My husband and I both grew up in blue collar families. Not rich by a long shot, but not poor. We always had food on the table and we both grew up with good memories and experiences. But we both knew when we decided to get married and have a family together, that we wanted more. Over the years, we’ve worked and saved and started a small business to achieve that dream.
Part of that dream was wanting to adorn our kids with a bit more ‘things’ and experiences than we had as adolescents. Toys, day trips, vacations, everything. We wanted to give our kids everything we didn’t have when we were their age. That developed into some seriously elaborate Christmases, birthdays, and truthfully, purchasing things just because it was super cool and our kids showed an interest at the given time. And…we were able to. As petty as it sounds writing it, let alone reading it out loud, there was something satisfying and almost comforting just knowing we could get this for our children. We took pride in knowing we could put a smile on their faces and not have to tell them no. We felt accomplished.
I’m happy to say that we actually do not have spoiled children. And I credit that to simply the grace of God, because in hindsight, we set them up for failure to be spoiled children. Surprisingly, they aren’t. They LOVE to share with anyone and everyone. So considering that they exhibited no signs of being “spoiled children,” we felt pretty confident. We’re living the American dream, right?! Setting high goals, achieving them, providing for our kids…life is great!
But then we started to hit a road block. While the kids weren’t necessarily exhibiting signs of being spoiled, it started to become quite a task to have them clean their rooms and pick up their things. Toys were taking over our lives. This went on for weeks, and weeks turned into months. We tried chore charts, offering rewards, allowance…nothing. What gives?!
We have these wholesome kids yet they aren’t taking responsibility for their things. While we buy them a lot, we take pride in teaching them the value of a dollar. They understand why Daddy goes to work; that he gets money in exchange for his time. They understand the general concept of our business and that we do it to put money in the bank. We tie the kids into a lot of concepts about money. They understand you need money to purchase things, and that you don’t just go out and replace something; you take care of it so your money goes further.
After a few months of banging our heads against the wall, my husband finally burst out in frustration with a stern, “If you don’t pick up that room, I’m going to get rid of all the toys left out.” To which our four-year-old daughter looked him square in the eye, smiled and happily said, “Ok Daddy!” She then proceeded to walk over to the cabinet, pull out a trash bag, and skipped happily upstairs.
Y’all…I can’t even begin to explain to you what mine and hubby’s faces even began to look like. We blankly stared at each other for what seemed like a small eternity. We could hear her dumping things into the trash bag as we both stayed silent, because we simply had no idea what to say. Hubby finally broke the silence and said, “Well…that backfired.”
Yeah, it surely did backfire. Parents make empty threats to their children all the time:
– Don’t make me turn this car around.
– Don’t come to me crying if you get hurt.
– Get dressed or you’re going naked.
We parents are full of empty threats. Well, we got called out big time on the ‘pick up your room or I’ll throw it all away’ one.
If we wanted to salvage any amount of credibility as parents with our kids, we couldn’t back down on this one. But the money we had in all these toys!!! Yes, I thrive on being a frugal shopper so tons of these toys were purchased over the summer when toys infamously go on sale and were stashed until Christmas, but that was beside the point. But what choice did we have? So we let them bag it up.
They didn’t bag everything up, but I’d say it was a solid 50% and maybe even a bit more than that. We took it to the garage like we do with all the other trash, except we didn’t carry on to actually place it in the garbage can. We went out later that night and put it all in empty storage bins thinking for certain we would have two children with some serious buyer’s remorse once they realized their things were “gone.” But much to our surprise, it never happened.
The toys are still in bins stashed away. The kids keep their rooms picked up now because they’re not so overwhelmed with things. While our intentions came from a place of love, we actually had hindered our kids. We overwhelmed them.
We live in such a consumable country that we associate amounts of things directly with love. And we live in such a disposable world, as soon as something hits the shelves, it’s effectively obsolete. The newest, latest and greatest toy seems to hit the shelf almost on a weekly basis. We no longer take our kids’ initial impression of things to heart right away anymore. Sure, when a child sees something new, they’re automatically interested. But we’ve noticed by the second or third time they see it at the store, a lot of time we get no reaction out of them. Not only were we wasting our money, no matter how great of a sale we may have stumbled on, but we were drowning them. Literally drowning them in stuff.
Instead of the parents teaching the children a lesson, the roles became reversed that day. Quantity will never be greater than quality. What empty threats have your children called you out on? Have you ever unknowingly hindered your child when you thought you were simply showing them love? Comment below!