I don’t know about you, but getting our boys to clean their room is a massive joke. It takes them, literally, all day to finish a job that, if they would just work hard could be done in thirty minutes. But instead, they fling themselves to the floor crying “It’s too much!”. At first I assumed it was too overwhelming for their little brains to process or I’d justify it by saying they don’t know where things go. So I’d help them. But it got to the point where they would pretty much watch me clean instead of helping. I did everything else I could think of to motivate them to clean: taken away T.V. time, spankings, lectures, and even sitting in the room watching them. Nothing worked or put an end to the whining and the power struggles. So I did the only thing I could thing left to do. I took all their toys away. Every. Single. One.
The Two Faced Problem
I realized that my kids had two different problems that manifested in bedroom cleaning drama. The first was that they do, in fact have to much stuff, and because they haven’t mastered the art of putting things away when they are done, they would become overrun by everything. Between the entire mega block set being scattered across the room, the little cars that seem to multiply like rabbits, and the super hero capes and action figures filling in any spaces left, it was very overwhelming for a 5 and 3 year old
The second problem, their biggest problem, was their defiant sin natures that refused to do something they didn’t like. The fact of the matter is they didn’t WANT to clean, so they would fight me on it. And they know, because of times past, that if they whine enough, and sound helpless enough, Mom will come and fix the problem so they wouldn’t need to anymore. And it wasn’t until this last round of cleaning wars that I mentally processed what was happening. I was being manipulated again (really not hard to do). And they were failing to learn the basic command given to them by God. “Children. obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (Eph. 6:1).
While I had made to decision to take away the toys out of anger toward my children, making it a wrong response initially, I have found a way to redeem it and make it the perfect plan to address the two face-problem in 3 ways.
- It reestablished my authority over my kids. As I mentioned earlier, my boys had learned how to manipulate their momma. And nothing irritates me more than realizing I’ve allowed myself to be put in that position. They didn’t take me seriously when I told them to clean because they knew that I’d give up if they put up a fight long enough. By taking such drastic action, they saw that Mom isn’t putting up with that anymore. It also proved to me that I am not a slave to them, I am their MOM.
- It opened the door to decluttering. For some time I have been trying to find a way to declutter the boys’ toys. But I was never able to cut back much because I always managed to convince myself that they needed variety in their play choices. So again, as I mentioned earlier, this is to not only show them what life is like with less, but also proved to me that they will be okay with fewer things. The plan is to slowly give them back their things (letting them choose what they want) until I feel like they’ve reached their clutter threshold. Then donate the rest.
- It allows me to teach character. They notice several times a day that all their toys are gone, and then they remember why, because I made sure to explain it to them as I was doing it: it was to help them learn obedience. They were given a choice to keep one small basket of toys for the week. I did this so they would still have things they needed to pick up and put away. Then at the end of the week, if I feel they have practiced respect and obedience, they will get to pick another. Thus addressing the obedience issue.
What I’ve Learned
As I’ve alluded to already, I’ve learn a couple of things through this first week of being “toy free”.
The first is more of a reminder that I am the Mom. I have a say and whether they like it or not, they are commanded by God to respect me. My failure to enforce that teaching by allowing them to get away with half-hearted compliance or down-right defiance is not only crippling them for life, it’s disobedient to God as I am not doing what He has commanded me to do (See Deut. 6:7).
The second thing I’ve learned is that my kids are perfectly okay without a room full of toys. Sure, they may not have come up with the idea of playing in the water and flooding the kitchen sink if they had their toys, but they have been perfectly content with the few toys they’ve managed to find. They’ve been playing outside more (Thank you Lord for beautiful weather). They’ve been reading more books. And they haven’t asked for any of their toys back, (Which is surprising to me.)
In other words, I’ve learned that they don’t need every type of toy under the sun. They are creating their own fun with the few that they have.
This hasn’t made the problem go away
Before you become deceived that this will fix you child’s rebellion, I need to say this: We have still had obedience issues and defiant moments. But when I remember that the toys are gone, I remember the message I’m trying to teach them, that they are subject to mommy and daddy and that when they disobey, things do not go well with them.
I’m trying to teach them the importance and habit of obedience and I’m teaching myself, that consistency is key in biblical parenting.
What drastic measures have you taken to get the attention of your little people?