Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Parent--Toddler Wars

This evening, just before the kids' bedtime, Mommy acquired a whole bunch of toys.

In my master bedroom, which Oprah, Real Simple Magazine and lots of sleep experts say should be a peaceful place of refuge if I actually want to sleep in it, I now have the following toys stacked next to my nightstand:

a wooden cradle, a dog bed, stuffed animals (dog, cat, horse, bear, anteater, pink poodle), a Barbie RV, a Barbie fold-out dollhouse, a Barbie, a Ken, two Barbie horses (one brown, one pink with white feather mane and tale), a box of wooden blocks, wooden lacing cards, a crate of plastic food, a My Little Pony stable, and a plastic shoe box full of random figurines and McDonald's Happy Meal toys.

Why am I so fortunate as to have acquired all this loot? Well, the short answer is, I am the mother of a naughty three year old. The long answer is, well, long.

We've had quite a day over here, with lots of foot stamping, demands being made, copious fake weeping, etc. I've said things like, "Make a good choice, Livie," lots of times, and in one instance her response was, "No, I'm not making any choices!" At that point the rest of the family retreated to the backyard, with the sliding door closed.

But just before bed, I entered Livie's room (read: utter pig sty), and asked her to please pick up her wooden blocks (just five). These blocks were only about 1/16 of the detritus on her floor.

"Mom, you have to help me! I can't do all this work by myself." Uh, Liv, it's five blocks.

Fed up, I gave her a choice. "You can either pick up those blocks and put them in the box, Liv, or Mommy is going to take all these toys you see away from you."

And in a developmentally appropriate act of testing boundaries, she replied, calmly, "I'm not picking up the blocks."

So. I got to pick up not only the five blocks, but all the other toys as well, and now the pig sty is in my room. Who is the victor in this particular battle?

I can at least say with confidence that I did better today than I did a few weeks ago, when Liv had been in rare form for days (15 or so), and I got so frustrated with her constant testiness, that I heaved toys out of her room like sandbags until they formed a three-foot-high pile in the hallway, grunting, "That toy is mine...unh!...and that one is mine!..." the entire time. Not my most self-controlled disciplinary action, but the results were grand. She had to earn those toys back with good behavior and for at least two weeks we've enjoyed better attitudes, more cooperation and consistent nap times.

But apparently the lesson has faded and its time to try it again. Meanwhile, Livie gets to play with her remaining toys in a now neat room, and I get to live in a pig sty. So picture me, friends, as I step over a pile of toys as I try to reach my dresser or crawl into bed, and decide for yourself, who do you think is winning?


  1. Ok Amanda, just today, Megan lost all her toys that were in the living room (which was actually a lot since she seems to have claimed that as her new play area) after she refused to help me clean them up. They are plied in our garage (I have to be careful not to trip on them on my way out the door). I too wonder who was the "winner" since she didn't seem to flinch, nor since then, have any problem with missing them. I think she has too many toys!
    Love ya! Sonja

  2. Oh, the limit-testing of a three-year old. I feel your pain!, and have dozens (hundreds?) of old blog posts bemoaning that same thing to prove it.
    Good luck!

    (Although, knock wood, age 5 seems to be when all that parental pain is at least temporarily paying off! We'll see how long that lasts.)