{Big Girl Panties} I see your bluff.

I laid out the terms before he and Daddy left for the park. Daddy reinforced them both on the way to and the way home from the park several times over.

It was his choice. I had given him plenty of warning. I had given him plenty of opportunity. I had even invited him to come along side me and work together.

“No thanks mama. You can clean up my toys so I can earn them back,” he said. I couldn’t believe my ears, so I asked him several more times. The answer was always the same.

He didn’t think I’d go through with it. Which meant now I had to follow through. I set about tearing down the walls of his block city and throwing the pieces into a bag. I smiled at his creative use of a a sandwich bag box as a garage as I dumped the cars tucked away inside. And I paused for a second to admire his intricate craftsmanship of streets of his city and the way the street signs and people were placed just so.

Honestly, I didn’t want to pick it up either. This block city was beautiful and had taken him several days to create. If it was in his room, I would have left it up for a really long time. But it was right smack in the middle of our office, which is meant it was right smack in the middle of the shortest route between the living room and kitchen. And I was tired of nearly tripping over it all the time.

The gravity of his choice didn’t hit him right away. In fact, he was fine until bed time. That is when he discovered his most prized possession- a Matchbox car named Nightburner was in one of the four large garbage bags of toys stashed away in my closet.

I had called his bluff. I had to. The stakes were too high. 

The sobbing in his bed nearly killed me. We are talking straight up wailing and gnashing of teeth style crying and mini fits of rage. I had to keep telling myself over and over, he is the one who made the decision. Not me. I have to teach him these hard lessons. That is part of my mama job. What I really wanted to do was to run in there and tell him he could have his toys back.

I did run in there to be with him as he cried. The emotions were so big I couldn’t bare the thought of him being alone to deal with them on his own. He crawled into my lap and cried. And cried and cried some more. When he settled down we talked about who made the choice and why we have to choose wisely. This was a big teachable moment. We worked out a plan on earning his toys back- if he picked up his toys properly tomorrow night, the next morning he could earn one bag back. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

He’s earned all of his bags back now. And he’s been very diligent at picking up his toys every night after dinner.

Lesson learned.

Big Girl Panties Stakes

At some point, most parents do something like this. My bag went straight out to the garbage can and I was devastated because Alphie the robot was in there. I know it probably killed my mom too because he was expensive! I still remember being heartbroken, which is why I wanted Malone to be able to earn his toys back.

Did it happen to you as a kid? What was in the bag? Or if you’re a parent, tell me how you’ve handled this in your house.

I love hearing from you. It makes my day. Seriously.

This post is linked up with Shell at Things I Can’t Say. She’s lovely. Read her blog and prove me wrong. I dare you.

19 Responses to {Big Girl Panties} I see your bluff.

  1. christie elkins

    Wow. This is beautiful in a “motherhood is SO hard” way. Kudos for you for letting your “yes be yes” and your “no be no”. He will so respect that as he grows. May Nightburner reclaim his spot in the block city. RIP Alphie the Robot :(
    christie elkins recently posted..31 Days of Encouragement Unexpected, Day 28: cops really do like donuts.My Profile

    • Let your yes be yes and your no be no comes out of my mouth at least once a day. I know the hard work now will pay off later!

  2. thedoseofreality

    Phew. Those parenting moments are so tough. But, you totally HAD to do it, and your son won’t forget this lesson. It will stick with him. Good for you! :) -Ashley
    thedoseofreality recently posted..Would You Rather: Be Costume-less Or The Only One Wearing A Costume?My Profile

  3. Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama

    Wow, way to follow through, Mama! These teachable moments can be so tought, but some day our children will look back and thank us for the tough love!
    Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted..18 MonthsMy Profile

  4. I love the idea of earning them back. A friend of mine throws away anything her child leaves on the floor with no hesitation or remorse and I can’t bring myself to do that regularly. It is heart breaking but the lesson has to be learned! Good job Mama!
    Herchel S recently posted..Wy I WorryMy Profile

  5. Wow! I am impressed with your patience and stick to it-ness. I don’t think I have even thought about taking their toys away.

