Thursday, June 14, 2012

CLEAN UP!!!!! NOW!!!!!

For the record, shouting (as I just did in the title of this post) is not an effective way to get your kids to clean up. You'd think I'd know that by now....

Let me backtrack a bit. I have been guilty of "helping" my kids clean up (often doing all of it for them) far, far, far too often. But you know what? I'm 37 1/2 weeks pregnant. In the last few weeks, I have become less and less willing to clean up my kids' toys for them.

So I informed them recently that this summer is the summer when they learn to clean up by themselves. Incidentally, they're good at doing this in their rooms. But in the living room (where a lot of their toys reside), I've trained them too well to depend on me to get it done. No longer!

This week I've really started focusing on ways to get them to clean up...ways that don't require me to repeat, "You're supposed to be cleaning up!" seventy bajillion times along the way. I should be able to tell them once, and they should be able to do it.

So I've tried time outs on the couch, and time outs in their rooms, and longer grounding in their rooms. And I've just had trouble getting any of that to work really effectively.

By today, I was just fed up and frustrated. Which leads me to my embarrassing reminder that screaming doesn't work. All it does is give me a sore throat and make me feel guilty.

After I'd screamed at them today, I tried something else.

"If you're playing with a toy instead of cleaning it up," I said, "I'm throwing it away."

Chickie immediately tested me. Into the trash can went a headband, and then a little toy laptop thing.

Then she grinned and played with one of Zoodle's dress-up hats, and I realized my policy needed to change.

"Well, I can't throw that away; it's Zoodle's," I said. "So I'll throw away a piece of your dress-up clothes." I found a princess dress (one that I got cheap at Goodwill), and into the trash it went. Chickie wasn't too happy, but she realized I meant business, and she began to clean up.

Then I saw that Zoodle was playing with Jenga blocks. Again, I needed to refine the rule. "Okay," I said, "I don't want to throw away a game that belongs to the whole family. So I'm going to find something of yours to throw away instead." I found the little Spiderman cake-topper that he had on his birthday cake this year. Not too expensive, but something I know he's a little attached to. Into the trash it went. A few minutes later, I threw away a rubber bouncy ball.

Oh yeah, and at some point, one of Chickie's coloring books went in the trash too.

You know what? I did have to throw away several things. But it worked. They got motivated, and they got the clean-up done. And I may have to throw away more things tomorrow, but I bet it won't take long at all until this little lesson has been learned (thoroughly!)

A couple of keys to this tactic: I was mad, but I stayed pretty calm and matter-of-fact as I was throwing things away. Also, the toys are staying in the trash. They won't magically reappear in the toy bin. They are gone.

I'm always happy to discover a parenting strategy that works. And if it can save my throat from post-yelling rawness? That's icing on the top of the cake.


Eternal Lizdom said...

It's not uncommon to hear me say to my kids, "If you can't take care of and appreciate your toys, I know someone can buy them at Goodwill for a child who doesn't have too many toys already..."

Unknown said...

I am so frustrated with a amount of toys Ian has. I think that this might be a great solution for us too. Get my point across and a chance to thin out the herd, so to speak.

I hope that C & Z learned their lesson and less has to go tomorrow.

Call Me Cate said...

I like the idea of donating them to kids who will appreciate them. And I wouldn't just drop them off myself - I'd make them participate in dropping off the donations. (Though, a cake topper and probably partially used coloring book aren't a huge deal.)

Lola said...

My (recently) new strategy is to set a timer for 10 minutes. I announce that any toy not in its proper place when the timer goes off goes in the trash.

The panic ensues and they RUN to put their toys away. It was sad and funny the first time, now they just move quickly :)

Tia said...

Yell at my kid? What? I would never...HA!

So glad you found something that worked. And way to stay calm! That is the hardest part!

Renee Thompson said...

I experienced the same frustration with my boys and did something similar. I printed and laminated bright orange cards with a construction zone clipart that said "clutter bug." When I saw things left out, I would put a "clutter bug" note on it and an hour later if things were still out they went into a box for a month. My guys were a bit older (younger elementary) and things like favorite shoes, legos, basketballs, etc... made their way to the box in the top of the closet. I also had to refine my rules for things like library books. :) This worked for a few years, then we moved on to something new... The boys still tease me about that strategy, but it worked so I will enjoy the teasing! I am wondering now if I should check with my daughters-in-law to see if they might need the "clutter bug" tags for my grown sons. :)

Vixbil said...

Brilliant, gotta love it when a strategy works.. Have to say I'll be trying it too

vanhaydu said...

I am the proud dad of seven children. I need to make a confession. Each week I throw away at least one toy. It could be a leggo, lincoln log, easy bake oven (sorry ladies), coloring book, etc. Like I said, it is a confession. I've only been caught one or three times...haha.

Jessilyn said...

I have a closet full of clothes and on days I don’t know what to wear I tend to try on everything till I find something right. The options that didn’t make the cut usually lay on my floor. When we have too many options we tend to feel the need to try them all until we find what we like. I found that limiting the amount of toys children have to play with usually allow them to appreciate what they have and not having so many to put away is less overwhelming to you and them! For a few weeks we put out a few toys and the rest are stored. After the few weeks are up we pull down new ones and the other toys go into the closet. This usually works best for younger kids like pre-school but, I’d have to imagine for older kids its just as effective.

Sandra said...

Just another example of what a good mommy you are. I didn't say "perfect" because there aren't any of those, but that isn't necessary to be an excellent mommy. Good job!