Nov 082012

This week Henry and Eleanor have been obsessed with marking all the toys they want in various Christmas-related ad inserts.

It’s been so entertaining to watch them for various reasons: seeing what their interests are and how they’ve started to be so very different, remembering my own fun in poring over every page of the JC Penney Christmas catalog and marking all my favorites, too.

So we’ve had a fun week of dreaming about Legos and ponies and looking forward to the start of the holiday season in a few weeks, right?

WRONG! Last night I took away all of their toys.

Yes, really. ALL of them.

For what seems like forever, we’ve struggled with getting Henry and Eleanor to pick up their toys. At school, they’re expected to pick up after themselves, and they’ve never had a problem. At home, though, it’s like they lose all ability to take care of their things. Our house doesn’t have a dedicated playroom; their stuff is housed in an offshoot of our family room. Which means it’s dragged out and left everywhere in our communal living space. And so “picking up toys” gets caught in my endless “clean kitchen pick up toys put away laundry pick up toys clean kitchen” loop that dictates my time at home and makes me realize why all the 1960s housewives popped Valium like candy.

I’ve threatened for months that “if you can’t take care of your things and help put them away, then you won’t have any toys to play with” but never was consistent or followed through. Last night I declared that I’d Officially Had It. I announced to a surprised Henry and Eleanor that I was taking away their toys. I assured them that no, we weren’t going to throw or give them away, but they were getting put away and only one toy was coming out at a time until they could prove to us they could help take care of their things.

After they went to bed, I finished clearing off the bookshelves in their play area, moving everything to the guest room closet. And prepared myself for the Great Epic Meltdown of 2012™ that I was sure to occur in the morning when Henry and Eleanor realized that Mom was for real not kidding.

And then they woke up this morning. And proceeded to be totally okay with it.

I explained the rules to them again: they could each request a toy, but had to clean up that toy and put it away before requesting the next one. Which is what they did all day. And it was WONDERFUL. They didn’t fight or complain about the new rule. They seemed really focused on their activity after having to think about which toy to request. Our family room stayed clutter-free all day. We got to enjoy our time together instead of fighting over having to pick up after themselves (kids) and yelling at them about it (me).

At suppertime tonight, I praised Henry and Eleanor for how well they did, and told them if they kept up the good work for a few more days, we’d increase the number of toys they could have out. And once again, no complaining, just happiness over Mom telling them they did a good job. Honestly, I’m still kinda shocked at how well today went.

Hmmm…turns out if you set boundaries for the kids and carefully explain your expectations, while actually being consistent and following through on consequences, your family is happier. It’s like all those thousands of articles in basically every single thing you could ever read about parenting are actually RIGHT or something.

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