Monday, July 11, 2011

Mattel's Nightmare

Where the kids are concerned, I like the punishment to fit the crime. This is why, as of last week, I've begun tossing their toys into a garbage bag when I find them all over the house. The rationale? If they treat their things like garbage, so will I.

They got fair warning. Now they know that before going to bed, they need to put their stuff away or else it gets chucked into the bag. If they want to redeem an item, they have to do a chore. Not one of their regular ones -- one of mine. (Naturally, I'm spending my time doing tasks they're supposed to do, so they have to do something I would normally do.)

So how well is the new system working? I've gotten mixed results. There were a few one-trial items like DS's and wallets that are better cared for now. I've also discovered a few Nerf toys that keep winding up in the bag, but it seems the kids will do anything to get them back. I like these toys because that means my windows are just a little cleaner.

On the other hand, after 5 days, the bag is fairly crammed with stuff that the boys have no interest in retrieving. They can't even be bothered with watering the plants -- a job they normally volunteer for without any additional incentive.

Compared to a lot of kids I know, mine have a very moderate number of toys. However, based on their disregard for many of their possessions, it appears that even they have way too much. As for myself, I think this experience has reinforced something that I have suspected all along -- the best and worst types of toys (for us anyway).

Our Best Toys:
  • Sports equipment and outdoor toys that I don't have to spend a lot of time picking up
  • Games and activities that we do together as a family -- e.g., crafts, paints, science projects, and board games (BTW, this really involves giving the kids time, and what gift could be better, right?!)
  • Toys that the kids have purchased with their own money because they are more inclined to take care of them
Our Worst Toys:
  • Just about anything that you see an ad for on TV. The kids think they want them, but after a couple of plays, they're just not interested anymore.
  • Almost everything they've gotten from generous and well-intentioned friends at a birthday party or Christmas. The cars, figurines, and gimmicky toys all seem to end up in a closet or toy chest, never to see the light of day.
Lest anyone should think my kids are getting
shafted regarding their share of childhood
presents, this is a photo of all the stuff
they got from friends and relatives
last Christmas.
In the past, I've attempted to convince my husband that Baby Jesus only got three birthday/Christmas presents, and He turned out OK. If that worked for Him, it should be good enough for our kids. Of course, as parents, we enjoy showering our children with nice things, but now that I'm armed with a bag of hard evidence, I think it will be easier to adopt the attititude that less is truly more in the future.

Instead of lots of gifts that my kids neither truly want nor truly appreciate, I'd like to focus on the thoughtfulness and quality of gifts ('cause even Baby Jesus snagged some gold, frankincense, and myrrh!) Along with constant verbal reinforcement and some other sneaky mommy tactics, this is part of my campaign to teach my young ones gratitude and responsibility. I'm probably Mattel's nightmare, but I'm cool with that.

Do you have any kids? How do you teach your children to be grateful for what they have and to take care of their things? If you have any tricks or tips, I'd love to hear them!!!


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