We’ve been having (as parents do) a bit of a problem getting the girls to pick up after themselves.
By the time bedtime rolls around (huzzah!), the living room looks like a hurricane hit it, and their bedroom isn’t much better.
Persuading, bribing, scolding, time-outs – nothing was working.
Remembering back to when my own mother had to handle this problem, I recalled that her solution was to simply bag up all the mess in Hefty’s finest – and cart it off to the town dump.
I still haven’t gotten over the trauma of losing my Starlog sci-fi magazines.
So, while this method was a tad extreme, it did result in a clean room, if an unhappy child.
So we modified. We told the girls that if they were going to treat their nice things like trash, then mama and daddy would, too. After bedtime, any kid mess was swiftly deposited in a trashbag, and left on the coffee table to be seen by our twin kidlets in the morning.
And lo! Whereupon the sleepy children laid eyes on the nicely tidy room and the proudly beaming mama – they asked the logical question, “Where’s all our toys?!”
I pointed to the bulging trashbag on the table, “There! Right where they belong!”
Wails and howls of righteous indignation followed.
No, they begged, don’t throw away our toys!
So I told them that if they put the toys away, I would help and we would save their treasures from the Wrath of Daddy. (Conveniently my husband was not around, so I blamed him.)
The toys were put away in less than 10 minutes.
Upon repetition, however, the charm and novelty of this new method of tidying soon wore off and the girls decided to see what would happen if they did not put their things away after being bagged.
Tonight, they’re going to find out.
Oooo, that sounds ominous, doesn’t it? Well, tonight when Daddy comes home, with great ceremony and fanfare he is going to take the trashbag out – and unbeknownst to the kidlets, he’s going to stow it in the trunk of his car.
That’s it. We don’t have money to throw away (pun intended – ha ha!) and toys ain’t cheap. Eventually, the toys will be subtly and quietly cycled back into the toybox, but hopefully, we’ll only have to do this once. The girls will know that mama and daddy will not cave in the face of twin pre-k stubbornness.
And that is the backbone of discipline at this age of development. Knowing that mama and daddy Mean It.
We’ve learned our lesson, that mercy is wasted on the very young. When you give them that inch, they’ll run with it for far longer than the proverbial mile.