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A beautiful mess


A beautiful mess

Sami Muirhead asks, how do you teach kids to pick up their toys? So far, her method of throwing them all in the bin seems to have worked.

I must be really tired because this week I carried out a punishment I have threatened my kids with for about five years. I grabbed a garbage bag and picked up any toys lying on the ground in the TV room and walked to the wheelie bin and threw the big black bag into it.

The drama! They watched on in shock with their jaws on the ground. I think they were sad their toys were in the bin, but also wondering if a demonic zombie had taken over their mother.

As I mumbled and stuttered angrily to myself, I stomped around making a big fuss of throwing each item into the black bag of death. Not my finest moment in life!

So how on earth do you actually teach kids to pick up their toys? To empty their school lunch boxes? To take their dirty clothes to the washing hamper? I clearly do not know the right parenting answer, but for years I have threatened if the TV room is not cleaned up once playtime is over, I will throw the toys in the bin.

I have read all the books that say make cleaning up fun. Make it a car race with pit stops and times to beat for who can clean up the quickest. But some days you just need to get by. And I am not a clean freak but I would rather not have to walk over 743 pieces of Lego at night or stare at every Avenger superhero doll looking up at me from the floor.

But it is end of term and maybe we are all tired and a little stressed out. And it has been a long winter, full of sickness in our house so garbage-gate was perhaps the result of frayed tempers and low patience levels. Still, it was not a moment I was proud of and I found myself standing by the bin regretting my dramatic stance.

About three hours later, I was out grocery shopping and I rang my husband and sheepishly asked him to go and fish the garbage bag out of the bin.

I was telling my friends about it and their stories were similar. They made me feel less crazy. One mum stripped her son’s room of every single item (including the bed) because she was sick of him not listening. He had to earn every single item (down to each pencil) back with good manners.

Another mum threatened to cancel her daughter’s sixth birthday party if she did not eat all her dinner. The little girl did not eat all her dinner and the mum found herself having to explain to classroom mums that the party was off. How embarrassing!

The lesson here is pick your punishment wisely. My mum made my brother and sister and I eat pepper until we confessed which one of us ate the entire packet of Tim Tams.

It was my beautiful ratbag brother, but we all copped the punishment. He never lied again.

So while I felt guilty for going a bit crazy on my kids, now when I ask them to clean up the TV room, their little feet spring into action! Here’s to more sanity going through this beautiful mess that is raising children.

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Sami Muirhead is a radio announcer, blogger and commentator. For more from Sami tune into Mix FM.

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