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independence (or lack of) in a 3.5 year old

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

My son will be four in May. I'm a little concerned that we somehow haven't helped him in the natural movement kids at this age make towards independence. For example, he still wants us to always put on and take off his shoes for him, get him dressed, and wipe his nose for him. There are more examples (he's also been extraodinarily resistant to potty training, which I have for now given up on). He goes to preschool and there he does all or most of these things himself most of the time, so these are clearly things he just wants me and his Papa to keep doing for him. It's not that he's unable to do them, he just doesn't want to. I feel like maybe we've sort of coddled or babied him too much in this respect. On the other hand, it doesn't really feel right to "force" him to get dressed himself, which I feel like it would come down to. The times I suggest him doing it himself, he always says he doesn't want to or says he wants me to do it. It feels like an area that could easily slip into a power struggle.  BTW there are plenty of other times and things that he insists on doing himself, so I do see the natural move towards independence happening in him, and otherwise he's developmentally normal or even in some areas advanced. Should I maybe just drop this and assume I'm not going to be putting his clothes on him like a baby til he's school-aged?

 

Has anyone else gone through or going through this? Any ideas, tips, suggestions? Thanks in advance :love 

post #2 of 5

Will he meet you half way with putting clothes on - like you pull the shirt over his head and he finds the sleeves?  Or put his shoes on and then let you tie them?  We've got the opposite battles with an overly independent 2yo who wants no part in our helping her to be dressed most days and it can take forever.....but I've leaned to roll with it because the fight isn't worth it.  So if it's not worth battling to get him to do it himself then don't sweat it.  If you think it's becoming an issue of a "learned helplessness" and he's exploiting the fact that he can have things done for him at home maybe it's time to have a chat about why he prefers to not do them himself.  And if it helps, my DH had quite a bit done for him for quite sometime (almost 30 years), but even he learned to be self sufficient (can do his own laundry!) once I took him from his mother :Sheepish

post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sassyfirechick View Post
 

Will he meet you half way with putting clothes on - like you pull the shirt over his head and he finds the sleeves?  Or put his shoes on and then let you tie them?  We've got the opposite battles with an overly independent 2yo who wants no part in our helping her to be dressed most days and it can take forever.....but I've leaned to roll with it because the fight isn't worth it.  So if it's not worth battling to get him to do it himself then don't sweat it.  If you think it's becoming an issue of a "learned helplessness" and he's exploiting the fact that he can have things done for him at home maybe it's time to have a chat about why he prefers to not do them himself.  And if it helps, my DH had quite a bit done for him for quite sometime (almost 30 years), but even he learned to be self sufficient (can do his own laundry!) once I took him from his mother :Sheepish

 

 

Haha, thanks for your reply! Yes, it's this "learned helplessness" that concerns me. I feel (and his preschool teachers have observed the same) that he enjoys being "serviced" and is just lazy about it. My question is whether this is really one of those things I need to worry about and take action on, or if it's of no consequence and not a biggie. I don't want him to carry this into adult life, meaning he grows up to be a lazy, dependent person who can't get things done. But is that just me worrying excessively? I have tried making a game out of it and putting on his clothes half way but he almost always says "I don't want to!". I have tried talking about it but I think that's beyond his brain capacity to explain why he doesn't want to do these things. He can only say he doesn't want to.

post #4 of 5

Well, depending on how you feel about rewards/reinforcement you could go that route.  Either formally set up a "big boy" chart in which he can see the goals and progress and can get reinforced in some way for his actions, or just mentally take note of the times he does do things himself and really gush about how proud you are and how hard he worked to do that and how nice it is to see him working so hard and you can reward on the spot randomly - that way it's not a bribe, it's not expected, it just happens.  The random (variable) reward system has always worked well for me because I'm not much for schedules and routines and it just seems more authentic. I don't see it  a problem unless he outright refuses to do anything on his own or even hint towards independence, but you said he is more independent at school so he does have it in him so if it was me, personally I wouldn't sweat it too much and just slowly shift things in the house towards doing less for him.

post #5 of 5
Hi P.J., I totally understand your natural worry ... but you sound like your hunch is to not make a big deal/battle out if this.. and I think I would be doing the same if it were my son too. Every child is so different. I agree with the advice given above too.

Also, It's very likely that it has nothing to do with "laziness" and could be that he enjoys the connection that dressing brings or another reason. I loved the previous poster's reference to her husband. :-D
Edited by aspire2b - 2/4/14 at 12:49pm
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