Mocha Dad and Moms: Calling Your Child’s Bluff

Have I Created a Monster?

PamelaMKramer-author-of-A-Renaissance-Woman-We have a standard clean-up day at our house when the kids are expected to clean their rooms. On this particular day, my two youngest children decided they would “team up” and help each other. On the surface, this may sound like a good idea – two siblings working together to accomplish a task. However, it didn’t work out as expected.

In practice, one child helped the other until one room was finished. When it was time to move to the next room, one teammate bailed and the kids got into a heated argument about the unfairness of it all.

My four year old daughter recommended a solution to the stalemate. Instead of cleaning the room, she offered to “donate” her toys to charity. I’m a well seasoned Mom of four and this is not my first rodeo. Although I was frustrated and had reached the limits of my patience, I decided to call her bluff.

In August, our church is having a garage sale. It’s a perfect opportunity to donate the toys and give back to the community. It’s a win-win situation! My daughter was perfectly fine with this solution. In fact, she even taunted her two older brothers by saying, “I don’t have to clean my room! I’ll be the first one done and I’ll get to watch TV first!”

Listening to her bragging, made me wonder if calling her bluff was the right decision. Did I free up a little girl from the responsibility of owning too much stuff or did I create a monster who will shirk her responsibilities in the future?

Pamela M. Kramer is the owner of PMK Unlimited where she assists businesses with their online presence. She gives readers an inside look at the lifestyle and lessons learned from a modern, motivated, multitasking mom in Houston, TX on her blog A Renaissance Woman.

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The Natural Consequence

frederick j goodall mochadad 2My kids often test me. They like to see how far they can push me before I call their bluffs. However, they fail to realize that I’m not afraid to let them experience the natural consequences of their actions and choices.

Once, when I told my 12 year daughter to clean her room, she replied, “Why do I have to clean my room? Can’t I just keep it the way it is? It’s my room after all.” I was just about to go into my standard dad speech about her not paying the mortgage and her having to abide by my rules while living in my house, but I paused and thought about her comment for a minute.

To her surprise, I said, “You’re right. It’s your room. You don’t have to clean it anymore.”

“Are you serious?” she asked.

“Yes, I’m serious,” I said. “In fact, the new rule is that you cannot clean your room anymore.”

“Wait, what?” she said.

“From now on, your room will never be cleaned again,” I said as I exited.

After a few days, my daughter could no longer stand the squalor. I noticed her picking up her clothes off the floor and organizing her closet.”

“What’s going on in here?” I asked.

“Daddy, can I please clean my room?” she asked. “It’s getting too messy in here.”

“I thought you didn’t want to clean your room?” I asked.

“I don’t want to clean my room,” she said. “But I have to. I can’t keep living like this.

“If you insist,” I said. “Go ahead and clean your room.”

“Thanks, Daddy,” she said.

After she cleaned her room, she realized that she had been outsmarted.

“You tricked me,” she said.

“I didn’t trick you,” I said. “I granted your wish.”

She sighed and went back to her clean room.

Stay Strong,

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Question: Have you ever called your child’s bluff? Share your story.

Mocha Dad and Moms is a regular column where I discuss parenting topics with moms. If you’d like to be one of the featured moms, send me a message with your idea to

About the author
Frederick J. Goodall is the founder of Mocha Dad - a parenting website focused on fatherhood. He is passionate about parenting and helping men to be great dads, husbands, and role models. You can contact him at or on Twitter at
  • Jennifer P. Williams

    Love it. Although I’m pretty sure my two would live in squalor. We’ve also done the “we’re going to donate these toys” approach. I don’t think either of my two have ever regretted that decision. Which goes to show that they really do have too much.

    • mochadad

      They will probably live in squalor for a while, but it will reach a point where they can’t take it any more.

    • PamelaMKramer

      That is exactly what I was thinking Jennifer. She did come back the next day and say, “Mommy, I am going to be bored without my toys.” I have had to redirect her a bit to the trampoline, tree house, her bike, colors and color books and tons of reading books. She will be ok.

  • Candy Olivares

    OMG LOVE THIS!! Thanks for the reminder of Shel Silverstein!!

    • mochadad

      It’s always good to get a Shel Silverstein reminder.

    • PamelaMKramer

      Thanks for dropping by Candy! I hope it goes in your parenting tool box.

  • Traci Shannon

    Nice! The calling of the bluff is tough. My daughter hasn’t done it yet but my son has. It has made me think twice about threats because once I got called on one that I didn’t want to enforce. That made me feel like it was I that was outsmarted!

    Great to know that I am not alone! :-)

    • mochadad

      If you call their bluff, you have to be willing to follow through.

    • PamelaMKramer

      It’s always best to step away in the heat of the moment so you can follow through with what you say. Thanks for your input. :)

  • mochadad

    You should definitely try it.

  • EPayne

    My daughter more than my son. Calling my son’s bluffs at 18 would embarrass the you know what out of him so I treat that option like carrying nitroglycerin but my little girl often tries to pass blame off to others so what I’ve gotten in the habit of doing is going to “punish” her friends by calling up their parents and then there’s a whole lot of tears and promises to be better.

    • PamelaMKramer

      Whoa you are not fooling around! I hope that helps her.

    • mochadad

      Have you had to call your son’s bluff before?

      • EPayne

        No, other than outright busting him I leave that to his mother.

  • Lydia R

    Oh, these are good ideas. I need to call my 8 year old’s bluff. It would probably work to get that room cleaned. Pam – she hates giving stuff away. But, I made her find 5 things in her room that she could either throw away or give away. That actually worked! :)

    • PamelaMKramer

      Seems like a nice fair number. I’ve learned to stop buying for my kids. I leave that up to the grandparents for birthdays and Christmas. I try to the money I would spend in their savings accounts.

  • Amanda Klenner-Labrow

    When I call my daughters bluff she doesn’t seem to get the lesson. She is only 3 so maybe, in time, she will but for now the little terror needs rules. ;) I look forward to being able to use logic with my children.

    • PamelaMKramer

      Amanda you made me laugh out loud with “the little terror needs rules.” I completely understand. Logic is fun too, you are in for a real treat!

  • CandaceApril

    Great post! I think that 4 is a little too young to really preview the consequences of their actions. I agree with the general idea of calling the bluff–but I’m not sure I would donate all the toys. Now, if it is an 8 year old, then those toys are gone ;-) … I also think there need to be some sort of consequences for the kids who bailed on her!

    • PamelaMKramer

      Oh Candace I would agree with you if we hadn’t done this before. The difference is that I let her earn them back. In fact just yesterday she donated another baby doll she found. She’s pretty happy with her decision right now. We’ll see what happens when birthday and Christmas roll around.

  • Greta

    My kids are maybe too young to care about living in squalor. It’s a major battle to get them to clean their room most of the time. I have told them that anything left on the floor will be donated or thrown away, but even that doesn’t always work. A few times lately, though, my almost-6yo will pick things up without me asking her to. Talk about a pleasant surprise!

    • PamelaMKramer

      Sounds like progress to me Greta! Thank you for stopping by and taking the time comment.

  • Stacie Wyatt

    loved this post

    • PamelaMKramer

      Thank you Stacie!