On Sunday afternoon, we asked little man to clean his room. He had spent most of the day dumping out all of his toys playing. We gave him about 15-20 minutes to clean; a perfectly acceptable time frame in our eyes. About every five minutes, we went into his room to remind him to keep cleaning and that all of his toys that weren't put away would take a time out. Each time I walked in, he was deep in play. Cleaning was clearly the furthest thing from his little mind. I wanted so badly to toss the toys into his bins; a task that would've taken me all of two minutes. I knew that after the 20 minutes, there would still be toys on the floor. We'd take them, and then he'd throw a fit. I wanted to avoid that, but I knew I needed to let this learning opportunity unfold. I resisted. And then all hell broke loose.
We explained (again) that his toys would take a time out for the rest of the night since he did not follow instructions. He screamed. We asked him to please stand up and take a deep breath. He threw his body on the ground. We asked again. He kicked and hit his fists on the ground and yelled. We asked him again to stand up and take a breath, and if he did not, we would continue to take toys out of his room. The screaming continued. And pretty soon, his room was empty. Literally...empty. The bunk bed and dresser remained. He even lost his sheets and blankets because he ripped them off the bed during his tantrum (it's been our policy at home that if he cannot treat things nicely, he will lose them for a while). All of his room went into the next door office despite his pleading, sobbing, and trying to pull toys from our hands. When the room was clear, we asked him to stand up and take a deep breath or we'd start to take his birthday and Christmas presents too. The tantrum got worse. We took his presents. We made him sit in his bare room until he was done and calm down. An hour later, he was ready to talk and we were exhausted.
We made him put all of his stuff from the office back into his room by himself and explained the presents would have to be earned back by not receiving safety rooms at school (these are isolated time outs away from the other kids that really take a lot to get). We know he can go without safety rooms because he's done it many, many times. We know that he can snap out of his tantrums and we're trying to teach him how to do this, but I feel like nothing we try is working. It's two days until his birthday, and he has only earned one of three birthday presents back and has earned no Christmas presents.
My fear is his birthday will come and we'll have to return presents because he did not earn them back. Part of me wants to stick to my guns and take the presents back to show him we will follow through (though I really don't think he questions our follow through. We are not wafflers!). The other part of me thinks this would be a great lesson to demonstrate God's grace and explain how God gave us the free gift of salvation and eternal life even though we make bad choices. How do we know which is the right decision? I'm exhausted thinking about it. Today I feel like the world's worst...and meanest...parent.