How I eliminated “Clean up that mess!” from my dad vocab

The one environmental change that revolutionized my relationship with my kids

How messes used to make me feel — Source

Just remove the emotion? Yeah, right.

I’ve been loitering on the parenting block long enough to overhear the phrase “take the emotion out of it” more times than I can count.

The power of environment

“Willpower is for people who are still uncertain about what they want to do.” — Helia

I’ve spent a lot of time reading and writing about the power of changing environments recently. I’ve been inspired by Benjamin P. Hardy and his writings on the misconceptions around willpower.

Eliminating a mess of emotions from the mess

One month ago we were drowning in crap strewn all over four key areas of our home: the living room, the boys’ room, and the playroom/yard.

What is it?

Papa’s Store is a backroom inventory (i.e. closet) where all unwanted items of my boys are stored.

How does it work?

Items are defined as “unwanted” when not put away after use.

What does it require?

Setting up the Papa Store required:

  • A deep clean of all three key areas for the Grand Opening
  • Four large plastic bins for each area
  • Ample room in a closet or storage area
  • KEY: Clearly designated areas for where items belong. An item cannot be considered “not put away” if there’s no place where it clearly belongs

The Win-Win-Win

Please don’t be fooled into thinking that this a surefire way to improve your life as a parent, but it’s been immensely helpful in my relationship with my boys.

  • Acting irresponsibly in life will either cost you time, money, or both. Nothing in life comes free, which is an important lesson for all of us to remember. When we decide to spend our money on a purchase (be it a thing or an experience), we best be ready to honor that decision with our money, time, or both. If you’re not willing to act responsibly, then it will cost you time, money, or both. Papa’s Store does a much better job at teaching that principle without the need for a Dad lecture.
  • A mess is only an emotional battle if I let it get to me. My kids aren’t trying to intentionally get at me by leaving their stuff strewn out across the lawn. They might be careless or lazy, but they’re not mean-spirited. Papa’s Store gives me the freedom to walk by a forgotten joystick or comic book and simply pick it up with none of the emotion I previously felt. This makes me a much happier person in and out of my children’s presence.
  • I’m at my best when I’m teaching by principle, not punishing through emotion. One of my jobs as a Dad is to help my kids “grow up.” Part of that is helping them recognize the importance of being responsible human beings, mindful of their surroundings and their purchases (i.e. learning to not be lazy or forgetful). Getting angry and yelling at my kids about how “this is the millionth time I’ve asked you to picked this up!” is not playing the role of teacher or life coach, it’s playing the part of an angsty roommate. They’ll have enough of that once they’re out of the home.

Thanks for reading!

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