I stole your stuff. Now I’m holding it for ransom.


Earlier this week, another Pinterest gem went all crazy viral on Facebook.  It showed a photo of a large tupperware type bin with a poem taped to the side.  The poem informed the kids that they’d left their stuff out, so mom’s confiscated it.  If they wanted to get it back, they had to do a chore to earn it.  Next to the poem was a little envelope labeled “chores”, where presumably the child could pick from such tasks as sweeping, vacuuming, and doing the dishes.

Like most things that travel so widely so quickly, it left everyone in my newsfeed clearly divided by a line in the sand:  Those who thought the idea was brilliant, and couldn’t wait to implement it in their own house, and those – like myself – who thought….. well, otherwise.  Over and over I saw the same questions aimed at those who didn’t like it.   “Why wouldn’t you like it?”  “What’s wrong with it?”  And on my own Facebook page, “What’s wrong with all of you??”  I’m going to ignore that last question, but to give people the benefit of the doubt I’ll assume the first two are sincere.    Here then are the top five reasons this isn’t something you’d find in my home, in no particular order:

It’s not very nice.  Taking possession of something that doesn’t belong to you is theft.  Let’s just start there.  My children’s things are their own, and it’s not my place to take them, let alone take them and then demand they pay me in some way to get them back.  If I left my phone laying around (something that I do all. the. time.  that’s been known to happen) I’d be pretty ticked off if my husband decided it was his until I’d scrubbed the bathtub or ironed his work shirts.  If I wouldn’t like it done to myself, I wouldn’t do it to my kids.

It teaches kids that chores are punishments.  Things like washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, and doing laundry are a part of life and a part of keeping a nice home….   something that we can either learn to do joyfully, or learn to view as… well, a chore:  something unpleasant, and something to be dreadedIf a child grows up associating doing chores with 1) doing something “wrong” by not putting some treasured item away, and 2) being forced to earn said item back when it was taken away from them, which view do you suppose they’ll carry with them into adulthood?

It places blame on kids for something we’re all guilty of.  My husband is an admittedly much tidier person than I am, but even he will leave a cup on the end table, or his laptop in the living room.  I’m forever leaving that aforementioned cell phone all over the house, I’m constantly losing my mug of coffee, and it’s not uncommon for me to have books, notebooks, and other current projects out where I can easily find them.  Things don’t always get put away at the end of the day, and that’s okay!  Sometimes we forget, sometimes we’re busy with other things, sometimes playing games with the kids takes precedence over any clean-up.  The difference is, as adults we’re not punished for it.  We deal with it the next day, and life goes on.

It emphasizes an “us versus them” mentality.   A system like this sets up mom as the dictator, and the kids at her beck and call.   A lot of people seem to think that if it doesn’t work that way that the kids must run the house.  To the contrary, in our house we operate as a family.   We’re all on the same team.  It’s not my house, or my husband’s house, or the kids’ house…. it’s our house.  We all work together, and we respect each other’s things.  If something’s left out, and it’s an issue for someone else, it’s no more simple nor complicated than this:  “Spencer, can you please come get your project off the counter so we can make dinner?”  And he comes to get it.  Problem solved.  If he can’t come right that second for whatever reason, we move it for him, into his room or onto to his desk.  He knows it’s safe, we have the counter back, and we can make dinner.  Problem solved. 

It’s a temporary (and rather arbitrary) solution.  It’s a quick fix.  I find it odd and somewhat confusing when people justify this kind of thing by saying “I’m not going to raise ungrateful little brats who don’t respect their belongings.”   This isn’t going to teach them to respect their belongings.  It’s not going to teach them to pick up their things.  It’s going to temporarily make them pick up their things, because they don’t want mom to take them, and/or because they don’t want to have to do the chores to get them back.  Mom doesn’t have to worry about the stuff hanging around anymore, plus she gets someone to do the chores she doesn’t want to do anymore.  Win/win, right?  But what’s going to happen when the child is grown, and mom’s not around to confiscate his things?  What’s he going to do when he lives on his own and can leave his stuff wherever he damn well pleases, without fear of someone snatching it?   Sure, it’s easy and convenient to just take away all their things, but what is it going to accomplish in the long term?  And what is it going to do to your relationship with your child? If you want your children to learn how to take care of their things, show them how to take care of their things.  Help them take care of their things.  Let them see you taking care of your own things.  Put in the effort!  As for the mess, and the chores….

Everyone has his/her own personal level of tidiness.  Some people live and work best in chaos, and others are uncomfortable with anything but hospital corners and floors you can eat off of.  We have six people in our house, and all of us are different.  My daily struggle with this issue is the fact that messes make me crazy… and yet I tend to make a mess everywhere I go.  It’s my struggle though.  Not my husband’s, and not my kid’s.   If *I* am bothered by a mess, I will clean it.  If I need help, I’ll ask for it.  But it wouldn’t be fair for me to impose my style on the rest of the family, nor would it be fair for them to impose theirs onto me.  We respect each other’s differences, we communicate, we compromise, we give and we take.  We operate as a family.

This house is our haven.  The one place we’re guaranteed to be free to be ourselves, and free to give and receive unconditional love.  To learn, to play, to experiment, to grow.  Sometimes our house is clean.  Sometimes it’s messy.  Sometimes it’s very messy.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.


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Filed under Facebook, mindful parenting, parenting

164 Responses to I stole your stuff. Now I’m holding it for ransom.

  1. Yes yes yes!  When I saw that photo on Facebook, I shared it and expressed how awful I thought it was.  I was blown away when many people I know were defending it and saying it was brilliant.  You expressed perfectly why I think this is such a terrible idea.  It is so refreshing to see someone who feels the same way as I do!  Thank you!

  2. Amanda

    Another well written post to make some of us think.  I will admit I essentially liked the idea simply because my girls have too many things and I’m not sure how it happened or what I can do about the amount of clutter we have stored up in our house. We have been working together to donate things but it just isn’t happening.  My girls want to hold on to EVERYTHING and I have little patience for keeping everything.  Any tips on how to respectfully tame the clutter?  Oh by the way my girls are very creative and can create 10-20 new masterpieces per day.  We have rock collections, button collections, trinket collections and upon cleaning yesterday I have found some fascinating sticks and they love leaving things haphazardly spread all over our tiny house.   ACK!!  

    • pathlesstaken

      My kids are always on board with helping to tame the clutter when I ask.  🙂 When I feel like things are getting out of control, I’ll suggest going through their room, shelves, toy bins, etc together, and we’ll work together – letting them making the decision on what stays and goes – and make piles for trash, donate, and yard sale.  It’s an ongoing process when you have 4 kids.

  3. Thank you so much for writing this.  The image itself upset me, but what made me feel worse is that not too long ago, I too would have thought that a GREAT idea.  

    Lots of parents are not aware of what kind of messages these things send.

  4. Jen C

    You nailed it again!!!

  5. Multipurp0sem0m

    Like I commented before, I was sort of “on the fence” about that picture posting everywhere…..and I KNEW you would have a way to make it all make sense…Thank You!!!! I love this post, and your perspective!
    (now, to go convince a bunch of “un-trained”  teenagers to operate as a family 😉

  6. Salena Tucker

    I have to be honest:  I agreed with the idea that the mother was trying to convey in the photo.  I liked the idea of having a way to teach the kids to pick up their stuff, without spanking or yelling.  Otherwise I have to pick it up, because when I tell them to pick it up, they don’t usually pick up more than 3 of the 2 million legos before they get distracted by something else.  We live in a hotel with one living/sleeping area, so I can’t tell them to play with their toys in their room.  
    I don’t know for certain that I am trying to teach them to pick up their stuff, either for now,or for the long term.  I just want the stuff off this floor, and quickly. I expect that I will have taught them about cleaning up from them seeing me clean up after myself, and them (which is what I do most times) enough without me having to make it an actual lesson when I want their toys off the floor.  You make good points, many of which I agree with.  I dont want them to think of chores as punishments.   I dont want them to think of mom and dad as adversaries.    And I can get a little messy myself.  The issue comes in when not everyone (including hotel employees who come to the room nearly every day) agrees with my relaxed, messy attitude.   And to be honest, I DO want to teach them to be responsible for their own messes.  I just don’t have a better way to do it. 

    • Aadel

      Salena, it sounds like your kids are very young.  Forgive me if my assumption is wrong.  When they are younger, you have to model cleanliness by getting down and doing it with them.  We sing the clean-up song together and I get down and teach the younger ones how to pick up and put things away.  We also have a routine called “15-minute family clean-up” where we set the timer for 15 minutes and everyone (EVERYONE) works on picking up and cleaning for that time.  It just takes modeling the work as a family- as a group effort- for the kids to eventually catch on.  They are not going to get it in 1-2 tries.  😉

      • Salena Tucker

        They are young and young-ish @ 6 and 9.  Mostly I clean up FOR them, but they have gotten to the ages where I feel like they can clean up some of their messes, even when they don’t feel like it 🙂  So I would like to be able to teach them that when they make a mess, they can clean it up. Without any anger, yelling or spanking.   

  7. Lisa from Iroquois

    I’m one of those people who thought it was a brilliant idea – and yet you make a strong case for the opposite point of view.  Thank you for a well articulated and thought provoking post.  

    • pathlesstaken

       Thank you!  I’m glad it made you think further about it. 🙂

      • montanamama

        exactly what she said.  i definitely didn’t take too much time to think that one through.  thank you for enlightening me.  

