We stripped my daughter’s room of all of her stuff, and her response surprised me. It’s a drastic parenting move. It had been considered and rejected a small handful of times. Once you reaching the tipping point in concerns about your child’s behavior, sometimes you need to make a dramatic move to show them that you are serious.
We Stripped My Daughter’s Room of all of Her Stuff
Why the hefty consequence? We were needing to tackle a couple of important issues with our child, and we saw this move as a natural consequence for the behaviors we were addressing. For more consequences that make sense, see here. Here are the actions and attitudes that we were tackling with this kind of discipline:
We have seen an attitude problem creep into our daughter’s life. It’s actually a fairly common and even accepted posture in our society, but it is a trait that I would like to help eradicate. Entitlement. Are we raising kids that think the world owes them something? It’s always a balance to try and find in life and parenting. We want our kids to know that they have our endless love and support. However, this can easily turn into a child-centered parenting philosophy – that we cater to the immediate and apparent needs of our children.
My concern is that this kind of accommodation leads our children to feel like they can and should get everything they want – things in life should go their way. An attitude of entitlement is not conducive to friendships, the workplace, marriage or families. If it’s detrimental, it’s a behavior I want to squelch as quickly as possible.
What does this look like in a child? Here are a few examples you might see:
- “This isn’t the brand of chicken nuggets you normally buy. I don’t want this brand. I want the other.”
- “I didn’t want the red cup. You got me the red cup, but I wanted the blue cup.”
- “You bought me a t-shirt with a horse sitting down, but I wanted a t-shirt with a horse standing up.”
This gets tricky. We want our kids to have opinions, and we want their preferences to be heard and understood. We want to create empathy for their situation. However, this mindset can quickly lead to an entitled heart if we always feed into their every wish. It’s too easy to want to accommodate our children’s wish list and give into substitution parenting, which contributes to raising a spoiled brat.
It’s a complicated dance. We don’t want to be controlling or an authoritarian parent (see chart here). For example, if our kids say they want the blue cup and not the red there are times we can accommodate. In contrast, there will be times where we need to, for their own sake, not bend to their every request. It has to be worth the tantrum to teach them that the world doesn’t bend to their every request.
Also, when a child has a special need like sensory processing or any other such struggle, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to just make their world easier and more accommodating. The line isn’t always easily determined. Have I mentioned that this parenting thing is tough?
While trying to find the balance of truth and grace, perhaps we have erred on the side of too much grace and accommodations. The result is a child who believes she has a right to her way all the time. The smaller disciplinary steps we were taking to try and instill an attitude of gratitude and a heart of selflessness weren’t working. Stripping her room helped her to know, “Everything you have has been given to you. It is not a right. It is a privilege and needs to be treated as such.” The two things that we need to see in this regard are a) a thankful heart and b) the attitude of entitlement going away.
Not Treating Things with Respect
When I say my child’s room is messy, it’s an understatement. We help her clean her room, and within two days it looks like a bomb hit. With other responsibilities like school, homework, choir and church, it’s hard to make her get on top of her room throughout the week. By the weekend, it gets to such an out of control place that it feels overwhelming and impossible. She might spend the whole weekend “cleaning” her room and getting no where in the end. This can continue for weeks, when eventually I cave and help. It’s a horrible pattern that we have continued. I have found that if I don’t have my thumb directly on her about it all the time, this is the result.
It’s obvious she has too much stuff to be able to manage. We are purgers and not huge consumers. That said, there are always birthdays, Christmas’ and any other holidays that promote giving. Kids manage to collect stuff one way or another. Last year, we even said no more stuff by doing this alternative birthday giving idea.
Despite our efforts, the amount that was contained in her room was more than either her room or our child could manage. We have created different organizational options for her, but her personality doesn’t seem to want to conform to the methods constructed.
The result is that her stuff gets piled up, walked on and mistreated. Part of our message in stripping her room was, “You have more than you can manage. You need to show us that you can treat your remaining things with care in order for anything else to be returned or added to this room.”
We Stripped My Daughter’s Room of all of Her Stuff, and Her Response Surprised Me
After a straw that broke the camels back incident, we decided to move forward with the plan to strip our daughter’s room.
I did it while my kids were at school, and it took me all day. My husband planned to come home early so we could have the big talk with my daughter.
I folded and organized her drawers. She would keep her clothes. I left a couple pencils, a journal, a pad of paper, a coloring book, and some colored pencils on her desk. A few books remained in a basket. On her bed was a blanket, a couple pillows and one stuffed animal. Everything else was gone. All the bins, dolls, toys, papers, trinkets and art supplies were gone. It was 4 bags and 4 bins worth of stuff.
We sat down to have the talk with our daughter. We asked for her own reflection about her attitude recently. The word “entitled” was defined. Everything I just explained above to you was explained to her. She quietly listened, participated when asked and then the bomb, “We have removed all of the stuff from your room.” I anticipated the rage.
Immediately, she wanted to go up and see it. We took her upstairs. She stood there and looked around, taking it all (or the lack of it all) in. Again, I expected the anger to come. Her response? “I think I’m going to like it like this. Thank you for doing this for me,” and she gave me a hug.
Had all the stuff cluttered her brain. Was she a slave to her situation so much that she couldn’t seem to crawl out but just needed our push to make it happen? Get rid of the stuff and find freedom? I know it’s what I experience when I purge, so perhaps she is wired the same way. She was overwhelmed, and perhaps this was a part of what was contributing to her behavior.
Then Was it Not Really a Consequence?
This just happened, so I cannot say for sure if this really feels like a consequence if she was pleased by it in the end.
Here were our words to her: “When your attitude and the way you treat things improves, we can start deciding if we should gradually begin introducing your things back into your space. You might decide you don’t want the things back, and that will be great. You might discover there are some things you really miss and would like to reintroduce to your life. However, we need to find a level of stuff that is manageable for you. If you cannot care for whatever is in your life, we need to remove it.”
Despite the peace that seemed to accommodate this decision, I could sense the sting too. At one point she said, “Where’s my fabric?” I said, “Yes, that was removed too.” She asked if she could take craft supplies to church that evening, and I informed her that those were gone also.
What I did let her know was that craft supplies from our joint craft closet would be accessible. She needs to ask, not take them upstairs to her room and put them immediately away after use. We are putting our thumb on the situation until things seem a bit more under control, and then we can re-evaluate.
Too Much Stuff
I do believe that less stuff is healthier for our kids. I also believe that entitlement attitudes need to be eliminated. This was our step to a better functioning family. Perhaps your child will also find freedom with less stuff. It’s something to consider. Let me know your experience.