because I said so. Telling me no is unacceptable. I think I made my point with Samantha today. Doing this with Ella will be harder. I'll probably have to put up the baby gate to keep her in the room. But I will if I have to. It's past time for them to listen when I ask them to do something.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh? How do you get your kids to listen?


  1. Good for you!

    Picking up toys was never a problem in my house as my mum always included putting away the toys as a part of the game. When I realised this wasn't true, it was too late as I had been bitten by the radio active spider which insists on me keeping every thing too clean ;)

  2. Lots of hugs and strength sent your way. Little man will tell us no as well when it is time to clean up. I have resorted to throwing toys away. Well not really. I threw them behind the can but he thinks they went in. They then go in hiding for a few days.

    It's hard, it's tough, it breaks our heart to hear them so upset and it takes all our energy to stick to it. But in the long run it pays off.

  3. Thanks for the support!

    Jaded-I tried making it a game, but it was only fun once or twice. I'm out of game/song ideas.

    Nolie-Samantha actually picks out her toys to throw and puts them in the trash! Of course, I dig them out and hide them, then give them back. She now knows I'm not serious about throwing them out.

  4. Great job! I think part of being a good parent is knowing when to set limitations and rules and really sticking to it. Going without television is not at all too harsh. I cringe when I see parents *ask* there children to do things and then then children say no. Sometimes asking is great because choice and feeling like you have a say in things, even as a child, is so important. Conversely, you don't always get asked in life what you want - sometimes there are just rules to be followed. It doesn't have to be harsh ever - just matter-of-fact. Example: I saw a family rushing to get stuff together so that they could get to the airport on time and their 7 year old son was being asked to do things (Do you want to eat? Come on, will you please come to the table to eat" and so on and so forth. They had a 6 hour flight ahead of them. Which is kinder - giving him a choice, feeling stressed, potentially missing the plane, having a hungry child (with an infant it tow) or just having the ability to say - "It's time for dinner, please come sit at the table." No choice, no asking and if he said no there would be a consequence (set up beforehand like you did so that it wouldn't be done in anger but matter-of-factly).

    I think you did a great thing, for yourself and for your kids! Both now and in the future. Hey, if your a saner mom you'll have more fun too. :-)

    ~ Alyna
    The Gift Detective

  5. Thanks Alyna. The clean up went more smoothly today. :)


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