  8. I agree with Lisa. I re-posted the pic but find your thoughts compelling as well. My boys have ‘blonde roots’ and have to be asked repeatedly to pick up and put away.  I don’t have BH&G standards, so I am not overly demanding in that area. But, the time comes when we all have to learn to manage details…even clutter…bcz that skill is transferable. I am interested in knowing what approach you’d take? You offer your differences of opinion without suggesting options for folks who’d like to curb the clutter of childhood. BTW…my boys are now 14 and 21. Needless to say, I wouldn’t use this approach now, but I sure wish I had thought of it 10 years ago! 🙂 Thanks for a great point/counter-point post!

    • pathlesstaken

      I did offer options….  Talk.  Communicate.  Come up with solutions together. Compromise.  Work as a team.   🙂

      • Yes, these things may work for YOUR children, but not for others. We have talked and shared chores, and talked till we are exhausted, and only 1 of our 5 children cares enough to help at home, which puts an undo burden on her as well as my husband and I. I on’t implement this in our home for my own reasons, but i won’t begrudge or judge anyone who does.We respect our children, but they are not showing the desire to respect their things or our home. I occasionally just throw things away if I have picked them up and picked them up and picked them up. Our house is usually a mess, and i am usually resentful of the work i have to do that is caused by kids dropping their things or their trash around. It seems like all the AP bloggers say is “talk, listen, respect, ” but don’t give solutions for when that. doesn’t. work.

        • pathlesstaken

          First, I didn’t begrudge or judge anyone who used it either.  I simply answered the questions I’d been getting ALL DAY about what I didn’t like about it. 

          As far as a solution… you said that you were usually resentful of the work you have to do around the house.  When I find that things don’t seem to be working around here, the first thing I do is work on examining and changing *my* attitude.  Works every time.

          • justme

            So the solution is to just learn to like living in a mess, or learn to like basically being your children’s servant who picks up after them? Um, no. They need to learn that if they leave their things all over the place, it inconveniences other people, and that is not okay. I respect my children, and I expect respect in return–it’s not enough to respect them and have them turn around and disrespect you by ignoring your need to walk on your floor, and your anxiety/annoyance at living in a mess. What about the KID’s respect, here?

          • pathlesstaken

             ?  I feel like we’re talking about two different things here.  My kids *do* respect me.   I’m not my kids’ servant.  We are a FAMILY, and we all work together.  I’m not sure how else I can say it.

          • Phelps

            I think she’s saying that it’s not happening for her at her home. My husband regularly communicates using ‘you’ when he is actually speaking about himself 🙂

        • Jane Strauss

          I don’t agree that this is as evil as the author seems to think. I do agree that kids need consequences for their actions (or inaction) and that some are perhaps not as easy to negotiate with or discuss with as yours. I have successfully raised a number of children, and some have needed the action of confiscation and extra chores (much like community service in the courts) to actually believe parents would follow through when they did not do as reasonably requested to do. Especially if the parent has purchased the property, they may have a lien on it, IMO.

    • Serena

      My guess, and correct me if I’m wrong Jen, is that just the dynamic in Jen’s household – very hands on, home schooled, older kids teaching the younger kids etc – has allowed her to demonstrate to her children from a young age how to work together. Now after years of hands on example they relate with one another as a team and they have the skill set to respond accordingly. That doesn’t mean that it all works perfectly or that there aren’t times when one doesn’t pick up the slack for the others, but that it’s become an integral part of how they interact as a family.

      It takes a lot of concerted effort and time with small children to sit down and demonstrate the steps involved in putting toys away, how to pick up a towel and fold it so that it lays flat on a towel rack, how to fold clean clothes so they fit in a drawer.

      Many of us without realizing it resort to just doing it “the right way” ourselves, when our kids are young and then get exasperated when they don’t actually know what we expect from them later when we say “Go clean your room.”

      Kids don’t have the executive functioning skills to know the steps required for most tasks without watching an adult do it many times and practicing themselves with active supervision.

      Without realizing it, many families fall into the trap of expecting our kids to know how to do their chores etc, without taking the time to teach them what that means.

      Yes it’s a lot of work, but it does works. It allows kids to feel more empowered and self sufficient. It teaches them how to teach others, and they end up teaching younger siblings.

      It’s like diet and exercise. We actually have to do the work to see the results, and we can’t expect to see results by wishing it were different. It’s amazing how fast kids jump on board when they know they will get to spend time with you and get your undivided attention and learn life skills. However, as soon as you turn to exasperation and self pity because they’re not jumping to or doing it as you expect the first time, they turn off knowing, Mom’s mad but I can’t do it right anyway and if I ignore her she’ll just do it for me anyway. Not the dynamic or relationship any of us wish for but unfortunately far too common.

  9. I am on the fence with this one, leaning in your direction. However, one thought that I do have is that sometimes when we carelessly leave things laying around they WILL get stolen and unlike this situation, there will be no way to get our things back. So in one sense it seems a safe way to emphasize this point with our children.
    Just a thought-I work in residential situations and this happens all the time with our students. It could easily be translated to a brother or sister using things (that were laying around) without asking (an issue that should also be addressed with the sibling, clearly) but it could happen with much greater consequences on the playground, school, or work.

    • Chessa

      I really see what you’re saying, but….I don’t think I need to basically innoculate my children to the crappy experiences of the world that *might* happen to them. For one thing, in your example, if your kid went to college, left his ipad in the dorm common room, and it was stolen – well, he’d take away from that that maybe not everyone out in the world is as trustworthy as he would like/hope. However, if YOU as his mother does this kind of stealing-to-teach-you-a-lesson thing, what does he learn? Basically, that mom isn’t trustworthy, even though she says she’s doing it for my own good. I don’t think in the moment, kids are going to learn that lesson, they just want their stuff back, and they think you’re a grade-a jerk for taking it in the first place.

      • Stacy

        He learns that “mom isn’t trustworthy, even though she says she’s doing it for my own good”?

        I don’t get it – this statement strikes me as hyperbolic. People, kids included, lose trust in a person when they behave in unpredictable ways, when they lie or conceal things, when they do not follow through on commitments or promises, when they “gaslight” someone. I don’t see how there is a loss of trust if the Mom’s system is transparent, she explains it clearly in advance, the bin is visible and the object is clearly inside, she follows through on returning the object in question after kid has done the chore, and she is consistent in following the process or plan. Now the kid knows exactly what to expect. He might not LIKE Mom’s system, but again I don’t see where the loss of trust comes in.

  10. Heather Caliri

    It is so funny–I was just reading the New Yorker article about “permissive” parenting (“Spoiled Rotten”) and it made hyperventilate with anxiety. Clearly I’m not comfortable yet with the choices I’m making. 😉
    And last night I decided to wait a few days before making any more sudden changes. So your post is timely.
    A few months ago, I decided to abandon chores for a while and see how I felt about picking things up without requiring things of my kid.
    It has been a mixed bag.
    Mostly, really, I didn’t mind.
    I _get_ that my need for neatness is my deal. I get that they are still de-toxing from the required chores. I get that I’m modeling the behavior rather than enforcing it.
    I also remember that I was a messy person for several years after I left home until I realized I was still doing it to annoy my mother, who was no longer there to see. 🙂
    Sometimes, though, I’d really like them to help. I’d also really like them to _learn_ how to be considerate members of the household, rather than expecting others to do for them. I get worried that I’m raising them to feel entitled. The main housekeeping chores are manageable on my own, but the clutter? That is 98% them, and so much of it is because they don’t know how to get things out without creating a disaster. I also don’t like the attitude of my eldest (detoxing, I know, detoxing) who bristles at any request for help.
    If I’m really honest, quite a lot of the anxiety with the article was more worry about ‘doing the wrong thing’ than true dissatisfaction with the way things are. Not fighting over chores means they take less time and energy anyway.
    But there is another part of me that just isn’t happy with how things are right now. I’m not quite sure what to do with that.

  11. Aadel

    I posted this on Facebook too, but wanted to share my thoughts here as well:

    Someone doesn’t take my stuff I leave out and make me do a chore to get it back. They just ask me to pick it up. When I ask my kids- they pick up, clean the floor, do dishes, and all the other things that make a family and home run smoothly. Why? Because we have a trusting relationship. 

    (My 11-year old) says that she does picking up and cleaning for me without any argument because she loves me and she wants to show me she is responsible. When I asked her why other kids don’t pick up when their parents ask, she said it has to do with those kids having a different perspective. They don’t understand that a family works together. They don’t trust their parents because they have already violated their personal space. Their parents don’t trust them to be responsible. 

    • Tamara

      Look at this way: It’s mine, I own it and I shouldn’t have to work to “pay” by that work for something I already own. If someone takes what I own from me it is stealing, demanding me to “pay” to get back my own property is ransom, therefore on a very simple basic level the child is resentful because the parent is demanding payment through work for their own personal property. it’s theirs, so taking it and demanding payment is theft is ransoming… which is wrong. But they have no way of defending themselves when a parent does it due to the parental authority, hence the understandable resentment.

      Teaching that theft and ransoming is OK but then telling children theft and ransoming is wrong. But it’s OK when mom/ dad/ a relative does it….

      Free Dictionary Online:


      a. The release of property or a person in return for payment of a demanded price.

      b. The price or payment demanded or paid for such release.

      2. Christianity A redemption from sin and its consequences.

      tr.v. ran·somed, ran·som·ing, ran·soms
      a. To obtain the release of by paying a certain price.

      b. To release after receiving such a payment.

      Stealing pretty much self-explanatory.

  12. Angela

    I totally agree. I can’t imagine a chore that a child would be given that would take the miniscule amount of time and effort it takes to pick up a toy and put it away (which would at least make it a more fair and logical punishment).

    And since I am constantly picking up things that I left out that I don’t remember leaving out, I would sure hate living with someone who did this to me.

  13. Carolyn

    If you think this is a good idea, you should be prepared for your kids to pull the same thing on you. I know that myself as a child would have been like “What about all of Mom’s and Dad’s stuff laying around?” I would have collected it all and made the same ransom demand. They would have to explain why they get a pass for leaving stuff around and I don’t. And Mom probably would have said “Because I’m the mom and I said so”…ugh! another rant….LOL!

