Tag: discipline

The ‘You Didn’t Put it Away’ box.

One thing I love about the Little Mister is that he’s super creative and inquisitive. I love the way that he can use his imagination to turn a crappy box into a car or a bunch of pipe cleaners into a pair of ridiculous glasses. He’s always so busy! It’s fantastic and it makes me feel good (i.e. relieved!) that he often opts for play over screen time.

This can come with its drawbacks, though. He hoards every little treasure he finds. Because everything – even a ripped piece of paper – can turn into the most magical thing. So you can imagine how hard it is to throw things out sometimes! Like, I wouldn’t say you’d find him on a kid version of the show Hoarders any time soon (I’ve read about some extreme cases), but he obviously accumulates a lot of clutter if you let him. On top of that, he’s 4. He doesn’t want to stop playing to do something as boring as tidying up. I am constantly nagging him to pack one activity up before he starts another.

A few weeks ago I really felt like my message was not getting through to him. I was sick and tired of the mess in his play area. I could tell he was slowly inching his way out into the family room because obviously (not that he could admit it) he was finding that he didn’t have the space to play. Which of course created more mess. I know. Who’s in charge, you’re asking? Well, despite my best efforts (and trust me I tried), I was not. It was relentless!! It was challenging to find a balance between expecting him to be accountable and learn how to do it himself, and not enabling him by losing the plot and doing it for him. Ex-bloody-sausting. I tried so many ‘appropriate’ parent-y things that came to mind. Some things helped a bit, but it felt like we just weren’t getting there without the constant whining and arguing and stand off tactics (my mum would say it’s my karma haha). Absolutely gorgeous kid, but OMG – stubborn (don’t know where he gets it from).

Finally, I remembered a concept I’d heard of a while ago. I decided to try my own version. After a bit of tailoring it to our situation, I think I’ve made some progress!

I have introduced the ‘Black Box’. It’s not as ominous (or aeronautical) as it sounds. It just happens to be a black and white, collapsible storage box from Kmart.

I bought one that doesn’t look anything like the storage boxes the Little Mister already uses in his play room. This is a different box. A special box that holds many powers. It can be a negative consequence and a reward all in one.

If I’m noticing the spread of chaos and destruction (i.e. toy/play clutter) getting a bit out of hand, I bring out (or threaten to bring out) the Black Box. I will give the Little Mister manageable tidying tasks to do or a time limit and if they’re not completed, he knows those items are going in the box. Originally, the plan was that he wouldn’t see those items for a week, but his sense of time is still not fantastic (although getting much better) and to be honest, he created so many other games/things to play with (he’s very resourceful – an asset to his character but not helpful in this situation haha), that I wasn’t getting the desired effect!

I modified this system. Now he will lose things he hasn’t put ‘where they belong’ (my mantra) and when he does tidy up properly (without arguments or constant whining), he can pick any toy (just one at a time) from the box to put back into circulation (provided he puts it where it belongs of course haha). It seems to be working!!

The only exception we make is for his sleepy comfort toys. They have to go straight to bed to wait for him. None of us could handle it if he was forced to bed without them ?

I also secretly like this system because it gives me a chance to quietly cull some junk each week (of course this is a very tricky thing – I have to be sure he won’t miss it but I do have the out of sight out of mind thing on my side)! Things like ripped up pieces of paper (not kidding), drawings and scribbles that he’s forgotten about and aren’t sentimental or indicative of some new stage in his development. Textas that are all dried up, parts of crappy $2 shop type toys that are broken, etc. You know the kind. They’re like the scourge of the earth and no matter what you do to stop them from entering your home, they cannot be stopped! Aargh!

I am wondering if I could even start a Gumtree (online trading post) toy selling racket from this hahaha.

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OK, I’m kidding, but it’s tempting!! Although, creating a little ‘donate to charity’ collection around birthdays/Christmas may be a possibility.

In all seriousness, if some ‘good’ items stay in the box for a prolonged period of time and are overlooked repeatedly, they may just go to a ‘better place’ (the op shop) or be archived for sentimental reasons (mine)!

I am hoping this system continues to work! Wish me luck!

How do you convince your messy kids to tidy their stuff? How do you get away with ditching some of their crap treasures? Any other cool ideas that work/ed for you? 

It’s taken 10 months for the crazy to come out.

Pic: Insert metaphor about growth here

Oh my gawd, you guys. Sh*t’s getting real around here. The Little Mister is now a fully fledged ten month old. He’s doing stuff that’s freaking my husband and I out. I’m finding the strangest things coming out of my mouth – stuff I never thought I would ever hear myself say. Everything from the simple stuff…

“No, Little Mister – you’re not allowed to stand up in the bath. You’ve gotta sit down, OK.”

“No, Little Mister – don’t play with the rubbish bin. It’s all icky!”

“No, Little Mister – step back from the television. You’ll get sore eyes.”

…to the weird…

“Little Mister, staring at your mummy very intently while discovering your private bits in the bath will be very embarrassing to you one day.”

“Little Mister, don’t eat your nappies. They go on your bottom to catch your poos.”

“Little Mister, LET GO OF MY CHIN! UNLATCH YOUR JAW NOW! …PLEASE.”

