Friday, March 22, 2013

Consequences and the Great Toy Reduction

All kids need the boundaries firmed up sometimes and mine are no exception. In fact, lets just be honest, my kids need the boundaries firmed up often. They need daily reminders of our expectations and consistent encouragement to make wise choices.

A recent bout of particularly outrageous behaviour from our young man had us searching for strategies to keep him focused, calm and more manageable. We found that there were always toys scattered from room to room, the pace was always fast and energy at absolute fever pitch. Keeping on top of things was almost impossible, especially for this pregnant mumma.

In light of the impending birth of baby Beetlehshack #3 something had to be done, and fast.

I simply could not continue to spend the majority of every day with my voice raised and my temper dictating my responses.

While we have always discussed consequences and actioned them when necessary, a simple time out (or dare I confess it, the odd smack) was no longer achieving the results we were yearning for.

In my recent readings of this book, I have re-learned the importance of conscious, positive parenting and realised that for me to stay in control, things in the home needed to move a bit more slowly and with a touch more method in the madness.

We identified one main issues that we wanted to address - the amount of toys that our kids had immediate access to and the way in which they played with them.

Our first step was to confiscate all inside toys. Together Dave and I packed up the train sets, the lego and the duplo while large trucks and diggers were put in the sandpit.

That left craft supplies (safely packed away in a cupboard), the play kitchen and books at their disposal.

We decided that we would use a 'tick chart' for the kids to earn back their toy privileges. At the end of the each day, if they had received 5 ticks on their chart they could choose one toy to play with for a set period. After that time, the toys would be packed up and put back out of reach.

To be honest, I was dubious about this plan of attack, we've tried similar things in the past without positive results. But my desire to increase the calm won me over and we stuck to our guns.

The toys remained out of reach, the positive interactions increased and the ticks quickly added up.

Each day for the first week we would stretch up to the top of the wardrobe and carefully pull down the toy of their choosing. Together we would sit on the mat and built and train track, a duplo tower or a lego car. We would talk about the day and all of the wonderful things they had done to earn their ticks. Zeph's little face would truly beam with joy and I could tell that the rewards far surpassed the 'toy time'.

He could choose to listen, he could choose not to unstrap his seat belt, he could choose not to tantrum when he didn't get his way and he really can use his manners without the need to be reminded!

All of a sudden this boy has grown up.

We've been using the 'tick chart' for three weeks now and I can't tell you what a difference it has made to our home life. There are no longer toys scattered all over the floor at the end of every day, there are much less frequent squabbles over possessions and our kids are actually happier and more calm.

It feels good to have a parenting success and it feels great to be able to consciously reward my kids for their improved behaviour.

 Hi, I'm Emily- The One With The Rough Kid.


  1. Oh. Wow. I think that you might just have transformed our home life! I've been battling with similar issues (minus being pregnant), and getting really exhausted by the groundhog day feeling of constantly picking up toys and junk off the floors. Plus the toddler tantrums. SOOOOOO starting this tomorrow!

  2. Yes the merits of firm, fair treatment are plenty. I remember my mum using sticker charts for my brother and I and we have always kept the toy levels down in the knowledge given to us by a family friend that less is more :)

  3. My parents had a similar reward system for toys & 'special' activities for my sisters & I as children, & it really worked a treat. It's one of those parenting-things I've tucked away in my mind for when I have littles.
    I'm glad it still seems to be a positive tactic for parenting!
    I'm so happy for you, Em (& Dave)! YAY! :)

    Sar xx

  4. Bravo lovely people! It is one thing to acknowledge less than savoury behaviour and then do the "What can you do?". It is another to dig deep and nut out a plan of attack to make your home a lovely place for everyone in it. Sounds like a magnificent idea! So pleased it has brought wonderful calm to your happy home. Wishing you a gorgeous weekend :) x

  5. Great idea with the toy strategy ;-) finding something that works is so great! I started reading 1-2-3 magic recently and love how that has been working for my toddler. It has seriously changed her behaviour so much, it's incredible!
    Sounds like you are doing an amazing job! Can't wait to hear news of your new wee one

  6. Awesome post and even more awesome that you had such success. We already do a little of this but you've inspired me to put away even more toys and do more of this technique. Also I have just started reading a book I found in my new towns local op shop, it is called 1,2,3 Magic and it is fantastic. Have you read it? Xx

  7. I really, really like this post. It's resonated strongly with me, and I'll be having another clear out this weekend. I also think it's important for my children to appreciate what they have a lot more than what they currently do, which hopefully this will help with. I love the idea of having more things outdoors too. Well done you, and thank you xx

  8. The "stuff" can become so overwhelming. I know I'm more calm and patient when the house is clean (and I'm not even a neat-freak so it doesn't need to be that clean). Any system that keeps the stuff organized, would help my sanity, I'm sure. Thanks for the great idea.

