Today I’d had it. I stood up and looked around my house and saw nothing but electronics, stuffed animals, blankets and toys. It wasn’t even just toys. It was food wrappers. It is not that my kids don’t know they need to pick up after themselves. They just don’t do it. They choose to just drop things and leave them were they end up. The only time they pick up is when I finally have to tell them to do so.
So, I hit my breaking point. They are home on a snow day and I’ve had to tell them more than once to pick up their things. They are not going to like it, but I’ve been saying this was going to happen. In fact, over the past several days I had been telling them that if they didn’t start to pick up their things, they were going off to toy jail. They didn’t think I was serious. That would be their first mistake – Know that if Mom threatens something, she usually follows through. So now, the hard lesson begins.
All of their items are currently living in my closet, or what I’ve now dubbed “toy jail.” We’ve got 4 or 5 blankets, 15 or so stuffed animals, 2 Nintendos, a Kindle and miscellaneous other “inmates” take up residency in jail (see – I told you they left a lot lying around the house). As my kids come in from playing in the snow, they will find a letter explaining what has happened, why I did it and what they can do to bail them out. The idea is to teach them that if they don’t care about their things or have enough respect for our home to pick up their things, then why should I?
As I was doing this, I had one of those “I’m just like my mother” moments. I can recall my mom saying she was going to throw away our shoes if we did not pick them up. It only took it happening to my sister one time for us both to know that she was serious (as I recall my sister digging through the trash to look for them — when mom had set them on her closet shelf). She taught me well and I now get the pleasure of passing this along to my own kids.
What does this cost my kids? Well, if they want to bail something out of jail, they have to do something good in return for me. It can be as simple as not fighting all evening with their siblings to remembering to put their backpack in the closet when they get home from school. They can even do chores (outside of the normal ones we require of them). The idea is that if they don’t respect their toys enough to care for them, why should I?
Am I being tough? Some may think so. But with 3 kids leaving a tornado in their wake, something had to be done. My guess is that toy jail will not live for long in our house, when my kids take notice that mom was serious and they go without that special toy for an afternoon, an evening or more. I love my kids more than life itself, and I want them to have respect for not only their belongings, but our home and me as their mom.