  14. Rose

    I’m on the fence, but I DO take away items when I need to. For instance, my 13 year old constantly leaves her curling iron on in the bathroom. One time I found it on, scorching the countertop, nearly 2 hours after she had done her hair.

     I’m sorry but this is a hazard to everyone and she has been warned that if it gets left on again, I am taking it away because she isn’t responsible enough to use it.

     What am I supposed to do, let her burn the house down???

    • Mary

       I think it’s different when it’s dangerous!  When it’s day to day things that are just in the way, that’s different.  Also, she is 13 and totally old enough to be responsible for her curling iron!  She’s being thoughtless and disrespectful besides dangerous.  I think the idea is that younger kids need more gentle guidance.  Your older kid is plenty old enough to reap these consequences.  Doing a chore in return for her curling iron maybe isn’t the best way to go about it, telling her she’ll get it back in a few days or a week, with no haggling, probably is a better consequence.

      • Dezignarob

        I would buy my daughter a curling iron with an automatic off switch. 

        • Bdthompson

           I am all about respecting space. I wouldn’t use the “take away and do a chore” method but I dont agree with all the reasons in this post. What I wanted to address though is that a 13 yr old girl being irresponsible with her curling iron is NOT the same as a young child mindlessly forgetting to put toys away. Saying “buy one that turns of FOR HER” doesn’t solve the problem. Are you also going to buy her a stove that turns off automatically? What about automatic lights so as to not waste electricity? I agree wtih this moms actions. You can say respectfully “I found this scorching the counter today. That is a fire hazard and very serious. If you cannot use the curling iron in a responsible way then I will take it away until you are a little older.” That is perfectly acceptable. AP parenting is a GOOD thing, but I dont think we deal with teenagers the same that we deal with children under the age of 10. And enabling them to be careless by just buying something that shuts itself off doesn’t do ANYONE let alone the kid, any favors.

          • Pocket Buddha

            I don’t get the prevalence of this idea that AP only works for younger kids and a Teenager is obviously some great beast that needs a firmer hand. Teenagers are people. Young and inexperienced people, but still people. Using gentle and respectful communication with them pays off just as much as using it with younger children. Even more so since a teenager is likely to win any power struggle you instigate. Unless you plan on shooting up their personal property….

    • Nora

      Seems like a different issue here.  That certainly is a fire hazard.  If something is causing a safety problem, it makes sense to me to remove it.  I too would take away that curling iron, at least temporarily.  I’d tell her I am worried that there could be a fire so we need to come up with a safe way for her to do her hair.   
      We do remove items when there is a safety problem directly related to that item.   We put it away and explain why, and try to come up with a solution with the child.  
      But taking away a child’s possessions for leaving a mess?  No way.

    • Kelly Lovejoy

      My curling iron has an automatic off switch. I think it cuts off after ten minutes.
      Apparently it’s a big enough issue (with *adults*) that the curling iron companies have made that option.
      Just buy different curling iron.

    • Kidgie, aka Karen

      Another alternative to buying a new one, would be a taped sign on the mirror – “Remember to turn off your curling iron, ok? Love you!” Just a thought…

  15. Thank you! So good to know I wasn’t crazy in thinking that was not the best idea ever!

  16. Taurusmom18

    I didn’t really have a stance because I had only heard about this (I’m not on pintrest) while reading your post, but as I read your reasons, my view definitely began to side with yours, you made very good points. Sounds good at first, but it really isn’t as wonderful as it sounds. Chores shouldn’t be a punishment.


  17. Mama Mo

    Thank you!  I couldn’t put into words why I disliked that picture so much.  It just didn’t feel right, and your words explain why beautifully.

  18. You just said everything I felt about this graphic, but didn’t know how to articulate.  Thank you!

  19. Dinostompmom

    I can see this being a punitive, us/them thing.  But I can also see this as a final step in a respectful relationship.  I would never use this with my younger kids, but I can see a place for this with my bigger kids (ages 8&9).  It doesn’t have to be a “white glove test for every little thing left out”.  It can be a “you left this in the pathway/on the stairs and that is dangerous and we have talked about this a zilliion times” thing.  And if my kids did the same thing in return to me, that would be okay. 

    It’s part of the shared responsibility of the home.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that chores are a punishment or that I’m in an us/them relationship.  My kids and I are great partners.  I employ a ton of playful parenting and I can definitely see a place for this in my home. 

  20. You know, when I first saw that picture, I spent more time trying to puzzle out how it would work than thinking about what we’re teaching our kids with this sort of thing.  Excellent post – you nailed the problems with it beautifully.  
    As a libertarian, I’m a firm believer in property rights.  I believe that children are people, so why on earth would I think it’s OK to violate my kid’s rights?  
    I think I’ll be stopping by here more often now.  Thanks so much for writing!

  21. Mari

    Yeah, I saw that come across my Pintrest a time or two.  To be honest, it gave me the squicks.  Mostly for the very first reason you mentioned.  

    And for the fact that I have a budding amateur lawyer who would very much want to know why she wouldn’t be allowed to “return the favor” by holding MY left-around stuff hostage in return.  That little lawyer has taught me soooo much about treating my children with the same respect I would like to receive.  Every time I slip into the “parent trap” there she is to remind me that if it’s ok for me to do something to her why isn’t it ok for her to do it back?  That, more than any blog post or book on gentle parenting, has shaped my parenting philosophy.  I can NOT answer her “Because I’m the mom…” so I’ve learned to evaluate all of my parenting choices through HER eyes.  Not in a “giving in to her” way but in a way where, when she chooses to challenge what I’m doing, I want to have a REAL explanation for her that doesn’t end with “Because I said so.”   I feel like if I resort to “because I said so” I’ve already lost and just can’t admit it yet.

  22. Brady

    I can’t find the picture, can someone link it for me?

  23. Susan May

    Brilliant. Sharing!

  24. I cannot see how this is
    theft. Theft is a pretty strong word. Until the kid goes out and gets a job, the house and pretty much
    everything in it belongs to the parents. The children live and sleep
    there by their continued beneficence. Ok, so you can make the
    argument that things have been “given” to the children and even though
    they didn’t work for them, those gifts are still theirs. I’m generally
    on board with that, but I still see this as a valuable lesson
    in-so-far-as it teaches a reality of life: If you don’t fulfill your
    responsibilities, you don’t get to enjoy your privileges. Even
    from a very practical standpoint, even if you own a car, you don’t get
    to drive it unless you work to maintain it and put gas in it. Without
    fulfilling the responsibility, you own a 3000-lb paper-weight. With
    children, since parents have a moral obligation to provide for their
    bodily needs, it’s much harder to tie the particular responsibility to
    the associated privilege and so I we have to resort to disconnecting
    them. This is less than ideal, but I still think it’s a very
    valid approach to take. My only critique would be that the parent needs
    to emphasize that the confiscation of toys is a consequence of not
    fulfilling their household duties and not an arbitrary punishment

    • pathlesstaken

      In my house, my kids’ things are theirs.  If I take something that isn’t mine, and claim it as my own, that is theft.  A strong  word?  Yes, it is.  But it’s also the word that’s used to describe taking something that isn’t yours.

    • The Maynard Mob Mom

      Sounds like you might be a laptop shooter approved parent. Scary.

      Your CHILDREN are the gift. And whatever you GIVE to them is theirs. Not yours. They are not required to do something to keep their own items. If they do, then you haven’t FREELY given to them and what are you teaching them? Once you buy a car, it might not run if you don’t take care of it, but no one steals it from you until you do. So clearly, it is not the same thing. And the only thing you do when you “teach” your children by taking away their things is that you are not respectful of THEM and that punishing them is favored(read: easier) over working with them to find a better solution, like the bins where everyone’s things that are misplaced go and then you work together as a family for 5 minutes each night to put the things away.

      Gentle parenting VS. agressive parenting. It’s all about the cycle you want to perpetuate. And before you tell me that “your parents taught you to respect by *beating, yelling, taking things away, grounding, denying activites, etc, etc* and you turned out fine”, let’s just remember that this world is in a pretty sorry state and it didn’t get there because something isn’t wrong with the thinking of the masses…..

      Peace at home, peace in the world.

      • Mom of 5

         “Once you buy a car, it might not run if you don’t take care of it, but no one steals it from you until you do.” Very rarely do people purchase cars outright. If you’ve financed a vehicle and don’t care care of that responsibility, someone will indeed take that  car away from you.

        • Jess

          That’s different. When you purchase a car using finance, you agree to the terms, pay it back over a certain amount of time before you officially own it and don’t have to pay for ownership anymore, but most of all, they chose to use finance knowing that they would have to pay it back. When you give anything to your child do you tell them of the ‘conditions’ they must abide in order to keep it? Do they get a say in whether or not they agree with the terms? And is there an end date to this earning of things received? If not, then this is nothing like your car finance example. Kids need to own something and have their space respected. It used to kill me when i went to my room for space and that wasn’t respected. My parents would barge in and demand to find out what was wrong etc. Never mind that I wanted to space to process things and then talk about it. Kids, just like adults need their things and space respected. You wouldn’t expect to be given a gift from someone at Xmas then have them take it back because you left it on the couch.

    • Tamara

      If I give you a present for Christmas or your birthday, that I bought with my own money and then gave to you, could I then take it back when I want? It doesn’t matter who pays for it, if it is given to a person it becomes their property. Also getting a job should not be a determiner for whether or not a person has rights, a person has rights because they are a human being, not because they vote or have a job. Also taking the kid’s things does not teach them respect for the object, it teaches fearing mom/ dad will take their property if mom/ dad feels inconvenienced by them for any reason. It is a demand of “respect” (obedience mostly) for authority, not teaching how to take care of an item properly. If respect of a person is wrought through fear is it true respect? I do not respect people who hold a stick over my head. If you want to teach a child to respect other people, you have to show respect for them as a person.