  9. Sometimes I think they toss all of the toys out of their toyboxes just because they can. It's certainly not because they want to play with them. This idea is fantastic and so interesting in the way it has transformed your household.

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  11. I'm so glad this is working for you. I'm adding this idea to my 'good advice' folder for when Lulu is a little older. At the moment I just rotate toys because I find that Lulu plays better when she has just one or two toys to play with. If too much stuff is overwhelming for us, just imagine how it is for them!

  12. That's great! I did a big toy reduction a year and a half or so ago after a particularly awful tantrum from my now just turned six year old. My intention was to do what you did and have a structured toy return system, but you know what? She didn't really miss anything, so we sort of forgot about it! It was a good circuit breaker though. And a lot of that stuff was sent to the oppy.

  13. that is great. last year i found myself fighting daily with Lily over her cleaning up her toys. something we do several times during the day. it was a fight. several times a day. every day. there was screaming from me and tears from the both of us. things were not working out. so in a not so proud rage, i grabbed two big garbage bags and i did what i had promised: i took away whatever toys were all over the place. her favorite, play with every day toys. i put the toys in the garage and they were out of sight for months. she thought they had gone back to toyland and gone. around christmas time when it came time to write her wish list, she mentioned the toys she wanted the most were her lost toys in toyland. and could santa find them? well, did santa ever find them on christmas morning Lily's face was priceless when she saw all of her toys (dollhouse included) underneath the christmas tree. it was a hard lesson but it was a lesson learned. she is very good about her cleaning up now.

  14. I feel for you Em, one of the most challenging things about being a parent for me are the constantly evolving set of needs our children present to us sometimes daily so I sometimes feel I sort out one thing and something else presents itself... sigh... glad you found something that is working for your family. Last year I started going to a study group on Simplicity Parenting and I can honestly say the simple doable changes around rhythm, "stuff" and media etc has changed the way we parent. If you can find the time to read the book I highly recommend it! With understanding love from one Mama to another xx

  15. Montessori has been perfect for us in teaching Jude to put one toy away when he's finished with it and pick his new one. Of course he needs gentle reminding of this about three million times a day ;) Everything having a place is another beautiful lesson we are both learning, Jude's doing heaps better than me at it. (clothes all over MY floor!) Not having a heap of toys out really helps too! x

  16. oh em, i too have been doing this (not quite the same format) but in earnest since new year i have been packing away toys and simplifying life! hundreds of toys and books have been put away in the loft and the kids haven't even noticed. Picking things up was stealing all our joy and peace and calm and i was loosing my mind! even yesterday i did another simplified session. all the games i have put in a cupboard in the kitchen got packed away in the loft....the cupboard has gone ion the garden and the empty space is going to be filled with a little table (when i find one) to seat at in the kitchen. it's been joyous, my kids are so much happier! i love we are doing the same thing xxxx

  17. Brilliant, and it's good to hear how well it's worked for you. I always have to remind myself how important it is to praise (exuberantly!) good behaviour rather than constantly nagging/scolding/shouting for bad behaviour. They just glow when you praise them, it's lovely to see.

    Gillian x

  18. Gosh why haven't thought of this before! The constant fights over packing up and seeing the same mess of toys appear day after day is driving us mad....I'm sure my daughter too! So going to try this!

  19. Hi Emily, I'm new to your blog and just LOVE it sssooo much. I have one question regarding this particular post... At which time of the day do u put this into practice? Around dinner time? Or earlier?

    1. Hey Anon, thanks for the compliment re the blog, thats lovely of you!

      Do you mean the playing with the 'special' toy? We would do that as soon as the 5 ticks had been earned so usually in the afternoon sometime. After bath and before bed is always a good time here though!



Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, advice and solidarity.

xo em