“Little Mister, Mummy appreciates your offer greatly, but I will just let you eat that soggy piece of food by yourself.”

“Why are you eating my sock?”

“Furniture is not food!”

It became apparent not very many weeks ago that the Little Mister is getting clever. I mean, I am biased so of course he’s the smartest baby in the world (and good looking to boot), but there’s come a point where slowly, I’ve realised that life will never be the same. I mean, it was never going to be, once he popped out of me and into the world, but now I GET IT.

This realisation started when he began to crawl. Moving about, investigating everything. Making faces at me and waiting for a reaction. Getting mad when I don’t follow him somewhere or I decide to go to the toilet (something I’d stupidly assumed a human adult just does by themselves – dudes, I’m getting schooled). Waking me up in the middle of the night because he thinks it’s a good time to play (I think he’s found my reaction very disappointing). Pulling himself up on furniture. Staring at the television intently – from about an inch away. Guess I won’t be catching up on Law and Order: SVU or Criminal Minds in the daytime anymore. Not wanting to scar my kid for life and all. In fact, there isn’t much TV watching at all anymore…my poor DVR. OK, so true to stay-at-home mum style I do sneak in some Ellen during my “lunch break”. If you can call it that.

I realised that the Little Mister has finally reached the age where I have to consider…discipline. Discipline! You mean I can’t just put everything he does down to innocence and cuteness anymore?? He’s actually starting to *gasp* KNOW BETTER? I have to actually say NO? I have to lay down ground rules? I have to be MEAN MUMMY occasionally? I’m being watched now. I have to lead by example. Be consistent. Try to swear less (it’s a work in progress). The pressure! I mean, I dropped out of teachers’ college in my early 20s because I couldn’t handle the pressure of being an every day role model (that and I sucked at maths). What was I thinking having a child of my own?!

I thought that teething was the biggest problem in the world. Now I’m spending every day hiding my valuables (dirty little thieving mongrel) and cleaning up food disasters of epic ‘crime scene’ proportions! After that there might be time to have a shower, scratch myself or breathe a little.

DID I MENTION THE LITTLE MISTER SPENT A WHILE TRYING TO DROP ONE OF HIS DAYTIME NAPS?!

Luckily I talked him out of it. Things got a little too screamy and screechy and clumsy in the afternoons so he has agreed to trial a second nap once more. So far, so good.

One night my husband and I were sitting on the couch, enjoying the silence, adult dinner, and television that isn’t animated (or featuring a puppet owl with a high pitched voice), when my husband stopped and looked like he’d seen a ghost.

“I just had a thought…” he said. Uh-oh, I thought. Out loud, I am sure I said, “What about?”

“What…what do we do…when the Little Mister uses a toddler bed…and he figures out how to open doors? Like in the middle of the night – what if he wakes up and gets out of bed and just starts wandering the house? How do we keep him safe? Do we lock him in his room? Do we let him wander – I mean, is locking him in his room bad? How would we even know he was up?? WHAT DO WE DO???”

“I DON’T KNOW! I HAVEN’T READ A BOOK ABOUT THAT YET!!!!!! IS THERE A BOOK ABOUT THAT?!!!”

Yep. You thought just having a baby – like giving birth and being allowed to bring it home from the hospital and everything – would be crazy and new. Turns out you just find new things to worry about until forever. I mean, my mum warned me this would happen but stupidly I didn’t really believe her…

SO WHAT DO YOU DO? I’m probably just gonna stay Awesomely Unprepared until that time sneaks up on me. Unless you have any suggestions…

Of course there are some amazing moments with the Little Mister. He loves playing “copying” games. He’s so quick to learn and he loves to copy us (yes – I am aware of the dangers of this) or be copied. He will bob his head from side to side and wait for us to imitate him. I’m trying to encourage him to perhaps try more of a nodding type movement…so when he gets even smarter, I will at least feel like he’s saying ‘yes’ or agreeing with me…it will be a sweet, sweet lie that I can tell myself…

Today my heart just about melted when my husband was giving him tickly kisses on a part of his neck/cheek area (he’s kind of chubby so they’re basically the same thing) that makes him giggle like a little lunatic. The Little Mister tried to do it back to my husband and when my husband pretend-giggled as if he was ticklish too, the Little Mister was SO HAPPY I THOUGHT HE WAS GOING TO SHAKE RIGHT OUT OF HIS OWN SKIN WITH LAUGHTER AND JOY. I know, right?

I might get kicked in the boobs whenever he’s on the change table, he might test me in the middle of the night (although I’ve been implementing something I like to call “Sleep School” where I have this whole system I’ve devised in order to teach him to shut up and sleep, in which he’s responding very well – thank goodness – don’t worry, it’s very humane and lovely), he might keep trying to steal my food and the food of my family and friends when we’re in public, and embarrass the hell out of me when he thinks squealing is an appropriate way to make friends. His interior decorating ideas may differ greatly from mine – everything seems better pushed as far away from its original place as possible or on a tipped over angle – but I am having a blast.

My little baby boy is fast headed towards toddlerhood and I could not be more terrified excited 🙂