I try to be as flexible and easygoing with my kids when I can.  But there are a few rules that are set in stone, and nothing will change the outcome of those rules.  One such rule is never to eat off someone else’s plate.  If they offer you a bite, fine.  But you never just reach and grab EVER.  Another is you may bring a toy into the car for entertainment, but when we get out to go somewhere the toy NEVER comes inside with us, no matter where we are going.

That rule stems back to Brendan’s early daycare days.  As a toddler he’d be playing with a toy as we got ready to leave for daycare in the morning and wouldn’t want to put it down when it was time to leave.  So, in order to get out of the house without a major fit, we’d allow him to take it in the car.  But the daycare had a rule that kids could not bring in outside toys since they’d had some problems with kids bringing in their own toys and they would end up lost or broken.

So we told Brendan very firmly that daycare didn’t allow toys to be brought in, and his toy had to stay in the car.  Amazingly, even at the tender age of two, Brendan seemed to understand this and accepted it.  Thus our rule was established.  It wasn’t hard to apply the rule to other places as well.  When it came up that he wanted to bring his toy into Target with us, we told him he couldn’t because Target sold the same toy and the store might think his was theirs and take it back.  The thought of losing his toy scared him enough to agree to that one as well.

Over time we didn’t even need to explain why a toy couldn’t go into a certain place, he just accepted that toys never left the car.  When Cameron came along we stuck to our guns about the no toys leaving the car, even though we were at a different daycare and they had a more lax rule about toys being brought in.  Cameron threw a fit about it for a couple of weeks, but by holding firm we were able to teach him the rules as well.

Kaylee, learning from watching her brothers, was the easiest to teach.  As long as we tell her to say goodbye to the toy she’s holding she’ll drop it with no fuss.  Well, at least she will most of the time.  There are those days where even though she knows the rule she’ll throw a big fit about it.  She is two after all.

We’ve never had too much trouble with the toys going into the car.  Each kid grabs their own thing to hold (because goodness knows they aren’t about to share with their siblings.) and most of the time there isn’t any argument over what someone is bringing.  There are a few rules around what can go in the car as well.  No electronics, they’re too expensive and would encourage someone to break into the car and steal them.  Toys must be small.  There is no exact measurement, but the kids have a general idea of what we will allow.  We have sent them looking for a new toy a few times when they’ve tried to get one too big.  And no more than one toy per child.  They’ve tried multiple times to get two or three into the car because they’re a “set” but we never fall for it.

Once a toy has been brought into the car it becomes the responsibility of the kids to get them back into the house.  It is not my or Matt’s job to keep track of their toys.  If they choose to bring a toy into the car and forget to bring it back into the house when we get home, tough luck.  You can get it back the next time we ride in the car.  I’m not going to go out into the garage and search for your toy every time you forget about it.  This has encouraged the kids to limit their toy choices to ones they don’t care if they lose.  The one time we made an exception to this rule was when Cameron had taken Snuggle Puppy somewhere and left it in the car.  He was so sad and forlorn that he didn’t have his puppy to sleep with that we got it back for him.

On Tuesday when we left to pick up Brendan from school Cameron and Kaylee took stuff with them.  Cameron brought an eagle that flapped it’s wings, and Kaylee brought one of her blankies.  When we got home the blankie was remembered and the eagle wasn’t.  The next morning I sent the boys out to the car as I finished buttoning up Kaylee’s coat.  I opened the door for her and as she started down the steps I turned back into the house for a moment as I realized I’d forgotten to take the chain lock off on the front door.

In the time it took me to walk 5 steps, take off the chain, and walk back all hell broke loose in the car.  The boys, who were supposed to be getting into their seats and bucking their seat belts, were sprawled along the back seat of the van wrestling like crazy.  Cries of anguish and anger could be heard as well.  The scene in itself is not too unusual, though at the time I couldn’t figure out what they could be wrestling over.

What was unusual was that when I hollered at them to break it up and get into their seats they ignored me completely.  Generally when I tell them that they quit their physical fighting and start to complain about what their brother is doing to me directly.  Unfortunately I’ve recently had some conversations about tattle taling with them and am trying to encourage them to resolve their issues without tattling on each other to Matt or I.  The good news is, they seem to have taken that lecture to heart.

It took me four tries to get them separated.  Once I had them disengaged from each other and into their own seats I discovered the source of the argument.  The eagle toy that Cameron had brought into the car the previous day and had forgotten.  It seems that as Brendan moved through the car to his seat in the back he saw the toy and picked it up.  As soon as Cameron saw it in Brendan’s hand he remembered that he was the one who’d brought it into the car and demanded it back.

Cameron hadn’t been playing with it, and Brendan had no idea he’d brought it into the car so he felt Cameron had no right to lay claim on the abandoned toy and fought to keep it.  The situation escalated from there.  I couldn’t believe they were fighting over a toy as we tried to get ready to leave for school.  The one time a day it seems that no one asks to take toys into the car is on our way to school in the mornings.  The drive is so short it just isn’t worth it.

Well I came up with a quite simple solution.  I took the toy away from both of them and banned all kids from bringing toys into the car going forward.  This set Cameron off into a fit of tears and rage.  But I stuck to my guns and told him he’d just proved he couldn’t handle the privilege by wrestling with Brendan.

Brendan, who initially had seemed calm about me taking the toy started down the path to a meltdown.  Now usually, if I can see a meltdown coming I try to be calm and talk Brendan down from it.  Not this time though.  I was angry at the fact that the boys had been wrestling over a toy when they should have been getting ready to leave, angry that it had taken me so long to get the fight broken up, and angry at Cameron for throwing a fit about it.

So I was quite short tempered as I looked at Brendan and said, “He’s the one on trouble for this, not you.  So if you really want to sit here and throw a fit about this I’m sure you can get into just as much trouble as him.”  Amazingly, the tactic worked.  Brendan shut his mouth and didn’t say another word about it.  And without Brendan egging him on, Cameron calmed down by the time we reached the end of the driveway.

It’s going to take some time to reinforce this new rule, and I’m sure we are in for a few tantrums and arguments about it over the next few weeks, but so long as we stand firm and united on this new rule I’m sure we can teach the kids to not even ask to bring toys in the car going forward.



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