Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Calm. Clear. Concise.

SItting up always opens a whole new world of exploration!
David and I have decided that it is time to expect Ayden to be a little more responsible with cleaning up his toys. We have him help us when he is around, and a lot of times will ask him to clean up one thing before starting the next; but most of the time the toys that he gets out during independent free play are left out for us to clean up during nap or after he goes to bed for the night.

This morning I was working in the kitchen dealing with dishes and getting dinner into the crockpot. Logan was napping and Ayden was playing nicely in the living room. I turned around to check on him and saw that he had dumped out EVERYTHING from his toy shelf and then some. Many collections of little things were spread out all over the floor. I said, "Oh Ayden, it looks like you are making a bigger mess than you are going to want to clean up. Let's take a break and put some of it back where it belongs." He ignored me. I asked him again and he looked at me and spread it around a little more. Our spirited boy was challenging me. 

I could feel anger and frustration welling up inside.  If this were an isolated incidence it would not have bothered me so badly but we go through this sort of challenge on a regular basis. Our morning had been going so well, I really did not want to disconnect from him which is what always happens when I act immediately in these situations when he triggers an emotional response from me. I closed my eyes for a moment and then walked away. He kept playing happily, thinking he had won this battle. I went to a quiet room and thought for a couple of minutes. It was something like, "He needs a clear and concise consequence than I can deliver while keeping calm. Why isn't there a manual for this?!?"  After a minute or two I had it. I came out of the bedroom and headed upstairs. Ayden tried to talk to me but I ingnored him.  I was on a mission. He followed me up to the playroom where thought we were going up to play. I walked in and got his timer and walked back downstairs. He was intrigued and followed me. "What do you think you are doing, Mommy?" (His new question that always makes us laugh a little because he so innocently uses the phrase that is usually smart aelic). He followed me to the laundry room where I emptied out a small box and then back to the living room we went. I set the box down, set the timer and set it where he could see it then finally looked him in the eye. I got down on his level and very calmly and very clearly I said, "Ayden. I have asked you to pick up these toys and you chose not to listen. Now I have set this timer and any toys left on the floor when it goes off, Mommy is going to put in this box and then I'm going to take it out to the shed."  

Well, he did not hesitate. I was a little generous and set the timer for 10 minutes, wanting him to succeed on his first time so we could celebrate after he did it, and he got it done in 5. 

It wasn't all out back where it actually belonged but it was all up off the floor and that was good enough for me!  

It felt like SUCH a success.  We celebrated and called David to tell him how we worked so well together as a team.  We rode out the rest of the day in sync and it was a good reminder of how, as parents, we don't always have to give an immediate consequence.  It is okay to step away to regain composure and perspective.  Discipline works SO much better when we leave our own emotions out of it.  Instead of fueling any fires or changing the course of our days for the worse, we can simply get the job done while teaching them a lesson. Some days will be easier than others for me personally but it will always be something that I can strive for.

I am going to keep that box handy.  Any time Ayden chooses to continue playing rather than clean up as I have asked, I'm going to get it out.  I am hoping that I will never follow through but I will if I have to and if I do it could also turn into a purging exercise.  I have heard of parents doing this and leaving the box/bag out in the garage, basement, storage shed, etc. and if the child does not "miss" a toy or ask for it back after a certain amount of time they just give it away. I've been wanting to do a major toy purge anyway!

How do you encourage your children to clean up their toys when they don't want to?


Flashback!  Here's what we were up to one year ago today: "Privileged"
Two years ago today: "Cave Lady Proud"
And three years ago today: "Happiest Baby On The Block"

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  1. Great job! I've actually utilized this natural consequence and thankfly have never had to follow through. These preschool years are very challenging, aren't they?!

  2. I really enjoyed reading this! It is very hard to get my almost three year old to clean anything up but yesterday he put one toy in a bin and I said, oh, thank you so much! He was happy to help. He usually dumps out his toys or clothes multiple times a day and it is so frustrating. We do put toys away, especially "messy" ones like Duplos, so we don't have to pick them all up all day. He definitely one to look at me and spread the toys out more. I like your solution of calmly addressing him in a way that is a true consequence. Being 35 weeks pregnant, I have less patience and I raise my voice a little more than I would like.