A Last Resort. (I hope.)

This was the last straw. This is a lovely doll’s high chair given to me by a wonderful friend a couple of years ago for the girls at Christmas. It is sturdily built, and has made it through use by my friend’s daughters and granddaughter.

Up until about six months ago (give or take), my kids were actually pretty good at taking care of their things. There has always been a childish carelessness, but I didn’t have too hard of a time teaching them to do better. It was a rare event to have to throw away or repair toys. Over the course of the last several months, this tendency of theirs has diminished. Greatly. To put it mildly.

In short, their rate of toy abuse has risen dramatically. They have actually deliberately destroyed a couple of toys! This has literally never happened until recent months. Ever. I began “grounding” toys for a time, and trying to make sure everything stayed organized, with only a few things out at once. With so many toys to keep track of, it became nearly impossible for me to stay on top of things. Basically, I tried new tactics to teach them organization and good stewardship.

I now know why, after much trial and error, why this destructive tendency has risen so dramatically. We have too many toys. For a long time, I have really limited the number of toys we own, simply because of the size of my house. However, since they have always been relatively good about taking care of their things, I kind of backed off on the “one toy in, one toy out” rule, and we have accumulated quite a number of toys – mostly birthdays, Christmas, and thrift stores.

You saw that high chair up there, right? That thing is solid wood. Solid. Not cheap particle board. The wood itself is snapped. That is serious destruction. It is the last straw in a string of toys meant to be passed on that my kids have managed to destroy irreparably.

I now know how Mom felt when she came down the basement stairs after The Earthquake Incident. (That’s a whole other post, but I’m sure you can gather from its title what it might entail.) To teach my sisters and I – really, it was mostly me – to appreciate and take care of what we had, my parents boxed up every single toy we owned for the whole summer. It worked really well. Sure, the occasional toy still got broken, but not like before.

Following in my parents’ footsteps (aren’t you proud, Mom & Dad?), I put every single toy they own into their toy boxes, where they will reside in the garage for a full month. They were each allowed to keep a lovey to sleep with, but that’s it. Even their outside toys will be locked away in the shed for the time.

I also told them that when the month is over, they’re not getting all of them back. They will get a very slimmed-down version of their little hoard. I haven’t yet decided if they will get to help choose which toys stay and which toys go. And – we will also re-institute the “one toy in, one toy out” rule. It just makes life easier. I’m sure it will be hard for them, but I really think that, in the long run, this might be the best way to teach them to appreciate and care for what they have.

I’m considering putting all the books away too, because books are one thing I have always been strict with. More books have lost covers and had pages torn or cut up in the last several months than in the six-plus years before that. It’s ridiculous, and it must stop.

At any rate, we’ll be starting over, and I hope this is truly a last resort. I’m sure they’ll still be kids, and things will get broken once in awhile, but I really do hope this lesson sinks in well enough that we don’t have to resort to such drastic measures again.

I’ve always known that, when it comes to toys, less really is more, if I stick to good quality items and keep the quantity down. This was just a hard way to learn I can’t back off on that standard at all with five kids to keep track of.

What will they play with? Good question. There are still plenty of sticks and dirt outside, and they have their imaginations. I don’t think they need much more than that right now.

What do you think? Have you ever dealt with this issue? How did you handle it? What would you do differently, if anything?


6 thoughts on “A Last Resort. (I hope.)

  1. While there might be a few people in your house that disagree with me, that seems like a pretty good idea. Keep us updated on the results!

  2. Wow! I’m so sorry! I think a lot of kiddos are going through this phase right now. My daughter decided to help her friend cut up a brand new tent in their backyard and then when I told her she would be spanked severely, she bowed her head and said, shamefully, “I know, mommy. I deserve it.” After that she didn’t cry for her spanking or her mandatory “time in seclusion”. Then just a few days later I caught her and her friends Jumping on the bags of groceries I JUST BOUGHT! Including eggs! I spanked them all severely and sent them to time outs. Then a few days after that incident, my friend’s daughter decided to tear apart the foam post guards on the trampoline. She tore every single one off. We don’t even know how she did it! But she was also spanked. I don’t know what is going on. Normally, Dita is so careful with her toys and books and she won’t let anyone destroy anything of hers. Now she has been tearing up colouring books and letting her friends help her destroy stuff. Maybe our toys and books need to make a visit to the garage too? I don’t know. I’m so sorry that this happened to you though. I know it is really hard and you are still super mom, in my eyes. Love you, Tiff! You rock!

  3. That sounds like a punishment that fits the crime. I’m sure it was hard to do, but it is something you have done because you love them and want to teach them. Have peace in that thought.

  4. We did the same thing last summer. Not so much because toys were getting destroyed but because they were taking way too long to pick up everything and they were not doing a good job. After a few weeks they were able to earn back one toy at a time. It seemed to help. Now with our play room I’m trying to decide what to do. Things are getting out of hand….We just have a larger age span and with both genders….we have a lot of toys.

  5. We have so been there Tiff ;( My kid’s have broken more toys than I would like to admit. They also have been very slow at cleaning lately. I just might have to try this myself soon.

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