      ” If you don’t fulfill your responsibilities, you don’t get to enjoy your privileges.” Rights are NOT privileges! Property rights are rights. You can’t violate another person’s right for convenience. You always have rights and can always enjoy them because they can never be taken away. To try is a violation. Privileges can be taken away..

      “even if you own a car, you don’t get to drive it unless you work to maintain it and put gas in it” Different than taking something from someone. How does physical maintenance equal someone else confiscating your personal property? Nowhere near the same thing! How is doing a chore someone demands of me to get back my toy equate to, say, putting gas in my car?????

      Teaching about maintaining and fueling something is more akin to explaining that when the MP3 player stops working it needs a new battery, and don’t drop it or it’ll break….. If they drop and break it, they face the consequence of not having one for awhile, You don’t make the kid do chores each time the battery runs down so he/she’ll remember to change the battery in their toy, so why would you use that car as an example for why you’d confiscate their stuff?

      Also, if you think the children are only there by your benevolence, would you throw your kids on the street at 2, at 8, at 10, 12? higher? because of their “irresponsibility”? At what age does a developing child not benefit from your entitled “benevolence”? Children need guidance as they develop into adults, not a stick held over their heads claiming benevolence. At different ages they learn different stages of responsible action, and the parent has responsibility to care for, teach and guide their children. To speak down on them and put them in a second-class citizen status is disturbing. It doesn’t seem very benevolent to me.

  25. Heidi Snavley

    LOVE THIS POST!! The thing I’m honing in on is the comments about leaving the curling iron on. I forget and leave my straightener on ALL the time! I’m sure glad I don’t have a husband that takes my straightener away from me! I can tell you how that would go over:P Instead he turns it off for me and lets me know that I left it on so I’m aware. It’s amazing to me how people somehow justify treating children so differently than the way they treat the adults in their life. Our house is just that, OUR house. It’s not mine, it’s not my husband’s, it’s ours. I don’t own my children’s things anymore than I own my husband’s things. We have mutual respect and we work as a family to come up with PEACEFUL solutions that work for all of us and punishments do not help your children be more respectful or self-disciplined – it makes them resentful and not heard. You may get short-term results only because the punishment isn’t worth it for them, but as  they grow older that will turn into cheating, lying, sneaking, etc. to avoid those punishments.

    • Bdthompson

       I just have to disagree… It is not wrong or disrespectful for a parent to explain the danger of leaving a curling iron on repeatedly and finally decide they are not yet ready for the responsibility. You don’t have to be nasty about it, you don’t have to intrude on their space…  Giving plenty of warnings is important. Them understanding that you cant wait until the house catches on fire for them to learn is vital. I just dont see how allowing the behavior to continue by always turning it off is safe for anyone. I am usually totally on board the “if I wouldnt like it done to me, I dont do it to my children” but here there IS a difference. I rarely leave my stove or curling iron on. When I do my husband is nice, but definitely lets me know that I should not forget again. Thats all I need… I dont NEED him to take it away to know that its dangerous and be more aware. A 13 year old who is a little careless (like most teenagers…) probably needs a little more to get their attention. In real life if she doesn’t learn this she could very well start a fire. Which is worse? Taking it away after many warnings and reminders for a week to get her attention or waiting for her to suffer a REAL consequence? We don’t always have husbands, parents or friends to notice a red light on our curling iron.

  26. Dezignarob

    I’ve been making the suggestion on FB to the folks who are worried about their kids leaving stuff about – get a bunch of these bins and place them around to make it easy for your kids to tidy up after themselves. Then, when the bins are almost full, spend some time with your kid putting the things away together – and use it as a time for bonding.

  27. Lisa

    I disagree with you.  When my daughter was 8, she was copping some serious attitude and total disregard for belongings.

    I stripped her room bare of everything but bedding, 1 week of clothes and books.  I will never take books.

    She didn’t have to do chores to earn them back, but she did have to learn a more acceptable way to communicate.

    It’s been 5 years since then, and I barely ever have to ask anything twice.  It’s a give and take relationship.  She’s kind, courteous, smart and thoughtful.

    What I did 5 years ago opened her eyes.  Life isn’t fair, and we are not entitled.

    I don’t agree with making chores a punishable offense, however.  That is just something everyone does to make the world go round.

    •  My immediate gut response to this is that you are a really awful person for thinking this was an acceptable way to treat your child.  My more thoughtful response is that if your child is that disrespectfully out of control at 8, she didn’t get that way in a vacuum–there were many missed parenting opportunities along the way and then she got to pay the price for them.  I feel so sorry for your daughter.  

  28. Artsydenise

    I knew when I saw it I did not respond with that same enthusiasm that a lot of people seemed to share. But I didn’t think much more about it. After reading your blog, I see that I agree with your perspective much more than with the original idea.

  29. Chelsie

    I saw that showing up on so many friends’ pages. It didn’t sit with me, but I really couldn’t pin point WHY. I just didn’t like it. Thanks for the insight. I totally realize why it didn’t sit with me now. 🙂 

  30. Kristina

    I actually politely disagree with you. All of our things/ belongings are gifts and blessings that need taken care of. It’s all about the matter of how you deal with it. I still plan on trying this in my home but I am perfectly fine with my things being taken as well. Sometimes you need an instigator for taking care of bad habits. Both me and my husband clutter tables and set things down at random and I can only get rid of so many surfaces. I feel that having the chores remind us to respect our home and belongings, that they need to be cared for. It’s all about how you teach about it. It’s not a dictatorship. It’s about us all being mindful of our belongings, home, and space that we share.

    • pathlesstaken

       What’s interesting about this comment is that you were disagreeing with me, but I actually agree with much of what you said here. 🙂  I agree that are things and gifts and blessings that should be taken care of.  And I agree that chores are a way of respecting our home, and taking care of it.   We all work together to do that, as a family.

  31. Lisa Ayala

    Judge not, lest ye be judged..

    It’s hard enough being a parent. It sure isn’t the worst thing that parent could have done.

    • pathlesstaken

       And I absolutely never said it was.

      • eplus3

        Well, no, but you did basically accuse the parents who choose to do this of stealing their children’s’ things and being general bullies. Is it really such a big issue that you have to make it into an us-versus-them parenting battle? People choose to do things differently. We all need to respect each other more, and I think that includes you (the blogger) respecting parents who don’t see things the same way as you by not accusing them of stealing.

        And this is coming from somebody who actually parents the same way as you do. I wouldn’t do this in my own family. But you are jumping to huge conclusions by assuming that parents who would use this method don’t respect their children. A commentor above pointed out some situations in which a bin like this would be appropriate (the whole family agreed on it, for example). I just think it’s possible to disagree with a method without 1. writing an entire blog post about why said method is bad parenting, and 2. accusing other parents of disrespecting their children when you have absolutely no insight into their family dynamic.

        • pathlesstaken

          Okay, again, this post was simply in response to questions about what I didn’t like about it.  It was not “an entire blog post about why said method is bad parenting.”  It was a blog post about why I personally disagreed.  

    • Megan

      Agreed… but at the same time don’t we all want to be better? Of course we should celebrate all the things we’re great at, too, but why on earth wouldn’t we take an opportunity to learn a new perspective, especially one based in respect? Not that everyone has to agree, but it doesn’t hurt to hear it.

      And… we all make judgments every day and that is not a bad thing; we judge when it’s safe to enter an intersection, what time would be good for dinner, what clothes we should wear for the weather or the occasion or whatever… it’s just a part of life. We all judge parenting methods by our own standards, too. What’s *bad* in terms of judging is when we assume a *person* is bad in some way because of something they’ve done. That is not what this is about; this criticizes a specific method (not the people using it) and gives reasons for doing things differently. And the intention is to help people be more respectful toward each other, which is always something to work toward.

  32. We live in a home that my husband and I pay for. We teach our children to be responsible for their things. I would completely implement this system for things that I have repeatedly asked them to take care of and yet, they still leave laying around. Everyone has to work in society. We are also told in society what we are allowed and not allowed to do. If I break the law, there are consequences. And there are consequences in childhood as well. Not every parenting technique is for everyone nor will they work for everyone. If you don’t like it, don’t use it. I honestly don’t personally know anyone who actually enjoys doing chores. They are a fact of life. Kids can do them too. It’s good for them. Otherwise, how do they grow up knowing how to take care of themselves and a home? And I get being the messy one in the home cause that’s me. But it does bug my husband when the house is a mess and yes, he does ask that I clean up and out of respect for him, I try to not let it get to the point that I know it’s going to get on his nerves because this is after all, his home and haven too.

    • pathlesstaken

      I think you may have missed a huge component of my post.  My kids all do chores.  We all work together.  In fact, just before I sat down at the computer, the 15 yr old swept, the 11 year old mopped, and the 8 yr old cleaned the bathroom.  I’m not sure which part led you to believe that they don’t help out. 

  33. Tata_ruttivut

    This is a wonderful post. Thank you.

  34. Qtjams01


  35. kidsumers

    I respectfully disagree as well. Losing something and having to earn it back is something that happens in adulthood as well as childhood. If I left my car parked in a no parking zone, it would be towed away and I would have to pay to get it back. If we left our bikes laying outside, they may very well be taken by someone and we would have to earn money to buy new ones. There are consequences to not taking care of your things, and children need to learn this early on.

    • pathlesstaken

      Both of those examples you gave are *natural* consequences though, not parent-imposed consequences.

