Tag Archive | parental temper tantrum

Actions Speak Louder Than Words – Part 2

Subtitle: Or that time I threw my kids’ stuff all over the family room to prove a point.

One of my biggest “mommy meltdown” triggers is mess. Not so much the mess itself but the attitude that accompanies it. I can live with a bit of clutter, but the lack of concern that the other residents of my house seem to show their personal belongings and our shared space by carelessly leaving everything everywhere, happily stepping over the “stuff” in their paths going about their business drives me batty.

I have a tendency to lecture and of course I’ve found that this is not particularly effective at getting my point across to two hyperactive kiddos. (Read about the last time this happened here). So WHAT THE HECK DO I DO??

Is there anyone out there who can honestly say that they have no trouble getting their kids to pick up after themselves? Who never finds themselves sighing and tidying it all up yet again, deciding it’s just not worth the fight today? Who has found the solution to the age-old problem of their kids (and spouses too…and heck, probably themselves also) always letting the chips, not to mention the Cheerios, markers, Legos, and dress-up, stuff fall where they may?

If there is, for goodness’ sake, please drop me a line and tell me HOW YOU DID IT…but for the rest of you, let us take a moment here to commiserate…

As a parent, it seems like my life is a constant battle against a slowly encroaching mass of clutter. No matter how often we cull our “stuff” and deliver carloads to Value Village – and vow not to buy any more crap to replace it…No matter how many times we lecture Ben and Molly about picking up after themselves….No matter how many times Ian and I both vow to turn over a new leaf ourselves, find a place for everything and everything in its place and THIS TIME WE’RE REALLY SERIOUS.

Garbage Depot

M*A*S*H fans will get this.

And by virtue of being the adult who spends the most time in the house, most of the time when something needs doing around here, including picking up the clutter and cleaning up the messes, I’m the one who winds up doing it.

This weekend Ian tackled a “Honey-Do” list of yard work while I took a break from house and kid stuff and concentrated on work stuff. He stepped up and exceeded expectations – the yard looks fantastic, we ate like kings, and the kids even got bathed! He figured he was on a roll, I guess, and while cooking dinner, he directed the kids to tidy up their craft corner.

Ben and Molly are very fortunate to have an incredible craft corner – a table and chairs in the corner of the family room surrounded by shelves and drawers full of craft supplies; heaven for a couple of creative kids like them. The only trouble is that whenever they emerge with the products of their creative process, the corner looks like a battlefield upon which pixies mounted on My Little Ponies waged a war to the death armed with pipecleaners and tapeffiti.

Oh, the humanity…

So when Ian issued his directive, the kids launched into their usual laundry list of complaints: “I don’t FEEL like it!” “I don’t LIKE tidying up!” “I wasn’t the one who MADE the mess!” “It’s TOO MUCH work! There’s TOO MANY things to pick up!”

With much prodding and reminding and at least one time out (Molly, natch), they got on with it, and fifteen minutes later Ben came to tell me they were done.

I went to inspect and found…less chaos, but still chaos – the bulk of the craft supplies had been put away, but the table and floor were still littered with scraps of paper, the odd pencil crayon, and pieces of torn cardboard packaging destined for the recycling box…and I kinda snapped.

In my defense, this is not a new issue. Ben and Molly are now 7 and 4. They have each had years of schooling in a Montessori classroom where they are responsible – from the age of 2 – for putting back every single item they take out before they start another activity. They are both ever-so-slightly nearsighted but I have no reason to believe that they are incapable discerning the difference between construction paper and carpet from a distance of 4 feet.

Cue the mommy tantrum: I ranted. I raved. I lectured. I self-pitied. And then I picked up a handful of papers and yelled, “This is what you guys do. You just toss stuff around, and then you say, ‘Oh well, I don’t want to pick it up…'” and tossed it in the air.

Ben and Molly said, “Hey!”

And then, just as suddenly, I became utterly calm. I slowly and deliberately picked up the rest of the pile of papers and I tossed it as high as I could in the air. Ben and Molly’s jaws dropped as it slowly drifted back down in soft construction-paper flurries.

