We Made Our Son Clean Up His Mess.

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

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I will never forget that day.

I believe I was 5, maybe 6-years old at the time. My mother had taken me to the grocery store with her. As we perused the isles, filling up our cart with the necessities like milk and eggs, my young eyes landed on something that I wanted. A glowing yellow pack of M&M’s.

Long story short, I picked it up, shoved it in my pocket, and went on my way. Stolen!

When my mother discovered what I had done, on the drive home, she immediately turned the car around and marched me back to the store. I had to hand the pack of M&M’s to the store manager and confess what I had done. Ouch.

To this day, 30+ years later, I have never stolen another item. You see, my mother chose to do that for one reason: it was the right thing to do. She didn’t want to raise a son who lacked character, integrity, or honesty. She determined early on that if I were going to make a bad choice, such as the one I made that afternoon in the grocery store, then I would suffer the pain and embarrassment of having to confess and repent. The pain of going through that would weigh much less than the pain of regret, shame, or extended consequences. On a larger scale, it was about living with integrity and character.

That’s precisely why we made our son clean up his mess the other night.

It had been a beautiful, sunny day. One of those days in the dead of winter that shouldn’t be- 58 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, light breeze, mild air. Gorgeous!

My son had been outside with neighborhood kids playing basketball all afternoon. They were shooting around on a hoop belonging to a family down the street who were not home at the time. Because it was one of those days, post snow, that was unseasonably warm, they had gotten mud on their shoes. A lot of mud. So much so that when they ran across the neighbor’s driveway, they left large chunks behind (see picture above).

As we sat down to dinner that night my son told us what had happened. My wife asked him if he had cleaned up the mess he had made. He responded, “Well Jonathan also made the mess.” My wife replied, “I’m not asking if Jonathan cleaned up his mess, I’m asking if you cleaned yours up.”

My son admitted that he hadn’t.

So he and I got up from the dinner table, grabbed my push broom from the garage, and headed down the street where he spent 20 minutes pushing off the clumps of mud he had left behind. (I captured his work in the picture above).

That was the right thing to do. We want our children to have integrity. Our goal is to teach character. We didn’t care that there were other children playing basketball, we cared that our child was playing basketball. We didn’t care that other children were responsible for leaving a mess. We cared that our child had left a mess. We could not speak for other parents or their parenting beliefs, we could only speak for our parenting beliefs. And our belief is that, to the best of our ability, our children will be taught integrity, honesty, and character. In our opinion the little things, like cleaning up clumps of mud on a neighbor’s driveway, count towards this in a huge way.

I’m not trying to one-up anybody, or toot our parenting horn here. Truth is, there are a lot of things that we are still figuring out on this journey we call parenthood. We’ve failed miserably at times. But we’ve decided that, in a world suffering from a serious lack of integrity, honesty and character, we’re going to raise our children to have some. Even if it’s painful.

How about you? Do you agree/disagree? What other means are you taking to raise your child in ways that you believe are right? 

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.