Last Updated on by

‘Put your toys back in the cupboard, please.’

Silence. Five minutes pass.

‘I asked you to put your toys back in their place.’

More silence. Seven minutes have passed. My blood pressure is rising.
For the last time, I am asking you to put your toys away! 

Defiant look. Mutinous stance. No budging from the spot.

Then it explodes: ‘If I have to say this one more time, I am going to throw away your favourite toy right now!’
Trigger: Disobedience

If you are a parent, you are probably familiar with the above scenario. This probably plays out in different shades at your place, though. At times, the defiance is to do with toys, at other times with clothes, sometimes with turning off the TV and many times, with their being cranky for the sake of being so!

Am I proud of what I had to say at the end? Of course not. But I am glad I could change tracks after I realised that not only was it not working, but it was probably making her scared.

Kids seem to have an uncanny knack for pushing all the wrong buttons at the worst moments. When you’re just about ready to drop from all the day’s work, that defiance kicks in from the mini-adults at home. 

So, what do I do in this situation? I mean, specific to the ‘pick up your toys’ scenario:

  1. I take a deep breath. As trite as that sounds, it really works. Walking away from the spot for a few minutes really helps.
  2. I allot specific times of the day for cleaning up. Once in the afternoon and once at night.
  3. I have designated her room as the ‘dumping ground’ for her toys. She is allowed to make as big a mess as she chooses, but the mess stays in her room.
  4. I don’t repeat myself more than once. The first time, I say it in a calm tone and the second time, the voice becomes firm. Kids learn to sense these things as they grow older.
  5. Most importantly, I get down and dirty. I join her in the task of cleaning up. It moves faster and we are both happier.
Over time, you will observe that the cleaning up happens better and under lesser supervision. In fact, over the last few months, the situation is such that she cannot sleep until she has cleaned up her room! 

That came completely out of the blue one day. She walked in, looked around her room, said, ‘What a mess! No wonder I can never find anything!’ and set about putting it straight.

So, if you’re worried about that messy room, don’t be. It will set itself right all in good time.
In the meanwhile, take deep breaths, walk off the rage and clean up together.

You’ll sleep better that way. Believe me, I do.


Welcome to my weekly feature: Thoughtful Thursdays

Here, each week, we will explore an aspect of positive parenting, a tool or a technique that has helped me in my journey. If you’ve visited before, you may be familiar with my Yelling Less journal. It was a week-long challenge that I undertook in July last year.

Ever since, it’s been a series of management tips for various scenarios. I owe a lot of my gratitude toThe Orange Rhino, who was the original inspiration for my journey. 


Do these tips help you?

Do you have any ideas to add to the ones above?

❤ Feel free to share your valuable comments and suggestions.

Thank you! 


Shailaja V

Hi there! I'm Shailaja Vishwanath, a blogger with 12 years of blogging experience and a parent to a teen. I work as a digital marketing and social media consultant. From positive parenting tips to useful productivity hacks, social media advice to blogging advice, you'll find them all right here. Welcome to my blog.

Vinodini Iyer · June 12, 2014 at 3:07 am

Ha I've been through this…wish I'd have known you back then 🙂
Great tips to keep cool. No matter how much they appear to resist it, kids do love discipline…it is said to make them feel secure.

Shailaja V · June 12, 2014 at 3:18 am

Thanks Vinodini. We live and we learn, isn't it? Yes, kids love the routine and the calm too. Just like us, I might add 🙂

Inderpreet Kaur Uppal · June 12, 2014 at 4:05 am

This one I am trying to master but my son just knows all the crazy buttons to push. Plus having a lot of help at home doesn't ease the matter. The only way is to tell him his toys will be donated. I think it helps but not much. I am hanging in there.
Thanks for the idea. I too have a bed time ritual of picking toys, it does help.

beingFab · June 12, 2014 at 4:29 am

Superb tips!! My son's 'play area' is in the living room,so that he can play while we watch TV and the family's together. But this makes the mess all the more annoying!! We've also implemented the clean up before bedtime rule, so we at least wake up to a clean space!!

Veens @ Our Ordinary Life · June 12, 2014 at 5:09 am

This happens on a daily basis here! I almost ones threw everything in a box and put it outside :-/ I was so so so pissed! And mostly I lose it in the evenings… I am tired and cranky myself you see! WIll try and let you know if it works 🙂

nibhz · June 12, 2014 at 6:18 am

Oh! It reminds me of my childhood when I would disobey my mom alot! As per cleaning up things hasn't changed much when I home, she wonders how I do it when I'm in hostel! 😛

Rajlakshmi · June 12, 2014 at 7:26 am

these are wonderful and thoughful tips. I am quite impatient, will keep this in mind when time comes 🙂

ovengoodies · June 12, 2014 at 8:53 am

Thanks, again, Shailaja. This is getting more frequent and your tips are perfect. I'm currently in the 'I will count to 3' mode where it goes 1, 2, 2.5, 2.75…. 🙂

Kalpana Solsi · June 12, 2014 at 11:34 am

Shailaja , my mom used to tell me and my bro that some friends of hers would be dropping by and 'blackmail us saying , “what would they think about you , if they saw this mess?”. and the room used to be cleaned. This worked for some time. 🙂

Cathy Graham · June 12, 2014 at 12:30 pm

I wonder if these tips would work now when my boys are 18 and 20. They're still very messy and don't always pick up after themselves. I'm not much better. Sigh. Clutter rules around here.

Great ideas for keeping our cool with the deep breath and walk away technique. I need to do that more often and not just about mess.

Great post!

Priya Prakash · June 17, 2014 at 4:46 am

That's a good point about getting down with them and putting the toys away instead of asking them to do it alone.. I have noticed that when I do that Teju cleans up extra fast and it's sort of a competition as to who will pick up more things :-). As for switching off the tv and the myriad other things that they never seem to hear us say the first few times or till we issue ultimatums being calm seems to be the mantra that will work! As otherwise we scream.. They become more defiant and the cycle continues…!
Nice tips for a peaceful home 🙂

Anita · June 17, 2014 at 12:34 pm

We have all faced this, Shailaja.
Warning tone of voice helps. But, sometimes they like to challenge authority by pretending that they haven't heard us 🙂

Sreeja Praveen · June 19, 2014 at 7:16 am

Again, an eye-opener post for me 🙂 Because right now I'm at a stage where the mess is created but not cleared up by the same person. So currently I'm making it fun by asking her to pick and toys and put it in the box, and playing along with her in the task….she knows where she's kept her toys so she runs to bring them for me 🙂 But this extends further beyond just the mess part, right ? A real lesson for beginners like me 🙂

Archana K B · June 22, 2014 at 2:41 am

so I need to get down too huh??!! *the lazy devil in me groans!! * 😛

Pratibha · June 24, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Been there, done that! Doesn't help as of now, so as a punishment all the toys are under lock and key for a week. Let's see how this phase fares!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.