Was It Wrong To ...

Updated on February 08, 2010
H.S. asks from Ypsilanti, MI
19 answers

My husband and I have shown our four year old and almost three year old how to clean their room (they share) and the other day, we received two of the Little Tikes trucks/vans (large cars the kids can push around) ... the person that shipped the first of the toys packed them in a huge amount of packing peanuts and shredded paper. Yesterday, the kids decided to dump them all through the living room, hall way and their room and REFUSE to clean them up. Last night, my husband and I got the living room and hallway cleaned as much as possible and told the kids they could clean their room today. I've been trying to get them to clean up the peanuts and paper since about 1:30 (it's now 5) and they have played around. I brought in a trash bag and started their toys away with the instructions (when the first bag was full) that if they wanted to keep the rest of their toys, then they needed to start cleaning up the peanuts and papers; they picked up two handfuls each and started sitting around, playing again. So I continued throwing them out; to make a long story short, they have a handful of stuffed animals and a few Tupperware play cups and pitcher that I let them keep and everything else, including the toy kitchen they've been asking for (that I got from freecycle.org) which they've broken apart several times is waiting to go out to my dumpster in my complex. Did I do the right thing in throwing out the majority of their toys since they steadfastly refuse (every day) to clean up their toys before bed? I even have to throw out their toybox because while digging out toys to throw away, I noticed that they smushed some kind of fruit to the bottom that has since hardened and has attracted some bugs. If throwing the toys away was the wrong thing to do, what should I have done to get their attention? (As I type this, they are still running around and playing in their room instead of cleaning up the packing peanuts and shredded paper.

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So What Happened?

I have tried several of the things that had been suggested below. I've helped them, but the minute I help them, they stop trying and they have broken almost every single toy that they have ever received; for instance, my son for his fourth birthday received one of those wood Thomas the Tank Engine sets that you see in Barnes and Nobles and Borders books in the kids' area and when I was cleaning up and they were watching, I could only find one track; the trains were gone and so were the rest of the track pieces; we had put them up on a shelf that she shouldn't have been able to reach but they dragged a chair over and took them and I didn't realize it until I found a track.

Yes, some of the toys will be replaced, but the majority of the ones were either broken or missing 3/4 of the pieces to the toy or game. So far, it hasn't affected them; they aren't even asking for the toys, with the exception of a baby doll my daughter liked ... she's only had it like three weeks and she's already managed to half decapitate it. I feel like absolute crap for throwing the toys out but they never played with 99% of them and all they ever did was toss them around the room; I swear these kids are giant Tasmanian Devils; they even managed to break their closet door (hinged sliding door!) One thing is for sure; they will not have the same amount of toys at one time again; the toy box was over flowing.

I also told them very clearly that if they wanted to get new toys, they had to do the following:
- Clean up what toys are still in their room and any messes they make (or at least help if it's too big)
- Do as they are told with little argument; normally, it takes 3 hours to get them to stay in their bedroom for bed and usually, they're in their playing)

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answers from Clarksville on

i think that its okay. I just dont think i would actually throw them all away. Maybe just putting them someplace where they cant get to them and when they finally start doing what you ask of them start giving the toys back slowly. You might not have any toys left when this is over!!!(lol) hope this helped. I will use that stratedgy myself but wont actually throw them away for good..thats pretty hardcore...Good Luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

I would not feel bad about it at all. I have done the same thing with my kids, and at that age too. They are old enough to clean up after themselves. I would just keep taking away all their toys. They will get the point. I say good for you for not cleaning up for them. So many people baby their kids and do everything for them. Kids are smart and they will play you, if you let them.

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answers from Chicago on

I wonder what your kids were thinking as you were putting their toys in the bags... from a black and white, totally concrete perspective, they may wonder why you would spend so much energy picking up their toys when you could simply pick up the peanuts and paper. Because of this, your consequence isn't "natural." A more natural consequence would be to broom/rake all the peanuts into your room, put your kids in the room, close the door, and tell them they can come out when all the peanuts are in the bag. Of course, this would only work if your room was kiddo-safe. If I were you, I would have them do a small pile of the peanuts; clean up the rest on your own when they are in the room.