    My three have never been good cleaner uppers. But at almost 14 my oldest is finally getting it. I know that she feels better in a clean, neat space. Today she spent over an hour cleaning up her room with no direction from me. She even vacuumed and dusted. So somewhere and somehow something sinked in.

  6. That was a wise and very good idea! I think I need to try this. I have had these same issues, and I have a teenager who called my bluff all of the time. It sucks. I am going to do better with the two year old. She turns three at the end of December so I am start slowly when I think she can really understand what I am doing.
    Jen recently posted..Happy Halloween Treat BagMy Profile

    • It is really the first time I’ve had to do it with him. It worked out in the end and I think he learned his lesson. I can imagine I’ll be a basket case when I start calling a teenager’s bluff.

  7. Good for you for seeing it through! I haven’t thrown any of my kids’ things out, but I have taken them away as a punishment and a lesson. Now it’s more likely to be smelly socks laying around than toys, and I make them stop whatever they are doing to come pick them up. Teenagers are stinky.
    Dana recently posted..Why Halloween with older kids is awesomeMy Profile

  8. Standing and applauding! Sometimes, this mothering thing we do, is harder on us than it is on the children. The important thing is that he learned his lesson, and he learned WHY. Good job!
    Alison recently posted..Not TalkingMy Profile

  9. Aprille @beautifulinhistime.com

    We had a situation like this with our three year old last night. Not with toys but with a privilege and dinner. We were going to take him for a walk after dinner, but he refused to even try the meat that I made. We were very firm and told him that if he wouldn’t eat, he would get a spanking. So that happened, but he still wouldn’t eat. Then we told him that if he didn’t eat, he would get a spanking and go straight to bed, no walk. We went rounds with him, gave him another spanking and then asked him if he wanted to eat his meat. No he said. We explained the consequences AGAIN, saying, are you SURE you don’t want to eat your meat. NO! So he went to bed at 6:30. It was so heartbreaking and he sobbed but every time we asked him if he was willing to eat his meat he said NO so he had to live with his choice. Poor little guy, we felt so bad for him but at the same time knew that we were doing the right thing for him. We did not force anything on him. We gave him a choice and he chose the wrong thing and had to deal with the consequences!
    Aprille @beautifulinhistime.com recently posted..In which I am humbled instead of star-struck {takeaways from #Allume}My Profile

    • Wow Aprille that must have been very tough. We’re not a spanking family or do we turn meals into a power struggle. We’ve got a no thank you rule in our house that has worked really well. Everyone has to take a bite of each thing before they leave the table. If they don’t like it, they can say “no thank you, I don’t care for this.” and go on their way. Malone has learned that he actually DOES like some things he was otherwise nervous to try because of whatever preschool reason he thought of in his head.

  10. Being consistent and keeping your word like you have done is one of the best things you can do for your children when they’re young. It’s horrible and heart-wrenching, but oh-so-necessary. By laying out the stakes in advance, as you did, allows them to understand what to expect. By sticking to it, as you did, allows them to understand the concept of authority. This is a great gift that will serve them well as they mature and develop. Well done. Keep it up!
    Kate recently posted..highlights reelMy Profile

    • Yeah, I think so too Kate. We’ve always followed through both with the good things we say we’ll do and the not so good.

  11. Consistency has been one of the toughest things for me to learn as a mom. As a single momma I just hung on for dear life and hoped the kids didn’t burn down the house. In my first marriage my ex-husband was the negotiator and I sat quietly. Now Bryan takes a much more active stand in consequences and he’s taught me too. It’s hard to watch our kiddos hurt but it’s also teaching them to be responsible. Something adults need reminding of too sometimes!

    • We’re really consistent here. If we say something will happen (either something fun to do or a consequence) it will happen. But I still don’t always like it. These lessons are just as hard to teach as they are to learn!

  12. Pingback: Recapping The Red Sox 2013 Rolling Rally | A Cookie Before Dinner

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