Teaching your children to respect your home, and themselves

I just finished doing the thing that every parent seems to have threatened to do at one time or another.  Packing up all of the toys from my daughters’ playroom.

Empty Basement collage

This is my basement.  Formerly, it was filled with bins of books, legos, Littlest Pets Shop dolls, Barbies, dress up clothes, stuffed animals, costume jewelry, kitchen supplies and pretend food, puzzles, and board games.  This is where all of that resides now:

Toy bins in Closet

and here:

Toy bins in closet 2

and finally here, waiting to be put in to the crawl space.

Toy Bins in craft room

This was their craft area, filled with bins of markers, foam stickers, coloring books, construction paper, and just about any art supply you could think of.

This is what I left them with:

Toy collage

You see, I’ve known for quite a while now that my daughters had too much.  That despite my discussions with them about appreciating their things and being grateful for what they have, seeing the constant state of how they left things kept making me realize that I wasn’t getting through to them.

I’ve stopped buying them toys a long time ago.  Any actual “toys” that come in to this house are gifts from others.  We sort through everything twice a year for donation and consignment sale.  I’ve talked to my girls about charity, about families with less than, and about giving back to others for our blessings.

And still nothing. The same careless disregard for their things was still happening and it was getting worse.  Games thrown haphazardly around the basement, pieces everywhere, messes left for someone else to take care of.  Me to take care of.  Things broken in carelessness and brought to me with the expectation that they be fixed or replaced.  Some would say normal kid behavior, but not any way that my girls have acted before.  It was just DIFFERENT.

Tonight I walked in to my basement and saw this:

 Broken glass

That my friends is a very expensive picture (bought with a coupon but still) and broken glass.  Who knows how long it has been this way because neither of my children came to tell me when it happened.  There’s glass missing, which resulted in me having to tear apart the couch underneath it to see if I could find it (I didn’t) and immediately throw the slip cover in the laundry.

I snapped.  And started packing it all.

The basement is empty now.  My daughters were asleep when I discovered the broken picture and have no idea what will be waiting for them tomorrow when the get home from school and head to their playroom.  I’ve left them each with a puzzle, a few books, and a blank pad of paper, a box of crayons and one set of markers for them to share.  I haven’t decided if I’m going to give them the opportunity to earn back their items or just donate the entire lot of it.  I’m disappointed in myself and my inability to get through to them this lesson that is fundamental.  And I’m disappointed in their choices because I don’t believe that it is a true reflection of who they are.

Yes, this may seem extreme.  After all my girls are just shy of being 8 and 5.  But when do you stand your ground when it comes to requiring your children to be respectful of their home, their possessions, and themselves?  When is it too young to start teaching them while accidents happen, you get in to more trouble hiding things than you do when you speak up?  This isn’t a lesson that I’m just starting today – I’ve been trying to teach this to them for as far back as I remember.  It’s not working.  I’m not shying away for the part I’ve played in the negative aspect of their behavior.  I own my parenting mistakes.  However, its paramount to me that my girls learn this lesson NOW before they turn in to people who walk through the world with little respect for anyone or anything.

In my opinion, the worst thing I can do as a parent is not to get rid of my girls toys but to turn a blind eye while they grow up to be sneaky, disrespectful adults.  For me, it starts here.

Where does it start for you?