In a previous post, someone commented about how the task can be too overwhelming for kids at those ages. For this reason, breaking down the task to make it less intimidating would help.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on


I suggest that when you help your children clean up, you say I want you to pick up ___________, while Mommy picks up ___________. At that age kids need concrete instruction, looking at a destroyed room confuses them. Also this is an edited post from September that saved my sanity when my children were young:

I have been in your shoes! My children at a certain age began the I want, I want, and if you don't buy it for me I will have grandma do it. Needless to say my head started spinning with that. So, after reading a Christian Psychology magazine where the husband and wife psychologists were experiencing the very same thing, I followed the advice of the professionals and limited my children to 5 things each; learning toys and educational games were freebies and not included in the 5. My son chose leggos, kinex, Playmobile, Brio, and video games. My daughter chose dress up, Barbie, Playmobile, Petshop, and American Girl dolls. As they grew older some of the 5 things changed and they would donate to charity what they chose to eliminate. The family gifters were asked to build on these things for Holidays and Birthday's. It sounds extreme, but it worked! My children no longer begged for things everytime they saw a commercial or were at a store. My children and I were less stressed because we no longer had a huge gameroom overflowing with stuff to clean up. Remarkably they liked having fewer things to choose from for play. My children began taking better care of what they did have and have chosen to keep several of their 5 thing final choices for their children. Now that they are adults they have said they will follow this same route with their children. In hindsight I believe this helped my children NOT have the entitlement attitude so many children and young adults have. When we did the initial clean out we discussed the importance of giving and charity and used Bible Scripture to enforce the idea. Enough of my soap box...have a great day and good luck!

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answers from New York on

i hope you didn't throw away their toys.
the stuff in the package should have been removed by you as soon as you realized what it was packed with.
we have had that happen to us but i didn't expect my kids to clean that out.
if you do decide to 'punish' by talking away toys, don't take and throw, take away for a certain number of days, and put it (i say it because you should take away the most favorite toy), and put it somewhere where the child can see it, desire it, and not be able to touch it until lesson learned.

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answers from Seattle on

Do you clean up with them? Are you and your husband tidy? Do your kids generally listen well?

Kids learn what they see so make sure they're seeing the example of cleaning up after themselves. I have a 2.5 year old and we simply don't have toys in her room. When its time to clean up, I ask her to clean up all of one kind of toy. She does great with that usually. Occasionally when it doesn't go well (maybe 2-3 times a month) I tell her that if I have to clean up then I'll take the toy away (usually for 2-3 days or so). She'll ask about the missing toys and it's an opportunity for me to remind her why they are gone and how she can keep them the next time.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Fort Smith on

I don't think throwing away toys (unless broken or missing pieces) is ever a good idea even if it is because they won't pick them up. It doesn't teach them anything. They won, you were the one who took care of the mess and they didn't have to. And honestly, for those kids who I know are allowed to destroy their toys or their parents will just throw them away, I don't buy toys for them any more. In fact, I did not buy one single toy for Christmas for the 4 kids I usually do.

It sound like this is not the first time your kids have not cleaned up when you tell them to, is it? I know with boys it is very tough, I have a boy who just turned six. He is 100% responsible for his room, toys, making his bed and his clothes. And he has been for over a year now. You need to be more in control, they are running all over you.

First thing to do is get a book called "To Train Up a Child" by Michael and Debbie Pearl. I don't know if you can get their books at stores but go to www.nogreaterjoy.org. What I did is make every toy has it's place, he has several totes in his room and they are all organized, cars are in one, transformers in another and so on. DO NOT let them have free reign in their room until they are totaly trained. What I did when he wanted to play with toys is bring 1 tote to the living room and he was able to get 1-2 toys out at a time. Before he could get out another toy, those got put back in. If he wanted a different tote, that one got put up. When I said it was clean up time, all the toys and the tote got put up. When he was following those rules and developing new habits, and also realized he was responsible for keeping his room clean and there were consequences for not, he did not make his room a mess. Also, when we were in the training process, and I said it was clean up time, I stood over him. If he started playing, there was a consequence, if he started doing something else or tried to walk away from it, there was a consequence. Don't tell them to clean up and then leave the room.
You'll get it, but they need to be trained. Good luck.

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answers from Cleveland on

We have done this in the past for our 15 yr old and now for our 2, 4 & 5 yr olds... but the toys never end up on the curb. Then end up in trash bags in the basement. After they start taking care of when they still have left, they get a few more things from the basement. LOL sometimes they forget what all they lost and think they got new toys.

