Move Out Of Your Own Way

The other day, three of my daughters and I were cleaning like Mad-Women. We were organizing the play room closetand I mean organizing! We were cleaning out toy bins, finding missing game pieces, replacing, shifting, and throwing away. It was a mad overhaul. We spent hours working together. When we finished the playroom closet, we moved on to my youngest daughters closetwe did the same thing there. When we were finished, we took four kitchen trash bags full to the Black Can. We also buried an eighteen year old Lego table and a non-working baby doll stroller. Overall, it was a cleaning success.

During this process, there was a situation that resulted in tears, yelling, and sadness: My 8 year old and I had a huge communication gap. I stepped on her toes and caused some hard feelings. You see, this daughter likes her things just so“…but she is a pack-rat as wellseems to me to be a contradiction. She is very detailed and she likes her things to be the way she likes her things. I guess we all do. Do you have a child like this? Well, several days before the group clean up, I told her to clean her closet, as her shelves were lined with all her artwork, art supplies, toys, and clusters of her tiny treasures. She spent hours and did a great job. She had a trash bag filled withwelltrash. In her detailed way, her shelves were cleaned up, but they were still dotted and displayed with all her art supplies, craft projects, and toys. Fast forward to our group cleaning session: In our cleaning, we found a craft tote that had only a few art supplies in it and a lot of extra space. I told her that this tote would be a great thing for her closet.

Heres where the breakdown occurred:
I thought she could put all her loose art supplies in this neat toteshe thought she would just add that empty tote to her shelves of organized clutter. I proceeded to walk downstairs to her closet, and I took all her paints, markers, crayons, tape, and the like and put them in this convenient tote. Just as I finished, she walked into her closet, and thats when the shooting match began!

Rage and tears and harsh words were thrown about. I have never seen this sweet little child of mine filled with such rage! She told me I messed up all her hard work and that she wanted everything back the way she had organized it. I explained that having all her items dotting her shelves was not organized and that by having all her art items in the tote would help her closet look more orderly. We argued back and forth, back and forth, back and forth!

Organized Clutter

At some point, I realized that I needed to move out of my own way. Was My Way worth her tears? Was it really important for me to win this battle? Did I need to have her closet the way I like it? Can I release my need to control things and let her be happy with the way she likes her things? At what point during this power struggle, do I apologize and hug her and tell her that her way is ok? Would I want someone telling me how to keep my closet? All these thoughts and emotions were swirling around inside of me. It was breaking my heart to see her in such upheavaland I was the cause of it! I didnt understand why she was so upsetas I was helping her! I was having my own internal struggle. She then said something to me that snapped me out of my headstrong spell, “Mom, I am so mad right nowI am so frustrated, you dont get it! I spent hours cleaning my closet and putting everything in here the way I wanted. How would you feel if you cleaned your closet and then I came in and threw it all in a tote!?!?

WOWshe expressed herself so wonderfully, using her words and setting her boundaries. I was upset and proud all at the same time. Isnt that sometimes how parenting isupset and proud? I swallowed my pride, admitted I was wrong, explained that I was trying to help, gave her some freedom, and we worked it out. I love how we can learn from our children if we move out of our own way.

She taught me some huge valuable lessons that day:

Just because I am her parent, it doesn’t mean that my way is always right.
Being her parent means I am here to lovingly guide her…not control her.
When we’ve done wrong in our children’s eyes, we need to apologize.
Her feelings are more important than me being right.
It is powerful to admit that we are not perfect.
I need to foster her individuality and creativity…
not stifle it!

Take Action: This week and moving forward, lets move out of our own way. Lets put our ego, pride, and programmed responses to the side and be guided by our feelings of love and compassion. Lets take a step back and realize, as parents, we are not always right. Lets see what we can learn from these little blessings we are gifted with.

Because Together is Better,


  1. This is a powerful lesson. Thanks for sharing it. At times when we are in leadership positions (parents, supervisors, etc) we often have tunnel vision. We can see the end result and we may be able to articulate it with others. However, the problem occurs when we think that those around us should approach a project or problem the same way we would. It can be hard to let go and allow others to use their own approach at dealing with an issue. This is even harder when it comes to our children. My daughter is 20 and I find it sometimes painful when she approaches certain situations from a different perspective. Thanks for being transparent and sharing with us. Great post!

  2. Great job. It’s hard to recognize that our kids have different ways of doing things. As she grows older, she will likely come around to your way of organizing, but if she doesn’t that’s fine too. Plus, sometimes kids like to see their stuff.

  3. My kids are packrats as well and we have to remind them to clean up. I remember when I was growing up, my idea of clean wasn’t always necessarily what my parents thought was clean either.

  4. Wow, I love this story! We have a tendency to think we know the best way to do things and that our way or opinion is right. There are many ways to do things, and just because someone else has a different idea or way doesn’t make it wrong. I can be a bit of a control freak, so I understand both sides of the situation too. I like things a certain way (including someone else’s things), and I don’t like someone else messing with mine. 🙂 I see how frequently interfering in that way can invalidate the other person and make them feel like they have no control or they can’t do anything right…

  5. Gigi Peterson says:

    I love this story and the lessons it teaches us. I can see it all going down, and it makes me smile. You are a wonderful mom raising an amazing and spirited daughter!!! love u both.

  6. Gina Manzeck says:

    What a great reminder! I too have battled with my 4.5 year old on her found little treasures and organization~ So many times I just want it all to be organized MY WAY and up until recently I thought…hmmm, maybe this is her way of showing ownership, or her control (over a world that she has so little control over). She sees my husband and I organize our whole house the way we want to, so I have decided to let her own and organize her own treasure drawer the way she wants to. It all comes down to picking the battles, and if this makes her happy, then she can win this battle… after all, what harm does it do anyway!

    xoxo Gina

  7. great story deanna!!! i am embarressed to admit that i use to have a hard time letting my preschooler do arts and crafts without my “help”. now i always get 2, one for her and one for me. and you know what… her’s is alwyas so much more colorful, creative and artistic than mine! i am glad i too got out of the way and allowed her inner artist to flourish 🙂

  8. Well, I am proud of both you and Erin Lu.
    Her, for setting her boundaries and expressing herself without being disrespectful to you.
    You, for realizing and understanding her position and allowing her the freedom to be “organized” her way.
    She will remember this and learn from it – you can bet on that!

  9. Diane Morrison says:

    AWESOME WAY TO START MY WEEK! ” Leading with love and compassion!” I will! Hey, De, one time I asked my middle guy to go upstairs and make his bed. It was grating my skin as to how lumpy and crooked it all was; tody and pulled taught, but to MY standards still “messy!” It took all I had NOT to change it. I thanked him and praised him for his efforts…he was so proud! When he went outside, later, out of sight & out of mind (for HIM), I changed it…! It is so hard to step aside…thanks for the reminder, today! Great post! Love you!

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