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Purging your kids’ toys may seem like the ultimate punishment but it is truly an act of love. Discover the lessons a toy purge has for all of us.
Like most of you, I created a picture of what I would look like as a parent before I had children. One of the things I knew I wouldn’t do was spoil them. They would be imaginative, minimalist-loving children who were grateful for their carefully selected toys.
And then I had kids.
Giving is one of the ways I show love. As such, I have a hard time denying my children or not buying them something every time I leave the house. I see something in a store I know they would just love and happily skip to the cashier picturing their reaction in my mind. With that and six years of birthdays, holidays, doting grandparents, and the addition of a child every two years, my children have an overabundance of toys.
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Instead of being helpful, this causes me a lot of unnecessary stress.
- The clutter and mess is overwhelming.
- My children have too many options so they struggle with occupying themselves.
- It has instilled a lack of gratitude and sense of entitlement in my children.
I tried to fight this a number of ways. My first step was boxing up toys we didn’t use. I happily carried two totes of toys to our attic.
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It barely made a dent.
Then, I decided to embrace the mess and create rules that toys were to stay in the bedroom. That lasted all of an hour. The kids didn’t want to stay in their room. They wanted to be where the “action” was.
Finally, I decided to turn our guest room into a dedicated playroom. I bought organizers, moved in kid friendly furniture, and transformed the room into a space Mary Poppins would have drooled over. I just knew this would solve my problem. What kid wouldn’t love to have an entire room filled with toys all for their entertainment?
Instead of being a room filled with imagination and creativity it was a room of disaster and chaos. Boxes of toys were continuously dumped on top of each other creating small mountains of random toys. Playsets were piled one on top of the other. I would make a daily round through the room collecting that day’s “casualties” of broken toys and furniture.
My kids would get overwhelmed by the chaos and abandon the playroom for the calm neatness of our main living spaces bringing armfuls of necessities with them.
While I don’t mind play in the living spaces, it does create certain hazards.
- My older children’s smaller toys weren’t suitable for the baby.
- It creates tripping hazards for my MIL, especially if I didn’t clean it up every evening.
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Finally one day, I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I sent the kids to the playroom to clean it up. They were a little less than cooperative. I tried everything in my parenting arsenal – playing cleaning games, singing songs, offering bribes – begging them to help me clean up this mess. Out of desperation, I set a timer for 30 minutes and said I would be back with a trash bag.
My children’s reaction to this was eye opening for me. They turned to look at me in confusion.
“It’s ok, Mommy,” my oldest boy comforted, “You can just buy us new toys.”
A Lack of Gratitude
It was at that moment that I realized that in my effort to shower my children with all I could give, that I had created children without gratitude. They had no appreciation for what they had because they KNEW they would receive more.
What’s more, the felt ENTITLED to it!
A dozen recent encounters flooded my mind.
- Upon returning from my weekly shopping trip, my son searched the bags for his “prize”.
- My daughter pulling things off the shelves on a “quick” trip to the store insisting I buy her things and throwing a fit at my “no”.
- My son’s willingness to trash his toys, certain that they would be replaced with new ones.
I had created an attitude in my children that I despise.
I knew I had to do something. At six, three, and one my children are still young enough to make changes in their character relatively painlessly. Acting almost instinctively, I sent the two oldest kids to their room. Bringing very large trash bags, three large boxes (one for each child), and all the storage bins I could find with me, I stepped into the disaster of the playroom.
Methodically, I began sorting through the mess. Broken toys were trashed. Prized toys were protected. Everything else went into bins.
Oddly enough, I wasn’t angry with my kids or myself. I just knew I had to make a change. This wasn’t a punishment but rather an intervention. The last thing this world needs is three more humans believing everyone else owes them something.
I knew that after this great purge, I would have to have a talk with my two oldest kids. They needed to know the reasons I had behind taking away 90% of their toys.
I calmly walked into their bedroom and called them to sit beside me. I explained to them my reasons for doing this in positive words they would understand. Reassuring them this was not a punishment, I explained them that they would have so much more fun playing with these “special” toys in their boxes.
I had three main teaching purposes behind this great toy purge.
- Responsibility: My kids didn’t take care of their toys because there were no consequences for damaging them. The chaos was so great, I would rather clean it up myself than trust them with the responsibility. They knew this and would frequently take advantage of it.
- Gratitude: My kids got toys so frequently, they had no gratitude for the toys already in their possession. They were demanding, entitled, and wasteful.
- Value: My kids had very few toys that they valued. They had so much that they only wanted more. Money and need were foreign concepts to them.
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Yes, there was weeping and a period of mourning over their loss. After hours of crying, going over my reasons again, and reminders of the toys they still had of which to be grateful, my kids started to embrace their new normal.
Once calm and renewed play settled over our home, I went into the playroom and sat on the floor with them. I went over the new rules.
- Every evening before dinner, we will be cleaning up toys and putting them away.
- There are inside toys and there are outside toys and they need to stay I their respective place.
- Take care of your toys. They will not be replaced.
- When you receive a new toy, you will another to donate.
Yes, my desire is to give them everything. When I do though, I create ungrateful spirits and encourage irresponsible behavior. I have entitled children.
As a parent, I have a God-given responsibility to raise children that bring value to this world. People who believe they deserve the world handed to them on a silver platter expect value rather than bring it.
I have taken careful inventory of the toys I put in boxes. Some, I have stored. These will be used as gifts and rewards for exceptional behavior/deeds. The rest I donate to shelters, daycares, and churches.
After securing my resolve, I immediately sought accountability. My husband, the kids’ grandparents and other gift-giving friends and relatives all know (and agree!) that from this point forward toys will be well-thought purchases and kept at a minimum. Other gifts will be experiences, educational options, needed items.
Free Printable! Get your printable Non-Toy Gift Guide today!
Doing a toy purge and setting out new rules may seem extreme but the kids are learning some valuable lessons on gratitude and responsibility. They are learning to value and treasure what is important – God, family, and friends. We are more focused on giving rather than getting. I am learning some valuable parenting lessons. I should focus my giving on those important treasures and less on “things”.
My kids do not love me any less, I’m MUCH less stressed, and we are cleansing our home of excess. Our imaginations are flourishing and our experiences are at an all-time high. Our toy purge is truly a gift.
Did you like this post? Do you think a toy purge is a good way to teach valuable lessons to kids? Let me know in the comments below!
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