Kids now days have so many thing that I don't think they actually use or play with everything. So, if you do take them away for a while they will only like their toys more when they get them back. Kinda routate them so to speak. But I do understand why you are doing it... mine got theirs taken away last weekend for climbing up into the cabinets, getting the pudding & water and mixing it in their play dishes & all over the one bedroom whall we were sleeping. That was a mess I had to clean up & I bagged up everything as I cleaned it... so now they have to earn the stuff back.

Hope they help clean-up soon... they do need to learn responsiblity! Godd for you for teaching them it!!!

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answers from Norfolk on

My son did something like this when he was that age. We got a big toy in a box full of packing peanuts. Soon as the toy was out of the box, my son launched himself into the middle of the packing peanuts. They were the corn starch type, so I took the box out onto the deck and we played with them there all day. I took SO many pictures. When we were finished, I got out the hose and washed them all away. From a little kids point of view, packing peanuts are irresistible. They are children. Enjoy your mess makers and try to enjoy the spontaneous moments. Sometimes you just have to laugh and take as many pictures as possible. You should hear about the time my sister and I got into a pillow fight with a down pillow that burst apart. Our room looked like it was snowing. We thought our Mom was going to ground us big time, but she couldn't stop laughing.

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answers from Portland on

Beverly and B both suggested much of what I would suggest. To actually complete a huge job like that, you will need to participate in the cleanup; break it into smaller "units" of work that kids that young can actually conceive of completing; have fun with the process; laugh much. Dream up creative solutions: wrap feet in packaging tape and stomp around? Bring in a snow shovel or rake? Scoop them up with a large box lying on its side? What an opportunity for creative problem solving! And this could turn into one of those family legends that brings a chuckle when retold over the years.

As annoying and "unfair" to you as it might seem, I would make the cleanup a family event. I would never expect my 4yo grandboy to stay on task for more than maybe 10 minutes, and less for a smaller child. That's a long, long time for kids that young, and it probably took only that long to scatter the peanuts in the first place, so from a kid perspective, the proposed punishment is WAY bigger than the misdemeanor.

My husband and his brother, as kids in grade school, got arguing once over an after-school snack. Big bro was trying to hold the refrigerator door shut. Little bro was struggling to open it and get to the food. In the ensuing tug of war, they managed to tip the fridge over, face down, doors open. Neither brother got hurt, but it was catastrophic enough at the time that dad was called home from work. And the boys did get punished. But it was only a couple of years later that the retelling was worth the mess. And the boys would have learned not to do that again, even if they hadn't gotten whupped.

Throwing our their toys makes no sense to me, personally, because the toys have nothing to do with the spillage. And I hate to see landfills clogged with stuff that could still be used by somebody, and will probably be replaced over time by more stuff to fill the void in your children's lives.



answers from Sacramento on

HI H.,
This sounds more frustrating for you than it is for them! I agree that at some point you have to teach kids to pick up their stuff, but this task seems a little overwhelming for these ages and the expectation seems a little high to leave them in a room and expect them to clean up by themselves.

I would make a game out of picking up large quantities of stuff. Kids love to see who can pick up the fastest for example... especially if mom or dad are right in there frantically picking up and laughing too.

In terms of picking up toys every night before bed, that sounds doable IF you haven't just let them pull out every toy they have and leave it laying around the whole day. Start by sitting down and telling them the new rules and sticking to them... When we play we clean up our toys before we start a new game or play with something else. NO FOOD anywhere but the kitchen table (or wherever you designate... kids table etc...), every night after dinner, bath, or whatever time you designate we have clean up time. Be mindful that if the designated time gets too late for them and they are too tired, you may not get the result that you want. And by all means, be firm but FUN and creative with them. They are still so little... make sure that you get down on their level and talk to them firmly when you need to to get their attention to pick up, rather than yelling while you threaten to throw away their toys as they run in circles not hearing you.

Good luck!!



answers from Cincinnati on

My first thought is who is in control here? The 4 and 3 year old, or the parents? My children have never been given the option of "refusing" to do what they are told. Now, mind you, I havent required them to do tasks that are beyond their ability, mentally or physically. We are a team in our house, often times something of that magnitude would have required a team approach (the peanuts), but it would have been done, with them participating if that is what they were told to do. If they had been poky about doing it, or attempted to not do as they were instructed they would have been sat down and done nothing fun until they realized they were going to actively participate in the chore at hand.

I think the throwing away the toys, if they were broken or overly dirty was fine. If they were just annoying because the children don't pick them up, then putting them "out of commission" until they learn the consequences of uncooperative behavior is fine in my opinion.