Ben admonished, “Mommy! We JUST cleaned that all up!”

A slight smile playing at the corner of my lips, I said, “I know.

Ben demanded, “You did that on PURPOSE!! WHY did you do that?”

With a shrug, I said, “I don’t know. I just felt like it.”

Utterly indignant, Ben cried, “But we JUST cleaned it all UP!”

Nodding sagely, I said, “I know. And now you have to do it all again.”

Molly shouted, “NO!” stomping her foot for emphasis.

I smiled. “Yes.”

Ben argued, “But that’s not FAIR! We didn’t make the mess! We JUST finished cleaning it up!”

I agreed cheerfully, “That’s true. You did. Now do it again.

Molly countered, “NO! You do it!”

I grinned broadly and replied, “Nope. I don’t feel like it. I don’t actually like tidying up. It’s too much work. There’s too many things to pick up. You guys can do it for me.

Ben and Molly stared open-mouthed, and I walked away.

As I passed through the kitchen, Ian high-fived me and grinned. “Well played.”

Kids art station - all their art supplies in private corner for them to create.

The craft corner, post clean-up (#2).


By the time dinner was ready, the craft corner looked great. Over bangers and mash, we discussed why I had done it and how it made them feel. We talked about how we all like the house better when it’s tidy, because it looks nicer and we always know where to find our stuff. We discussed how no-one likes cleaning up messes, especially someone else’s, and about how putting things away as you go prevents  messes in the first place. And after dinner we had a family race to put 10 things away each – winner got to choose dessert.

The real problem is, Ian and I are as much to blame as the kids – if not more so. We tell them we expect them to pick up after themselves, but we don’t do a very good job of setting the example. We walk around leaving stuff behind too – the only difference between us and them is that we *really* mean to put it away where it belongs at some point; just not right now. 

Admitting we have a problem is the most important part, of course, and we are both trying to reform. It’s a vicious cycle, though – the more we try to pick up after ourselves, the more frustrated we get at the messes that remain, the more discouraged we get, and the more likely we are to backslide.

But we’re all going to work together as a family to keep each other on track, and hopefully it will make the difference.

Teach your kids to pick up after themselves with this ONE easy trick from www.picklesINK.com #parenting #organizing

Teach your kids to pick up after themselves with this ONE easy trick! At least that’s what I captioned this so people will want to Pin it. But seriously, it’s easy – easier said than done, that is.

I’ll keep you posted…

~ karyn

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

The downside of having two very intelligent and highly verbal children is that they can and will argue you into a corner EVERY TIME. Last week Ian and I decided that it was high time we had a (somewhat) tidy house again.

Brio Peak and Brio Valley had been slowly but surely taking over the first floor. Brio Peak was very impressive, but since hitting its…uh…pinnacle around January/February, it had gone…uh…downhill, so to speak. <—- see what I did there? While it was still a spectacular installation when viewed as a whole, there were a lot of broken bits (either through accident or the frequent “bad storms” that seem to affect the geographic area of the living room). As a result, most of the living room, entranceway, and playroom was littered with pieces of wooden track, Lego, blocks, and Playmobil people and accessories.

Ben and I had had many discussions in which I had said that I was fine with Brio Valley staying out as long as the mess was kept under control – that meant that any parts that were not recognizable as built tracks had to be tidied away into boxes or cubbies – and he agreed.

When it comes to tidying up though, I have to admit I’m not a great one for follow-through – it is often easier to just do it myself than to make Ben and Molly do it. Unfortunately for all of us, this means that when I do lay down the law and try to make them do it, it’s all that much harder – and, with the aforementioned problem of intelligent and verbal children, it becomes a nightmare of:

“But I still need to play with that!!”

“But Molly was supposed to do that part!!”

“But Ben’s not helping!!”

“But Molly’s just playing!!”

“But I don’t LIKE cleaning up!!”

“I WILL help in a MINUTE”

“I DID put the scissors away – I put them away on the table so I know where they are when I need them!”

