Thursday, September 13, 2012

Throwing in the Towel

Sometimes, the solution to a parenting problem can be as easy as looking at the problem from a different angle. As parents, we often get hung up on enforcing a solution that causes angst to both child and parent when there might be a better way of accomplishing the same thing. Here’s a personal example:

Every time I passed the hall bathroom, which served both our guests and our children, a hand towel would be on the floor. This drove me crazy with a capital C. The kids—being only in the beginning of the civilizing process—would simply yank the towel off to dry hands and then toss it in the direction of the towel rack.

The two youngest children simply couldn’t reach the towel rack, so I told them to put the towel on the sink and I would come by later and re-hang it. No amount of correction made a lasting change. It seemed that I was destined to lose this battle, one that was increasingly grating on my nerves.

Then I had an epiphany while looking at the kitchen towel hanging so neatly on the fridge handle: What if I made the hall bath hand towels the same way? An hour or so of sewing transformed the hand towels.

Now, the towels hang nice and neat on the towel rack, and my blood pressure doesn’t rise every time I walk by the bathroom. The children can reach the towels and, after nearly a year of use, have yet to yank the rack off the wall by pulling too roughly on the hanging towels.

Best of all, it was a solution that solved a problem in a unique way. (Please note that I’m not recommending this approach for behavior problems.)

However, for those occasional problems that come our way as parents—such as hanging up coats after school (consider bins for the coats, mittens and hats) or keeping library books in one place (perhaps a basket for each child’s books that’s stationed near the front door)—thinking of a solution that makes it easier for the child to comply with your request might just be the ticket to a little less stress in your house.

What are some ways you have solved a similar problem?

Sarah Hamaker is now a certified Leadership Parenting Coach through the John Rosemond Leadership Parenting Coaching Institute. She’s also a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired@Home, a guide to unlocking women’s work-from-home potential now available on Kindle. Her stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sarah lives in Virginia with her husband and four children. Visit her online at


  1. That's a really neat way to solve your problem, Sarah. I'm glad it worked for you. :-) I solved a similar problem last winter. We live in a really snowy area (like 200 inches of snow per winter). So hats, gloves, and boots are essential every time the kiddos head outside. Last winter I sucked in a deep breath and bought a little cubbie space organizer and the accompanying bins. Now all four of us have bins by the front door that hold our winter gear. The gear doesn't always stay organized, but at least it stays off the mudroom floor!

    1. And you're not after the kids to keep their outside gear hung up, either.

  2. All of a sudden, my then 5 year old wanted to sleep with us at night, I refused to start allowing her or we'd be fighting her out of bed all the time...but after 2 months of tears and pleading because she was scared (mainly of potential thunderstorms, it was spring in Kansas) I bought a cot. I put it up in our room and said, "if a thunderstorm comes, you may come to this cot, not our bed, but only if it's storming." I gave her a solution to her fear, kept her out of our bed and the meltdowns ceased. She'd every now and then asked us what the weather was going to be like and if it was supposed to storm, she'd make sure her cot was properly made in case she had to use it if the forecast had storms in it. After a year, she now sleeps in her room even if there's a storm and never asks to sleep with us. $40 saved us from lots of fighting and provides and extra bed for guests. :)

    1. That's a great solution, Melissa. Way to think outside the box!

    2. I actually tried this last night with my two and a half year old. I'd been toying around with the idea for a while. He's suddenly started waking up crying in the middle of the night and wanting to come into bed with us. We normally let him, and he goes right back to sleep. But it sure is annoying having him in bed. So after reading your comment, Melissa, I set up a sleeping bag for him right by the side of the bed. Worked like a charm. :-)