Good luck, you must lead...



answers from Washington DC on

I would NOT feel bad. You followed through on what you said you were going to do. I am going to throw away your toys. Period. They did nothing to stop you.

I have thrown out my son's toys SEVERAL times when he wouldn't listen/help/etc. Yes, I mean threw away, put them in the trash can while he was watching. The neighbors didn't agree with me, but it got my kid's attention! You said it yourself in the followup. Most of them were broken, and they haven't even missed most of them. So, beyond perhaps replacing your daughter's doll, I would NOT rush out and replace the toys. I would relesh is the fact that the room now takes less time to clean.

My son has to wait until his birthday (April) or Christmas to get a new toy(s).




answers from Victoria on

I know i'm a bit behind, but i commend you for following through. I also have a child who refuses to clean....I have taken her toys as well. I threw away broken ones, gave others to charity donations, and those few toys I know she really loves, i put away in a bag that she will earn back only by doing as she's told regardless of what it is. My kids are 3 & 4 & they have several chores they are responsible for. 1. shos & coats put away nicely in utility room. 2. dirty clothes in hamper 3. clear dishes away after eating. 4. keep rooms clean 5. keep bathroom clean & tidy.........I hate nagging & standing over my kids, so what i do is this....I keep a mental tally of what they haven't done and when they come to me to put on tv or get drink or snack etc...I say, "oh sure, right after you take care of bla bla bla...." sometimes the run & get it done & oter times they decide they can do without, but eventually they get it all done and I am not waiting on them hand & foot & getting nothing in return. They totally get it & I am noticing house is staying cleaner slowly, but it is getting better. Hope this helps you...also I don't yell, but I don't give in either & if they start to throw a tantrum, usually when tired, I remind them that their room is where they can express themselves in that way. :D



answers from Kansas City on

My daughter will clean up if I help and we sing a clean up song. It basically goes "clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere, clean up, clean up, everybody do your share" and mostly we race to see who finishes first. She's 3 and has been helping for over a year. I find that if I threaten to throw her toys away, she says "throw them away" and instead of putting them away, will put them in the trash, so I dont threaten that anymore unless I actually mean it.



answers from Topeka on

I have 3 kids we have lot's of toy's.I don't throw them away unless they are cheap broken or lost pieces.I do however buy stroage containers & store them put them in the attic to play again later when I switch toy's around again.Your actions were out of i'm gonna teach these kid's if they can't pick up their toy's I will & i'll do it my way.And that's fine as long as you don't go out & buy them new ones.I have decluttering issues meaning if I can't get thing's into a place where it belongs I throw it out or it goes into the attic right now my home is a wreck due a busier schedule & sick kid's that need my attention & I simply refuse to clean my kids' room's right now because they refused to listen to me when I explain to them put them away when your done.I use to spend all day right behind them cleaning up picking up this & that no more they are getting older now & can help me as well.They do a good job it's not everyday we have an issue of them not wanting to help it's when the mess get's bigger they give me a harder time.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I have done a similar approach with my 4 and 5 year old, but rather than throwing the toys away, they go into a bag and into storage somewhere - the garage, a closet, etc. They remember the toys I take away and I tell them when they are better about cleaning up their toys they can earn some back. I think throwing the toys away is a harsh penalty for an "almost three year old". I understand it better for a four year old, but I still wouldn't go that far.

Do you get your kids to help clean up in other ways? My kids started helping me dust around 2 1/2 or 3 years of age. Around 3 1/2 or 4 they started using the swiffer sweeper. Now I have a lightweight stick vac that they use on our carpets. They love to help in those ways which I think has helped carry over to cleaning up toys. Not that they are willing to do so 100% of the time, but most of the time they are cooperative. We also make cleaning up a group effort. Usually my husband and I direct the kids on what to do and the kids do the work. We help with items that go higher on the shelves than they can reach. If they don't want to help clean up what the other child was playing with I remind them of the things my husband and I do to clean up after and take care of them (dishes, laundry, etc) so they know we all work together to help each other.



answers from Detroit on

Have you tried using a timer when you ask your kids to pick up their toys? Set the timer for 15 minutes (get one that makes a ticking sound) and tell them they have to pick up their toys before the timer goes off. It's like a competition and it always works for my kids. A psychologist told me to use this method to get kids to do their chores and also, if you want your kids out of a room that you just got done cleaning, turn off the lights--I remember that teachers in elementary school using these methods too.

Hope this helps,


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