How ‘Toy Jail’ is Helping Me Teach My Daughter Responsibility & Eliminating My Stress
Y'all, if you have children under the age of 30, I'll bet you can relate. My daughter is seven, so if you stop in at my house on any given day, it's like Toys-R-US just puked all over my living room, bedroom, bathroom, dining room, kitchen, and then all of upstairs. Over Christmas break I thought, I'll take care of this nonsense and I cleaned out 75% of her toys. (Side note - she's not said a WORD about missing anything I got rid of.)
Just like Biggie said - mo toys, mo problems. Eliminate the toys, eliminate the problems. Right? WRONGZO... It's like NOTHING EVER HAPPENED. The 25% of remaining toys still find their way all over my house.
I couldn't take it anymore so when I saw this Facebook post, I was desperate and thought I'll try anything. So, I bought a cute purple plastic bin and my husband and I sat down and made a list of the worst chores that no one wants to do: washing windows, dusting the crevices on our bedroom furniture, cleaning baseboards, etc. The deal is - she has ONE chance to get the toys put away. I'll remind her once. If they aren't put away after 5-10 minutes, the warden comes and collects. Off to Toy Jail. No yelling - no constant reminding - not even a fair trial. Did I mention I'm the judge and jury too?
She has one week to pay the bail at Toy Jail or else the toys left in hock are sent to Toy Prison (aka the World Wide Mission Store) where they will be rehabilitated and will then go home with another child who appreciates his or her toys. I write dates down on the dry erase board so there is no confusion. So far, no toy has gone that far through the system but it's still early. And, these are on top of her regularly scheduled weekend chores of cleaning up her room, emptying the bathroom trash cans, dusting the living room, and putting the silverware away. I know someone out there is about to call CPS on me for all this child labor!
As time progresses we'll start adding things like shoes and beloved articles of clothing to toy jail. Because, Warden Mama can't handle any more clutter.
So far, this has really helped our relationship. I'd spend all day stressed out because I'd beg for her to come clean up her mess and then just get really angry. With this system, the consequence is on her - she left it out and has to pay up. I'm hoping it will instill a sense of urgency and responsibility. And, honestly, it's helping me. I resist the urge to lose my crap over the constant mess. One gentle reminder and then away it goes.
Bonus, when she gets in trouble she has to do these lousy chores really well to get her beloved toys out of pokey. I mean who the heck wants to do BASEBOARDS? Blech... And there is a very detailed inspection process. She can't do a chore halfway and get her toys back - believe me, she's tried. The whole point is that I want these chores to REALLY SUCK so that she'll remember and pick them up without any reminders.
So far, it's working. There are no tears if something gets taken away because she has the ability right then and there to get it back. But the chores are no picnic so she's really trying hard to keep them out of toy jail. And, my blood pressure has been pretty normal these past few weeks. If nothing else, it will be a great story to tell her therapist someday about how Toy Jail ruined her life.