Thursday, January 15, 2009

Is it a Bribe? Or a Motivator?

Last weekend we worked on our 2009 goals of minimizing our "stuff". It's easy to work on new goals when they are fresh in our minds, but it may be a different story as this year wears on.

The goal was to clean out toys that were either broken or no longer played with. Another goal was to remove the toy clutter with a minimal amount of fits. Not an easy task with a 5 and 3 year old! Our approach was this:
  • We told our kids 1 week before we were going to have a family toy cleaning session and that we expected them to cooperate.
  • We also told them they would make other children who didn't have toys very happy.
  • ...and...we offered them a bribe (or a "motivator"). If they cooperated and had a good attitude, we would take them to buy 1 new toy for each of them.

This last point was the one I wasn't so sure about. Were we sending the wrong message by offering them "stuff" in exchange for getting rid of "stuff"? Was the bribe tempered by the fact that we expected them to get rid of a lot of stuff in exchange for 1 item? Or was it OK to offer a "motivator" because we needed their full cooperation to make this go smoothly? I once heard from radio psychologist Dr. Joy Browne that offering children a reward (or a "bribe") under certain circumstances is OK, because it can be a great way to gain cooperation. I hope I am not misunderstanding her advice.

The result:

  • 6 garbage bags of toys removed from the house: 3 bags of broken toys and 3 bags of donated toys.
  • 1 minor dissent "moment" from our 3 year old, full cooperation from our 5 year old.

What's your take on this approach? How do you deal with decluttering around small children?

5 comments:

Apron Thrift Girl said...

I'm a thrifter which means our toy box is often over flowing because we get toys for such a cheap price. We did just declutter both of the children's rooms. Luckily my children are both kind of absent minded and don't notice when certain toys disappear. I did my daughter's room mostly without her. She helped some too and was pretty good about getting rid of things. Part of the attraction is actually moving their rooms around each January. They are so excited about a new living space that they don't care as much about losing certain toys.

tired of smiling said...

I think it's great to involve the kids in your decluttering. You are teaching them good skills about clutter and cleanliness not to mention about the value (or non-value) of "stuff". We did a big purge last year and got rid of so much stuff. Our daughter got right in there and recommended we get rid of so much stuff.

The one problem we had was that nowhere wants used toys. That ended up being quite the challenge. Now we are really carefull what we choose to bring into our house because we know we will have to deal with it later.

Cristyn said...

What troopers your kids are! We have to get rid of toys when our kids aren't around. They just can't let go, even if they know it's the right thing to do.

I don't think that rewarding them with a new toy is a bribe in this instance. They did some hard work and they got a reward. I think it's a good way to teach them to work for something they want. I think of a bribe as "stop yelling right now and I'll give you a cookie." That's a bribe!

Sarah said...

I think you did a great job. I usually just clear out the toys that I know they don't play with and they usually never miss them. It's a goal of mine to be able to do what you did with your children. I'm just so not up to it yet!

I think what you did is appropriate. If you had promised a new toy for every toy they got rid of--well, what's the point? But they did a lot of "letting go", so I think something nice isn't out of line at all.

badhuman said...

I don't have kids but my mom had me and my brother each participate. Since we got clothes and toys from our cousins it seemed more like a natural cycle of life thing to us. I've kept that habit of routine decluttering and donate into my adult life so I guess it works.