      • kidsumers

         Actually, getting towed and having to pay is a consequence by an authority figure, much like a parent…not a natural consequence. However…I feel that my role as a parent is to teach my children, so showing them that there are consequences to their actions (or inaction in this case) is my job.

        While I haven’t personally done the tote technique, I thought it was a great idea. I have a 20 year old son who I taught to be responsible for his things or he wouldn’t have them. We have a very close and trusting relationship, and he knows not to leave his stuff laying around 🙂

        • MissMaryMac

          And this is the difference between Authoritarian and Authoritative. If you choose to be an authoritarian parent with your child, imposing consequences would be the way you would go. If you choose to be an authoritative parent you *trust* that your child will naturally follow you because you they *trust* that you are a good leader to follow and you model the proper behavior. 

  36. anon

    Another con here is the importance placed on things. I took my kids to a playdate in a home where the children refused to let my kids play with their toys because the kids were scared to death something would get out of place. They kept telling their mom that my kids were messing up their things just because they were trying to play. I can only assume this was due to a militant version of this lesson and that was nearly a year ago. And these kids were 6 and 4! Yes my kids are messy and love to play with their toys everywhere but under 8 or so that is expected. We clean them up together or if I’m in a hurry I set them to the task but expect to have to finish up. That’s part of being the parent. I think too many parents these days want their kids to take the brunt of responsibility because they are too busy on fb, twitter, or pinterest. Put down the phones people and and be WITH your KIDS!

  37. Thank you so much for articulating this so well. I felt the same about that meme when I saw it but just skipped past it thinking something along the lines of “thank god I don’t have that kind of thing in my house anymore”. You’ve outlined so clearly the reasons I don’t.

  38. Adhurd

    Thank you someone needed to write this

  39. Kristin

    I pinned this the first time I saw it. Then as I continued seeing it it became a worse idea, until eventually I realized it was not suitable for my family.
    We’re messy too. Sometimes I’m not ok with it and I lose track of what’s important and what isn’t.

  40. Carolanne67

    Interesting.  I am one who posted the photo and thought about implementing it.  Now I’m reconsidering it as you make some really good points.

  41. Yep…it’s all about respect. We teach our children about respect by being respectful.

  42. Prtollardo

    This is the stupidest article EVER written!!!  Be a Parent and stop being stupid!!!!

    • Flynn

      You stop being stupid!

    • Megan

      Just for your information, Prtollardo, multiple exclamation points and incorrect capitalization make you seem uneducated, and people are less likely to listen to someone whom they believe is uneducated. Also, when I disagree with someone, I like to say why I disagree with them instead of calling them names. That’s another tip to get people to take you seriously. If you want to change someone’s mind about something, you have to give them a reason to do so, rather than a reason to be angry with you.

    • Tamara

      I’ve seen sites where many parents are having very good results with their children following advice like what is in this article. It isn’t laziness at all.

  43. Very interesting perspective. I don’t feel the need for the system in my home at this point, in part because I know I couldn’t enforce it in a way that didn’t run afoul of some of your points (most importantly the consistency about how much of my stuff I leave around, and how some days I can tolerate mess and other days it overwhelms me).  But, I do understand those who think it has great possibilities, and I think it could be done in a way that doesn’t send the messages you’re concerned about (or, at least most of them).  The devil is in the details as families come up with living agreements.  So, these are my questions. 
    (1)  Were the children involved in or agree to this as a solution? If so, I don’t think it is “theft”
    (2)  Are the chores above and beyond the children’s normal chores?  If kids leaving stuff around creates extra work for the parents, then “paying” in terms of reimbursing that time and effort by doing a chore that is not otherwise assigned to them could be appropriate without connecting chores to punishment instead of household upkeep 
    (3) What is the home culture and expectations for cleanliness?  If the parents are leaving things lying all over the place, then, yes, it’s unfair.  If there are clear expectations that the the floor needs to be clean, or the kitchen table, or whatever, and it applies to everyone in the household, then it might not place unfair/unequal “blame”.  
    (4) Does everyone understand the expectations?  What needs to be cleaned?  By when? Are there “mess-friendly” areas?  Is it enforced consistently?  And, do they understand the purpose (i.e. to have a family community that respects and works for everyone, in which sometimes our communications and compromises mean that stuff gets picked up regularly even if some members of the family would prefer not to have to pick up stuff… Not “to pick up their stuff because it will get taken away”)  

    • pathlesstaken

      Good points, and I agree that there are many variants that could make it more or less of an appropriate idea.

  44. Kristina Brown

    Thank you for this article. I’m one who either pinned it or meant to and thought it was a great idea. But lately I have been challenging my own parenting style… Or at least pieces of it. I consider myself to be a gentle parent in comparison to practically everyone I know and definitely compared to the way I was raised, but thinking of things in the way you so matter-of-factly put it is something I am working on. This way of thinking (your’s) doesn’t always come naturally to me but when I read it, I agree with it and wonder why I couldn’t see that way to begin with. So, thank you.

  45. Pingback: I stole your stuff. Now I’m holding it for ransom. | The Path Less Taken « Flying Kites at Night

  46. Amy

    How refreshing.  I’m so tired of adults bullying their children.  

  47. emma

    This is something I knew I would never implement, just not my style. but I did see it as something to do for items left on stairs where they would be dangerous. or maybe something left where it could be damaged or stolen, like a gaming device left outside.

  48. eplus3

    I wrote this in a reply to a reply to a comment, but I want to say it again because I think it’s something worth saying. I think what you are ignoring here is the children’s responsibility to respect their parents. You have responded a lot about changing attitudes, respecting your children by not always expecting them to pick up, etc. But what about the children changing their attitudes and respecting their parents, in return? In our house we have a mess problem. The kids have their own personal spaces that I don’t interfere with, not even to clean up. But we also have shared living space that needs to be kept pretty straight, because we need to walk on the floor, sit on the sofa, and have friends over. I respect my children’s rights to their own things and their own space, but they have not learned to respect our family space. I spend too much time cleaning up after them. While I would not implement a bin system like the one in the picture in question, because I don’t like the idea of using chores as punishment, I see no problem in removing things that are left in a common space and keeping them long term–which is something you would call stealing. I don’t call that stealing any more than it’s stealing when the police tow a car for parking it in a handicap space or another space that’s not acceptable. It’s not safe or respectful to other people in the world if you can’t think about their needs as well as your own, and that includes not leaving your stuff in a place where it bothers other people.

    • Dirtpuddle

       I have to agree.  There are only so many times I can ask my children to pick up their toys before I lose it.  I wouldn’t stick one of their things in this bin just because I saw it laying on the floor, but if I had asked them repeatedly over the course of several hours to pick it up and put it away and they refused, I would absolutely take it.  And for the people saying their kids would turn it around on them, I say let them!  If I have something laying out that the kids think needs to be picked up, let them put it in the bin.  I’m not perfect, and what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.  It would be a good eye-opener for everyone involved.

    • pathlesstaken

      I think people are choosing to read certain parts of this post, and ignoring others.  When I say that we all work together, and we all respect each other’s needs, ALL = the whole family.  Parents AND kids. 

    • Children don’t have a “responsibility to respect their parents.”

      Respect is EARNED.

      Even by parents.

      • Tracy

        I disagree. Respect should be offered at a baseline level, given that we are all human beings sharing this earth. From there the degree of respect can be subtracted or multiplied based upon the actions of the recipient.

  49. Megan

    Also, and I know that for some people this is harder because they’re already past the early years, but if you start out with the expectation that everyone puts away what they’re using before they move on to something else you don’t get the gigantic messes that are so overwhelming for children. (And adults!) If they have so many legos (or whatever) that they can’t clean them up when that’s all they have out, then it’s time to put away *some* of the legos. Toys need to be in manageable quantities, and if they are, a 2.5 yo can clean up after himself with minimal guidance. I have seen it in action.

    Of course, I am a total hypocrite for writing this because my own “toys” are not in manageable quantities and I am a very messy person. But believe me, I know firsthand how overwhelming that big pile of STUFF is…

  50. No, the bin teaches kids from a young age to be responsible for their things.  If you leave your things out in the real world, they get taken (and not given back, either).  So you can baby your kids by teaching them not to clean up after themselves, or you can train them for the real world like you are supposed to.  A lot of people teach kids that instead of being thoughtful of others and responsible, that mommy and daddy will be there to clean up after them.  This happens all too often.  It’s time to be parents, people!  

    There are ground rules to living in any household, and I plan to make this one of mine.  If my kids decide that they don’t want to comply and are ok with living with the consequences, then that’s fine with me.  I stole your stuff?  How about you left your stuff out on private property and I had to pay for its removal?  You can keep anything you want on your property (i.e. your room), but I’m not your maid. Letting kids get away with poor behavior with no consequences is not only ethically wrong, but it also cripples them when they are suddenly thrust into a world where consequences are very real indeed.

    • pathlesstaken

      I’m just curious if the people posting responses like this actually read the whole post, including the parts where I talked about how we ALL pitch in and work together, and how we show our kids how we treat our things?

    • Turtle

      Who said anything about babying kids, not teaching them to clean up after themselves or parents doing all of the cleaning up after them? Seriously, where is that stated?

  51. Erin

    I agree with you entirely! I can also relate to the comments about six people sharing a house but struggling with mess. Before I had kids, it was so much easier, but I am learning to live with mess. We do tidy it up but unless I am going to follow my kids around all day long picking up after them, I have had to learn to live with mess. We all get in and tidy the house at the end of the day so that things are put away and ready for the next day. 

    And if I was going to have a confiscation box, most of the stuff in it, would be my own. As much as I hate mess, I am the worst offender in our house 🙂

  52. Kristin

    Thank you for articulating the problems that I felt but couldn’t find the right words to express

  53. Simone

    Gosh I love this. Having grown up in a dictatorial household & now doing my best not repeat that parenting to my child, this is a lovely reminder of parenting for ‘big picture’. What does it teach?

