Refusing to Pick Up Toys -- Ask Mrs Manners

The toddler years are the perfect age to start teaching your kids manners and good habits. And MrsManners aka: Angela Pitre, owner of the CM group Manners for the Modern Family and, is here to help.

Dear MrsManners:

My 4 year old daughter was awarded the best "Clean Up Helper" at preschool, but she won't pick up her toys at home and her 3 year old brother is even worse.

I've given time-outs, taken away TV time, bagged  toys and stowed them away. I've even thrown out many of the old beat-up ones. I've tried making it a game to music and getting on the floor and helping them. My 1 year old is a bigger help than these two!


Other than this they are really good kids. My husband works out of the country as an offshore oil field driller, so he is home 24 days, gone for 34, and I know that doesn't help with the behavior. It's just been a really, really long week so any help would be great! -- momx32

MrsManners says:

I'm beyond impressed. I love that you aren't afraid to try absolutely every option. I think you have some very well behaved children and you should be commended.

You have tried all the right things, but what you may have left out is a lesson in responsibility.

Your children are old enough to understand what that word means. Sit down and explain to them that responsibility in this case means "a task they need to perform."

But, why? they may ask.

Start by explaining all of your responsibilities: caring for them, feeding them, clothing them. Tell them that their responsibility (or "job" if that's a better word) is to pick up toys. Every member of the family is responsible for something, and as they get older, they will get even more jobs. 

Try to keep the chat upbeat and positive, not overly serious or stern. If they seem hesitant later to clean up, remind them of their responsibility/job.

They are going to resist. When they do, talk to them about empathy, which is really at the heart of manners. Getting them to think about how someone else feels may motivate them to clean up because no child wants their mommy or daddy to be sad or mad. Tell them how you feel (sad, mad, upset) when they refuse to tidy up. Compare it to a specific time when they felt frustrated to help them better understand.

To slow down the toy explosion a bit, try letting them play with one toy at a time. They must put the first toy away before they pull the second one out.

And instead of bagging or tossing toys, use the opportunity to teach your children how lucky they are to have so many toys. With their help, take them to a charity or donation center for kids that can't afford any.

Good luck and I hope this helps. Moms, please, if you have something great and creative to add, share it below. And PM me with a question for next week!

Angie aka MrsManners

Got a question for MrsManners? Ask it here! And check back every Tuesday for her answers.

Past Ask Mrs Manners columns:

Dining Out With Toddlers

Attention, Please!

Spoiling vs. Nurturing

Strangling the Dog

Please Don't Interrupt!

10 Signs Your Toddler Is a Brat

Banish the Burp

Should Kids Be Forced to Share Toys?

Winging the Pacifier

Should Parents Say 'Thank You'?

Toddlers Eating Everything

Throwing-Obsessed Toddlers

Are You a Hypocrite?

Pushy Toddlers

Taming the Messy Eater

How to Have Well Behaved Toddlers

My Son Won't Stop Touching Other Moms' Breasts!

Is Shyness Impolite?

Stop Peer Pressure Early

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