Maybe you have seen the Uh-Oh Out of Luck Bin picture on pintrest or facebook. If you haven’t it’s basically a big plastic bin with a little poem on it that goes:
“You left it out Mom picked it up she’s got your stuff you are out of LUCK to get it back must do a CHORE again it is yours just like before” Next to the poem is an envelope filled with chore tags, the only visible one says “Get a wipe”, I am guessing other chores in the evelope are for sweeping, vaccuming, and other household chores.
Comments I’ve seen on this bin idea range from “Brilliant” to “Yeah! now I’ll show who the boss is” to “that is so totally wrong and cruel”…..
So, Would you set up a bin like this? Should parents use ransom & chore bins like this?
I totally see that this is a positive step away from harsh physically punitive measures. For sure I have seen and heard of parents that simply take a trash bag and dispose of any and all toys that are scattered about. Sometimes the clutter can really cause stress and lead to escalated punitive measures where children may be spanked for forgetting toys on the stairs etc… So while I totally get the reasons why parents may turn to an idea like this, and I do think children should learn to be responsible for their personal items, I also see some potential negatives involved in using the bin.
Within the positive parenting philosophy, there are some points and alternatives I think would be important to consider before introducing something like this at home:
1. Masking the problem: The idea to introduce such a bin seems to stem from the fact that toys and other items that belong to the children are not being put away or are being misplaced. Mom or Dad always sweeping them away for “ransom” isn’t quite going to encourage children to pro-actively think about putting things away. It could actually back-fire in the sense that children may simply become accustomed to checking the bin instead of remembering to put things away. This system does not help children internalize the act of caring for their own items.
Possible Alternative: Address the problem at the root. Are items being left because there is no place for them? Are expectations about clean up realistic based on the child’s age and capabilities? Can clean up be made more fun? Are items being left behind because there is a rush to get out of the house, what if more time could be added into the routine?
2. Adding Conflict: If the bin has been created out of frustration due to toys being consistently left untidy then adding this step of holding items until a chore is completed is adding to the existing conflict. Now, Mom and Dad not only get to nag about picking up items and forgotten items they can use the bin as a threat, and then the subject of whether or not the consequence, i.e. the chore has been completed could create even more conflict. A child may be upset about their toy being taken, parents frustrated about taking the toy because it was on the floor yet again, it’s quite the potential set up for an argument about the impending chores or simply a tantrum because a child may feel sad, frustrated, angry etc…
Possible Alternative: Are items being left about because there is no routine that involves the time to clean toys and other items up? What about creating time to clean up together? This can boost the connection between child and parent, provides an opportunity for modeling and the more connected children feel to their parents, the more they want to cooperate, belong to the family and help out. Plus, instead of nagging about the pick-up, what happens if we ask for help with a solution? Inviting cooperation can really go a long way!
3. Creating Resentment: Let’s for a moment assume that this bin system is in place. Maybe the first few times it works like a charm. Now on the second or third day the most beloved toy was forgotten by the sofa and a chore MUST be done. How long until the child starts really hating chores? Really wishing they could just have their toy back, after all they didn’t mean to leave it by the sofa, they just got so excited about that other puzzle over there, or went off to play with a sibling…Now they have to stop their play to sweep the floor to get their toy back…SIGH, SIGH…how long until a big “I hate this” or “Sweeping is stupid” thoughts will start? Plus, many children may simply give up and leave the items in the bin “Nah, you keep that! I don’t care.” Now what?
Possible Alternative: Incorporating age appropriate chores into daily routines can be a really rewarding opportunity for the whole family. When children participate in the household tasks they are naturally learning so many life skills. Doing chores is a fantastic opportunity for children to feel encouraged and a way for them to actively participate in family life. When chores become something punitive, all of that encouragement and possibility for belonging is lost.
Of course the decision to implement a Ransom and Chore bin is up to each family. Where I love practical solutions to daily parenting challenges, I think that this particular solution, although clever could create additional challenges and conflicts that are not necessary. I will also add in complete honesty that while we clean up here every day around 5:30pm, our house is far from pristine and I am very comfortable having toys around. So, like any quick solution, I think it’s really important to weight the advantages and disadvantages and how they line up with each family’s values and dynamics.
So, have you set up the ransom & chore bin? Would you? Should you? Why or why not?
Peace & Be Well,
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