    Thanks 🙂

  54. Angela

    Like many others who posted here, I wasn’t particularly offended by this idea. I think that’s most likely because my mom’s version was the “trash bag” method, which is so much more extreme and truly did feel like theft/invasion to me. When that didn’t work anymore as I got older, she just gave up, so ultimately I learned nothing but that rebellion works, which, ironically, I have spent my entire adult life trying to unlearn. (I definitely identified with the poster who said she was really messy after leaving home until she realized mom wasn’t there to see her rebellion.)

    However, in working with my 4 y.o. on learning to respect things and clean up after herself, I’ve realized that the biggest reason for her messiness is simply MY not providing a system or place for everything. When I ask her to pick up, anything that has a “home” is immediately taken care of (okay, not always immediately — she is four after all — but it gets done). Anything that doesn’t have a designated spot is an ongoing challenge. As soon as I realized that, I got a lot less stressed about =her= messiness. I haven’t done my part in showing her how to create an environment where you only have the amount of stuff that comfortably fits in a space. 

  55. Angela

    This curling iron issue is actually bugging me more than the original “bin of confiscated stuff” idea for a few reasons. 
    1. I keep remembering myself as a 13 year old girl who was really full of social anxiety and hormones and body image issues and all sorts of other angsty teenage stuff. If a curling iron were part of my daily routine to make myself comfortable/happy with how I looked and it was taken away, that would have been a HUGE emotional hit. That might seem to be an overblown response from a teenager, but think back … is it wrong? 

    2. Lots and lots of studies out there show that teenage brains truly are simply =incapable= of the kinds of reasoning, consequence processing, and consistent follow-through that we have come to expect of “young adults.” She may really be doing the best she can and just need help learning how to do better (e.g., the sign on the mirror seemed an awesome solution!). If this becomes a “punishment” thing – taking it away – it’s more likely she’ll be hurt/angry/frustrated and her brain will “shut off” from learning anything, ultimately derailing the entire “teaching” of the point.

    3. If I decide my child can have something — especially something potentially dangerous like a curling iron — it’s my responsibility to make sure she learns proper use and care of it. Simply having something taken away after having been given it, to me, would feel like a blow to my self-esteem and trust of myself and others, creating a rift in a relationship that is more important than ever during those years. 

    I get the point about danger, but it seems there are other solutions to this one. My first two steps would be a curling iron with auto shut-off (really, why are there even ones on the market without that???), and, second, a really frank conversation about the importance/dangers and getting her involved in the solution (rather than imposing one). 

  56. Guest

    I am one that totally supports what you have written. However (also with a family of 6) we have a ‘tween’ that won’t or doesn’t respect that their left belongings has an impact on others. DVDs are left lying scratched (some which belong to all of us), clothes, shoes, bags, coats, apple cores, drinks, earrings pierced into sofas, projects, pencils etc etc. Although it is ideal that the family work as a team, some members don’t want to join the team. 
    They have grown up in a respectful environment (no punishments, no rewards) and my 2nd dd still won’t operate as a team member. And we all, daily, have to make huge efforts during our day, when really I would like to just sit with her and spend time with her, tidying up after her car crash of a mess. 
    I have shared you “if I am bothered by it, I will clean it” stance for over 12 years and now I am back at work, and I have 4 children I just don’t get time anymore. It really doesn’t bother my dd if there is a mess or the DVDs that belong to others get ruined. This really upsets others in the house. We communicate with her and she shrugs. 
    I held this baby in a sling and breast fed her for almost 3 years (as I have my others), she just doesn’t want to play the team game. 

    How would you work with this? As it seems your 4 children do play ball if asked?

  57. Michelle

    Here’s another one, apparently the kid’s toys & books are just ‘junk’ now, so sad 🙁


  58. Alhender21

    As always, I love your words and ability to articulate your reasons!  Not once in reading your post did I feel like you are judging people who like this idea in a negative way; but rather pointing out why it doesn’t resonate with you and why it doesn’t fit with you family.  I also wouldn’t implement this system and your reasons emphasized why more than I thought. 

    On behalf of those who like this approach or appreciate its creativity, I can understand for a couple reasons.  Some view it as giving the kid a choice: he can choose the chore, or he can choose to wait as long as he wants to get it back, if at all.  Second, it may seem like a HUGE improvement to how their parents did things (the garbage bag approach comes to mind–“if it’s still out by 6pm, it’s getting tossed.”).  Also, and sadly, many don’t view their children’s items as their own.  And the “it’s my house” mentality–where does that get you other than a power struggle and an us-vs-them attitude and environment.

  59. When our kids leave stuff lying around, I tell them that makes me think they don’t care about it.  Then I help them understand if they don’t care about it and don’t want to take care of it, then maybe we should pass it along to someone else who will appreciate it and take care of it.  When it is time to clean up, I tell them to pick up everything they want to keep. It’s a bit reverse psychology and they don’t want to pick up sometimes, but they do want to keep their stuff.

    I don’t always feel like fixing dinner but people need to eat, so I have to do it right then (within an hour let’s say) and not some other time.  They can keep their bedrooms in chaos if they want but not the main areas/walkways in the house. 

    It sounds like you have really easy going kids.  My kids like to help now, but they didn’t always.  We still work together as a family, even if you disagree with my method for picking up toys when the boys don’t really *want* to do it.  You are getting your kids to help you, even if it’s done with a smile.

    I only read your blog when friend reposts what you write.  I think you pick on other families too much.  Do your thing.  Don’t pick apart others.

    • pathlesstaken

      Wow, you only read a few selected posts when others have shared them and that gives you enough information to decide that I “pick on other families too much”?  The posts that get shared a lot are simply this type of post, which was – despite what you think – a response to many people asking me what I didn’t like about the bin.  No more, no less. I write about many, many other things, which you’re welcome to find out about by reading more of my blog.  

    • Tamara

      If I leave things lying around my house, it is a safe zone so I feel safe that it is safe in my home, my nest. To threaten to take it away makes the nest feel unsafe. If they leave it lying around in a place that though messy, wouldn’t result in harm to the object or a person/ pet, then what is the problem? Why act the thief, threatening the safety of their property, in the nest where they should feel safe, just because you have a different view of how things should be organized then they do? If there is a safety issue, like tripping hazards than yeah get them to move it but otherwise why threaten the sense of safety of the nest?

      I put things in unorthodox places and my boyfriend is often putting them “where they belong”… without telling me. I know where I expect it to be because I designated it for that spot but can’t find it because he “put it away”. I tend to put certain things in certain areas, and when they are moved I can’t find them. It is very frustrating! It is my thing and my apartment so I should be able to decide where things go. We don’t live together.

      Sharing space can make things complicated….. who decides what goes where?

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  62. MeganLDaigle

    Thank you for this! I wasn’t so sure what to think when I saw this. I kind of wondered why a mom would need it, then I sort of saw the argument for it, but knew it didn’t quite jive well with me. I remember as a child my mother taught us it was part of being responsible – you take care of your objects and attempt to keep everything as neat as possible. Your post was well written and helps me see why it didn’t jive with me.

  63. SmgSunshine

    Beautifully said! My daughter is fifteen months old, and I have another little girl due September 1st. We’re not to this point yet, of course, but I’ve been doing a lot of reading and learning about how to handle various household situations. This is going to be something I keep in mind when the time comes. I love your attitude that the home belongs to the family..not just to mom or dad. I do not agree with punishing children with chores…and especially with taking their things away to FORCE them to do those chores! Thank you for this! It has gotten me one more step toward being the mom that I want to be. :]

  64. Jessica-Marie

    You make a good point. Well 5 good points. When I first saw the picture, I thought it was a neat idea, but now that I have read this, I don’t think I will be using it in our home. While it may be good for others, I very much agree with the points you have made here, especially treating the kids how I would expect to be treated and not making the chores into punishments. I never thought of it that way before now. Thanks for the new perspective! 

  65. Violeta Llano

    Absolutely! Someone gave my grandma a tip when I was little and was a terrible eater. They said to her to tell me that the food on the table was not for me and shouldn’t touch it, and then to leave me alone in the room, and they guarranteed that when she came back the food would be gone. My grandma ignored them and I am so glad she did. What kind of lesson would that have been?

  66. Mom of 5

    I really appreciate your POV, though I am one of the parents who would see this as a teaching tool (sans the chores; surely we can get more creative than “Wipe a counter”. If there are rules in the home, disobeying those rules would have consequences … just as that concept would play out in school, public areas, other people’s homes, church activities/classes, etc. I wonder how the “it’s our house” would translate to my older children (teens) who are learning about financial responsibility. It’s very much my and  my husband’s house, because we’re financially responsible for it. The kids are not, by any stretch of the imagination. They wouldn’t be financially responsible for repairs/replacement of things broken or damaged. Learning a healthy respect for the home, their belongings and other’s belongings is a good thing and that should be lovingly taught in the home.

  67. Rebuttal:

    1)”It’s Stealing from your kids”
    Legally speaking, in the US, nobody under 18 can enter a legal contract, or own property of any kind (emancipated minors not withstanding.) Your kids don’t actually OWN anything. In the eyes of the law, the clothes on their back, the furniture and electronics they use, the toys they play with are property of the guardian, and that guardian permits the child to use those things. Say what you will, that’s how the law sees it, and that fact has brought out of control teenagers around to a measure of gratitude for a hundred years. 
    Soo, tdlr: the stuff belongs to mom and dad. Kid’s use it. If kids don’t take care of the stuff, it’s reasonable that they won’t be allowed to use it. Too much entitlement is bad for a happy life. 