“I DID put the toys in the playroom like you said!!”

“But you NEVER SAID to put them in their CUBBY!”






…which it did, and I had what 1-2-3 Magic calls a parental temper tantrum. I told Ben and Molly to sit down against the wall and not do anything while I finished cleaning up.

And then, because I was on a roll, I cleaned up EVERYTHING. Including Brio Valley and Brio Peak. With whispering golf sportscasters in the background:

“Ben! Mommy’s cleaning up Brio Valley!” “I know – my track-building masterpiece!” “But what are we going to do without Brio Valley?” “I don’t know!” “Is she putting it all away?” “I don’t know. I hope not!”

I did calm down, and I give myself a little pat on the back because I DIDN’T yell through this whole process, which I feel was impressive given the amount of yelling and screaming that was being directed AT me by Ben and Molly.

I think the fact that I didn’t yell helped my case quite a lot – *I* knew that it started out as a mommy tantrum, but Ben and Molly didn’t – they just saw the resulting action of me dismantling Brio Peak, and it got the message across that this was A. Big. Deal.

Actions louder than words

Photo of part of Brio Peak. Overlay reads: “Actions speak louder than words. Even really loud words.”

Ian gave them dinner, and they ate quietly and well, without as much complaining as often happens at the dinner table, and he took them up to get ready for bed while I finished the tidy and moved all the toys back to the playroom.

When I finished I joined them upstairs and then we had The Talk.

I said, “Remember when I first asked you to help tidy up and I said if you couldn’t help keep the living room tidy, you wouldn’t be allowed to play in the living room anymore? Well, you wouldn’t help tidy up, even when I gave you small jobs to do like putting away one marker and a pair of scissors, so now you can’t play in the living room.”

Ben, subdued, asked, “But can I ever have Brio Peak back?”

“Yes. We will start out by having toys only in the playroom, and if you show me that you can put them away when you’re finished playing with them, we can try having Brio Peak again. Molly, that goes for you too. What do you do at school when you’re finished with a job?”

“Put it away.”

“And what happens if you don’t put it away?”

“Can’t do that job anymore.”

“Now the same goes at home, for both of you.”

Ian: “If you finish playing with something and you don’t put it away, mommy or I will ask you to put it away. If you don’t put it away when we ask you, you will sit out AND that toy will go away for a week.”

Molly: *gasp* “A whole week??”

Ben: “What about if I want to play with something again later, like a train track?”

Me: “If it is built, and you ask permission, it can stay out. But pieces of track or blocks that aren’t built have to go away.”

Ben: “How will I know if it has to go away?”

Ian: “You tidy up what you think needs to go away, then ask us if that’s okay, and we’ll either say yes or tell you what else has to go away.”

Me: “We will try this for a little while, and if it goes well, you can build Brio Peak again – BUT it has to be kept tidy, so when you build it, you can bring your track drawers into the living room, and take the track pieces that you’re using out, and the ones that you aren’t using yet stay in the drawer, not all over the floor. Got it?”

Ben and Molly: “Got it.”

So we’ll see how it all goes. I know that for Ian and me it will be an effort to enforce the new rules rather than let it slide and pick things up themselves. I just went into the playroom and stopped myself as I bent down to pick up a train on the floor – when Ben gets home from daycamp, I’ll start by asking him to put it away and we’ll go from there.

I am a little frustrated with myself that it started as a mommy tantrum, but I’m happy with the way it turned out. Ian and I are both comfortable with my decision to dismantle Brio Peak and would have made the same decision had we taken the time to discuss it calmly and weigh the options – it seems like that actual ACTION was necessary to derail (so to speak) Ben and Molly’s knee-jerk objections to tidying up and stun them into silence long enough to actually reflect on the situation.

And I’m proud of myself for not screaming, which used to be MY knee-jerk (and not nearly as effective or productive) reaction to achieve that same stunned silence. Actions speak louder than words, even really, really loud words.

~ karyn

How do you get your kids to tidy up? What are your rules about toys? Have you had a parental temper tantrum? How did you come back from it?