    2.)Teaches that chores are punishment. 
    Leaving your crap out for mom to step on, then mom having to clean it up, then find where it goes in your room, is a punishment for mom– Especially if mom’s foot breaks something expensive that mom bought for kiddo. (Or mom’s foot breaks… I’ve shattered 2 toes due to matchbox cars…)
    Mom is going to learn her lesson to teach kiddo to pick up after themselves and take care of their stuff more effectively. 
    What lesson should the kids get, and how should they do it better? 
    I think paying back mom by taking over some of her work load seems like a pretty fair way to drive the message home. A helluva lot more appropriate than a spanking or grounding our shouting. If they don’t want the item back, they didn’t like it enough to need it. That’s a good place to start decluttering imo. 
    You can always try thinking of a better punishment? or a parent can wash their hands of teaching responsibility and pride of ownership, and wait for it to bite them in the backside later when it’s too late to shape the child’s personality, that’s an ever popular non choice, that one. 

    3.)”Blames Kids for Something We All Do”
    And they always will, if you never tell them they can do otherwise. 
    ‘Cuz nobody ever figured out they could maybe tweak and improve on how their parents parented them? Forgetfulness happens, yeah– but most kids don’t forget because it slips their minds. It’s just not important.  If potential consequences jar them into responsible behavior just a FEW times to build those habits, it will help them in adulthood. And frankly, 100% of adults need all the help they can get. 

    4.) “Us vs. Them”
    I guess if you make it that way…. But adults are still the pillars of the home responsible for everything running smoothly and the children being secure. 
    P.S. Post the age of 11— there is absolutely no way of getting around the kids thinking it’s Them Vs. You by nature of teenage development. You’ve got bigger problems than a few legos on the floor or a cellphone on a coffee table if you are trying to be best buddies forever with your kid. All experts agree that you gotta be willing to be the bad guy sometime. 
    No one is suggesting the the mom figure is waiting in the hallways and closets like a vulture to swoop out and descend upon mislaid toys to wreak unholy vengeance for all the stretch marks she was afflicted with in pregnancy. 
    But there are times when you expect the clutter to be uncluttered, and things put away before they are damaged or damage you. Srsly. 

    5.) “It’s a quick Fix”
    The goal should not be a temporary clean room, it’s building the habit. Habits start by repeating the same action often in the same set of circumstances. If they pick up the Hot Wheels every time they are finished playing because they don’t want to lose them— they’ll *build the habit* of picking up the hot wheels. 

    • pathlesstaken

      I’m sure there’s much to be responded to here, but I’m distracted by this:  In point #1, you said that children don’t own anything.  And in point #2, you talk about teaching “pride of ownership”  If one doesn’t own anything, how exactly can they learn pride of ownership?

      • How does a teenager learn to operate a car before they have their first driving lesson? 

        Example and observation. 

        • Jennifer

          Jen Schafer….THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU +a million. In point #1 I would add…who pays for the kids stuff???? Considering my kids are to young for a job that means….my husband did (I am a SAHM)…my husband brings the money in….I take care of everything at home (with a little help from everyone but the majority is my responsibility) So we bought the toys, tv’s, phones, radios,ect which means that my kids are using my items I bought. I don’t tell it to them like that but they know if they are left out enough or if clothes aren’t picked up out of the bathroom time and time again (our bathroom is very small if clothes are left you have next to no room to walk) then they can and will have privileges to the things we buy taken away. To your question how do they develop pride of ownership? They work for money (an allowance) what they buy with that is theirs and I don’t touch it. Most of the really good stuff though comes from us so this system would work. My daughter was horrible at picking up after herself, she left her plates and cups all over the table, drop her coat in the middle of the living room floor, leave shoes and clothes in the bathroom, so I warned them if it continued they would loose a toy each time it happened, they still had to pick it up but they lost the toy til the next day and as long as they remembered to pick up whatever they left out the day before they got it back, if not I kept it another day. It took 2 times of forgetting and it hasn’t happened since…..

    • ” there is absolutely no way of getting around the kids thinking it’s Them Vs. You by nature of teenage development.”

      This is a culturally ingrained myth.

      It has not been our experience AT ALL. Nor has it been the experience of quite a few other people I know.

      My kids are now 27, 25, and 21, and we never experienced all the teen drama that we were warned was inevitable, “because of teenage development.” Not even remotely.

      Instead, we have close, positive relationships, and have had their whole lives. This doesn’t mean we have never argued, by any means, but it has not ever been any sort of “us vs them” thing.

      I find it both sad and frustrating that so many people believe it is inevitable, based on their own experiences as teens, and what they see with other people they know. Then, when they hear about people choosing to parent very differently, they get defensive, insisting it can’t work, that the kids will be disrespectful (or simply assuming that they must be already!), etc, rather than thinking “hey, wait a minute… maybe there is something to that.”

  68. For me, the reason I’d never use that, is that if you use it, you have to do it ALL the time, with EVERYTHING, or it’s not fair. You have to maintain the kind of living-room/house, where everything is always picked up at the end of every day. 

    Otherwise, you aren’t being consistent. You wind up with paranoid and confused kids who learn not just all of the lessons you pointed out above, but also that sometimes, if you leave your game system on the couch, it’s perfectly ok, and sometimes, you’ll get your butt handed to you.

    Frankly, my living-room will never be that living-room. My house will always be a little cluttered. Chores will be done on the weekend, accompanied by music, laughter, and a sense of accomplishment.

  69. VB

    Thank you for the post, I really enjoyed it and was helpful for me. I saw this posted on a friend’s page that said…”I don’t have kids…but if I did I think this is brilliant.” I laughed because of the “no kids” part. I initially didn’t see much harm in it but really didn’t give it much more than a second’s thought. With my kids being 8 and 11, our habits are highly formed. I just want to continue learning how to “tweak” things. Rarely does a new habit get formed at this point. 
    Anyway, as I was reading through dozens of the comments, it seemed like a lot of issues were on the “theft” point of this. So here is my unasked for two cents.  🙂
    I so wish I lived in a world where perfect, grace filled parenting was possible…in my house. I of course fail at this probably at least once a day. So while I loved your entire post, I did have a problem with that one little piece as well. And yet loved it at the same time! I want my kids to feel true ownership of their things. I give an allowance and encourage the kids to actually save up for things. My son saved his money, along with asking all other family for money for bday and christmas and bought an iTouch. He was so proud. and I was so proud of him!!! It is his. He earned it. He chose to save for it. It was a definite growing up moment.
    But, I told him there were some major rules. And if he wasn’t showing responsibility with the iTouch or with his day to day school and home responsibilities, then his iTouch would get taken away for a bit, in some cases he would have to earn it back. And it has happened a few times. And I do not in any way feel as if it was theft. 
    To jump around a bit real quick, I was also married a few years ago and now have a teenage stepson. He got his first phone a couple of years ago. He was absolutely made aware if his grades were slipping or was not showing responsibility at home, it would be taken away. And that has happened. He had to earn it back. Again, same philosophy as the tub, and I in no way think it is theft. And that is just one example. Having a teenager, I have had to rethink parenting all together. It changes. It truly does. You have on for dear life. You create boundaries and restrictions for protection, you give responsibility for maturity growth. One comment said at age 11, it is always a “them vs. us” mentality. I couldn’t agree more. That is not something we have created, but something that happens as kids begin to truly explore and exert their independence. 
    Anyway……SUPER long comment. Sorry. I guess bottom-line, there needs to be a balance. There are times when gentle parenting are necessary for growth, comfort and security. As well as times when being a little more forceful (no computer shooting!) for growth, comfort and security (even if both the kid/teen and the parent struggle with realizing this.)

    • “Having a teenager, I have had to rethink parenting all together. It changes. It truly does. You have on for dear life. You create boundaries and restrictions for protection, you give responsibility for maturity growth. One comment said at age 11, it is always a “them vs. us” mentality. I couldn’t agree more. That is not something we have created, but something that happens as kids begin to truly explore and exert their independence. ”

      This may be what happened FOR YOU, but it is NOT what happens, inevitably, for everyone.

      Why do you think that might be, that for your family, when your kids began to want independence, it became an us vs them mentality, but for my family, and many others, it did not?

      Can you not see that it is all the years that lead up to the teen years that make a difference in how those teen years turn out to be?

      When children are young, they often easily accept parental authority as simply the way it is (some more easily than others), and then, when they mature, they no longer accept it, and “things change.” How do you imagine it might be different if they never lived in that way in the first place?

      One truly delightful difference I have found is that instead of needing to create boundaries and restrictions to protect my teens, they simply were much smarter as teens than I ever was. They have their own very clear and strong ideas of what they do and don’t find acceptable behavior, what things they do and don’t want to participate in, and as a rule, they’ve made great choices. They already had years of experience in making their own choices and decisions, sometimes with my assistance, so when they’ve needed to do so without my being there, they’ve been just fine.

      They are, however, mystified at some of the poor choices they see others make.

  70. picklet

    How about seeing it as fair exchange: “you make me do a job (pick stuff up), so now let’s change it round”?

  71. picklet

    In the community where I lived there were always kids dumping their bikes in the middle of the path, so one would fall over/stab their foot on them in the dark.

    Being a respectful we-are-all-equal sort of liberal person, I talked with them, explaining all seriously and kindly how dangerous it was.

    So I explained again. Still all kindly and I-am-on-your-side-ey…
    Result: lots more bike traps on the paths in the dark.

    This went on until I started to just let the air out of the tyres of any bikes left like that.

    I only had to do this about 2 or 3 times.
    After that: No more bikes to trip you up.

    Oh yes, one more result: No more feeling helpless and frustrated for me and being able to like the kids a whole lot better…

  72. Katie Harris

    But how do we teach the kids to be respectful of the family space and clean up after themselves? I genuinely want to know, because as a kid, I didn’t do this. My mom would ask nicely 2 or 3 (or 4…or 5….) times and I would just ignore her. Why? Because eventually she or Dad would get so annoyed that they’d pick it up for me and put it in my room (or occasionally donate it if Mom was planning on going to the battered women’s shelter that week.) To me, it was just a battle of who could outlast whom. (Wow, I was a brat.)

    I didn’t start caring until my first semester of college when I didn’t clean up after myself. When I came back from Christmas break, my roommate had moved out … and stolen the text books I’d left behind. I assume she sold them for extra cash. She didn’t touch anything that was put away in my wardrobe, but the books were out on my desk.

    I don’t want my soon-to-be-born son to learn that lesson this way, but I honestly don’t know where I will start when the time comes.

    • Katie, you teach kids how to be respectful by being respectful of them. HELP them clean up, or simply do it joyfully, rather than ask, then nag, then turn it into a contest of “who could outlast whom.”

      Take that entire dynamic away.

      Remove the need to ignore you, by not pressuring them to do something they aren’t interested in doing.
      Remove getting annoyed by choosing to do the job joyfully yourself.
      Remove the “battle” by not engaging in it in the first place.

      I know this sounds crazy to a lot of people.
      I know it sounds like it ends up with kids who “run the house” and “don’t do anything.”

      But it doesn’t.
      It moves the entire concept of cleaning into something done happily, not under protest.
      It models doing for others, and it promotes cooperation over “battle.”
      It models patience.
      It models prioritizing your family relationships over unrealistic expectations.
      It builds trust.

      It isn’t an instant fix.
      It takes time, as children mature to the point where they are ready and able to do more.
      It takes dealing with criticism from people who don’t understand what you are doing.
      It takes effort, and reminding yourself often of your goals as you choose to parent differently from how you were parented.

      It is worth it.

  73. Very well said. Good to see you encouraging others to think these things through.

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  75. Such great perspective. I remember once when I was a little kid my mom took away my entire room and everything in it. I sobbed as I picked up a doll that was in the living room(and was ironically safe) and went to my brothers’ room and asked if I could stay there. They gallantly agreed. My mom later apologized and “gave me back my room” confessing a moment of end-of-the-ropeness. Pretty sure she helped me clean my room after that.

  76. Kris

    I think it would be so interesting to (without judgmental vibe on either side.)  ask everyone to report back after a few weeks and tell whether they tried it or not and evaluate if they experienced more or less hostility, anger, lack of interest in helping, or alternatively family closeness, helpful attitudes, growth etc.  

  77. Danielle

    I am also one who disagrees with using chores as punishment. We actually don’t even pay ‘money’ or ‘allowance’ for chores- like room cleaning or helping do the dishes or laundry- this is normal family work, we do it together as a family to help our home and each other- why should we get paid for it. We do have a ‘job board’ in which the kids can learn about earning money, saving, and spending. As for taking away their personal belongings- I can’t say enough how against this I am, what right do we have to do that, we are being disrespectful towards our children- what are we really teaching them here. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Blessings, from http://fourfarming.blogspot.com/

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  79. Becky

    What an interesting post! I’m not exactly in the same parenting vein as you are (I tend to be a little more authoritative), but I truly LOVE reading your perspective on so many different topics. I saw this original post and thought it was funny and a good idea, but I never thought of it this way! I actually watch children in my home in addition to my own two kids (4 1/2 and 14 months). As the kids grow, I work with them to put items back on shelves and the expectation as they get older is that they put what they’re using away before getting a new toy out. That actually works about 80% of the time. Otherwise, if they’re playing with everything and having a great time, we’ll do a quick clean-up all together for about 15 minutes before changing activities or rooms. I have the same expectation for my son, and of course, he needs lots of reminders and I go through his room with him to organize and figure things out. But I also will sometimes just ask him to clean up a space and he is a great help. If I find lots of stuff left out, I tend to sort of gather it in a bin and the next day I will hand him that bin and ask him to go and put those things away. It keeps things from getting too cluttery-y and doesn’t make him work to get his things back. I tend to be messy, so that would probably be a little hypocritical!

  80. Amy

    Ok, I’m going to make this short. Saw the idea and thought it was absolutely brilliant. Quick way to get the boys to clean up their toys. Then I saw a link to this. What you have said nailed it right on. Thank you for making me think this through. I wish I didn’t react so quickly. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  81. robin caldwell

    This is brilliant! You say everything I think in such a clear and organized manner. I raised three kids, who are all in their twenties now and they are my most favorite people! They are kind, generous and polite. I went against the grain 20 some years ago and it is very heartening to see there are so many more moms raising their kids in a respectful manner. Kids are people, too.

    Jen, please keep it up. Always remember that you have a lot of support from your fans and your articles plant seeds in the minds of many, who may not agree now, but will be open to change at a later time. Thank you. You are a wonderful teacher !

  82. Christine Lambert

    I think it more teaches kids that the objects and toys we buy for them with our money come with conditions and rules attached. Love and affection do not, but toys and privileges do come with conditions. Kids don’t really own anything in the sense that we do because they don’t have an income with which to buy things, legally they just don’t have any property rights whatsoever because they are too immature, and all of the things they “have” are in your home that you are paying for, so you do have a right and proper authority to require your children to put “their” belongings away in this manner. This is perfectly appropriate. Kids are not adults and cannot be treated like adults. They aren’t mature enough, and they can’t handle the freedom that we can. I would be outraged if my husband took my things away, but that’s because I am an adult, and he does not have the right to discipline me in this way. My things are actually mine, unlike children. Also, things which we are required to do when we are young tend to become habit, and we continue doing them when we are adults and no one makes us any more. My mom used to have to force me to take a bath every day. But soon it became a habit, and she didn’t have to force me anymore. My parents use to force me to go to church and go to school, even when I didn’t want to. But then it became a habit, and I went to my high school and college classes without them making me, and I go to church now without them making me. I still have a hard time doing some of the chores I was not required to do as a child. The ones I was required to do take almost no thought or discipline because they became habit. We don’t really have to come up with how to parent from scratch (assuming we had decent parents). We have backgrounds all our own which can help us. While acknowledging that all children have some differences, it can help to remember your own childhood and gain insight from what types of discipline were effective with you, if you can remember back. I have the benefit of remembering age 3 and up, even how I thought and processed information.
    1 min · Edited · Like · 3

  83. We don’t have a bin like this and when I saw it I was like really? That is terrible. As I read on however I realized that while I am trying to do my best that I am guilty of many of the points above and until reading this I never realized just how often I do things like try and force my daughter to pick up everything when she doesn’t want to. We expect a lot from our children that we don’t hold ourselves to. Thank you for writing this. My husband and I just had a real eye opening conversation about this. Again thank you!

  84. Jamie

    I’d like to ask your thoughts on the concept of kids having daily chores list to earn allowance at the end of the week. Do you feel like getting rewarded for this is beneficial to kids?

  85. Christine

    I agree with the writer. A gentle reminder is all it takes…. Otherwise, you aren’t teaching and they aren’t learning, the appropriate response.

  86. Jan

    I do this a bitt differently……….I put toys in time-out. I have a 3 year old so it’s different than with an older child. If I ask her to put something away and she doesn’t, it goes in time-out for a specified amount of time. When she is ready to do as I asked, she gets it back. It works fantastic and I rarely have to do it anymore. She picks up toys and does whatever she is asked to do. I agreed 110% with this until I read the complete article and then I didn’t like it. However, I still stand by my toys in time-out solution.

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  88. Cynthia

    Well said!

  89. Darlin

    I do not see a problem with this………………….

  90. Alice

    I guess that’s fine if you want to run your household as if adults and children are all equal. But the truth is, we’re not all equal. The adults are in charge. Adults make the rules. Adults can do things that kids can’t, legally and ethically. We can vote, drive, drink, have sex, etc. And we’re legally responsible for making sure the kids are taken care of, fed, clothed, bathed, supervised, schooled, etc. My point is, we are not in an equal relationship with our kids, and I’m not going to pretend that we are just so my child doesn’t get her feelings hurt. In our house, there are different rules for kids and adults. Kids go to bed by a certain time; adults don’t have to. Other rules differ, too, partly because my daughter is still growing and learning and I’m not. The example of your husband taking your phone because you left it lying around isn’t valid. You and he are equals. You and your children are not. It’s not his job to teach you anything. But it’s your job to teach your children. If your method of teaching them includes confiscating anything that’s left lying around, temporarily or permanently, then so be it. It’s not unfair or cruel. In real life, there are consequences for one’s actions. They have to learn that. You’d be doing them a disservice if you didn’t teach it to them.

  91. Megan

    I like it. As a kid I always feel bad about not helping enough and this really helps. Also if your mom has to pick it up alot then you don’t have enough responsibility to have it and have to earn it back!

  92. Val

    I’m happy that I found this post. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

  93. Jack

    “What’s he going to do when he lives on his own and can leave his stuff wherever he damn well pleases, without fear of someone snatching it?”
    He will have created a habit of picking up after himself and likely continue to do so.
    It is just as relevant to ask what will happen when your child is on his own. Wil he be incapable of picking up after himself because you aren’t telling him to do it? Because that’s exactly where this logic leads.

    My mom sometimes made me earn stuff back when I left it out. I never viewed it as stealing, because I rarely considered something to be MINE AND MINE ONLY simply because mom bought it for me to play with. Perhaps you should teach your children that most things belong to the family as a whole, and if they are damaging to the family, we will put them away for a while? Same could be said of video games/TV/computer/tablets. If you buy one for your kid, does that mean you can’t set limits on it’s use?? Of coirse not.
    Now why should toys be treated any differently?