How to motivate a 4 yo, how much should I expect? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 08-26-2011, 08:18 AM - Thread Starter
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DD just turned 4.5, and I'm feeling frustrated about how to get her moving. 


This morning it took forever to get dressed.  I tried racing, pretending I was the getting dressed monster, and pretending (as the getting dressed monster) to get my friend tickle monster because he tickles little girls who don't get dressed.  I did get some giggles, but not much action.  I finally was able to just help her.  I was really trying to be playful, but I have to be honest, sometimes I just want it to get done because it needs to get done.  She is able to do it herself. 


Then we tried to pick up her room.  I was in there with her and very specific.  It could have been a 5 minute job, so when it takes an hour, I'm pretty frustrated.  DD2 who is almost 2 is in there too messing up things and distracting DD1 so that doesn't help much.  I was really trying to teach them how to pick up after themselves, not just do it for them. 


The main issues I saw were being distracted, wanting to leave things out because she's either using it now or saving it for later, and mostly just not wanting to do it.  I know these are all normal but I want to know how to improve it.  Racing is really not working anymore.  I also feel like I'm getting some attitude from her that I don't appreciate.  I remind her about her "nice voice", but I see it draining my playfulness and imagination. 


I got out Playful Parenting to review, but it's a pretty long book....  I'd love some suggestions for the meantime.  I'm also wondering what is reasonable for this age.  If I say "it's time to get dressed" or "pick up the stuffed animals on the floor", do we really have to go through all these games? 

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#2 of 9 Old 08-26-2011, 08:46 AM
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No advice...just subbing.

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#3 of 9 Old 08-26-2011, 12:13 PM
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I had consdequences for not getting dressed on time and also if cleaning up takes a real long time then I'll take away some of the toys.  The consequence for not getting dressed quickly was losing movie time, IIRC (no time to stop at redbox on the way to preschool).


I think a lot of these things are habits (good and bad).


I am not big into playful parenting for those kinds of things.  Some things I just want done, no games.  But  IDK if that's the right approach for everyone.

DS (6.06), DD (10.08), DD (05.11).

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#4 of 9 Old 08-27-2011, 07:52 PM
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We had an issue with DS (turned 4 in June) taking forever to get dressed in the morning. Then DH came up with a rule that he had to be dressed before he could eat breakfast. Now, he either gets dressed right away before even coming out of his room in the morning or else whenever he gets hungry he runs back to his room and gets dressed (quickly and by himself)!!


With cleaning up, I don't have a set time. But when I feel it's time to put things away, I usually tell him it's time to pick up his room (or playroom) because there are too many toys out and we can't walk without stepping on something and getting hurt or breaking a toy. Then I ask him if he would rather do it alone or if he would like me to help him. He of course always chooses for me to help him. If he dawdles too much, I remind him that xyz can't happen until the toys are picked up (I strategically choose times when I know he'll want to go outside later, or have a snack or something he's looking forward to for a little extra motivation). So far it works pretty well.


I can see where your DD2 would be distracting in your example. Could you possibly do clean up time when she's busy with something else? Or give her some specific jobs to do to help clean up as well? At 2 she should enjoy "helping" and doing big girl things. Another tactic I use sometimes is I'll start to ask DS to do something and then stop myself and say I'm not sure if he's big/strong enough to do that yet or not, and then I'll tell him what I'm thinking. He inevitably insists he really is big/strong enough to do what I'm asking and eagerly starts it to prove to me he can.


I hope these ideas help! I'm going to keep watching this thread for more ideas as well...

Married to my wonderful DH; Mama to DS born 6-07 and 4 in heaven brokenheart.gif1-06 (7 weeks) brokenheart.gif1-10 (6 weeks) and our twins 5-11, brokenheart.gifone sweet boy (17 weeks) and brokenheart.gifone precious baby girl (18 1/2 weeks).

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#5 of 9 Old 08-29-2011, 06:30 PM
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Wait 4yos dress themselves? Nobody told ds that!

We just help him get dressed before breakfast (2-5mins tops) on school days. On non-school days or days we don't have to be anywhere he can eat in his pjs although sometimes he isn't in clothes for hours then.

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#6 of 9 Old 08-29-2011, 07:01 PM
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So, what's her REAL deal?  It seems like you recognize that this behavior comes out in several different ways.  It's easy to get hung up on the frustrations of the moment, but sometimes if we look deeper we can find the root cause. 


Is she tired?  Hungry? Overwhelmed with the task? Something else?


As far as what is reasonable?  My ds is 4.5 and he can do a whole lot without games.  He can go get dressed, clean up his room, pick up the books, make cereal for himself and younger dd, go to the garage to get a specific tool, pick up half a bag of spilled cereal off the floor without help...  Actually, my 2.5 you dd can do most of that stuff, too.  But it is easier for the younger to do stuff trying to be like the older ones.


I think a lot of it is about expectations.  *shrug*

"If you keep doing the same things you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten."

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#7 of 9 Old 08-30-2011, 06:10 AM
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One of my twins could dress herself efficiently and picked up willingly at 4.5 and the other was far too distractable.  For the distractable one I'd stay in her room with her handing her the clothes in the morning.  Picking up she had a lot of trouble staying on task and I really think she just wasn't capable yet.  I had the most success with pretend games (having her help one of her stuffed animals or dolls pick up and show them where things go was often effective) but I didn't always have creativity to think of something.  I think having a set time everyday (right after dinner) that clean up happened helped a bit too as it became kind of habit. 


Things did get better though.  Now at almost 6 both girls come out their room dressed most mornings.  The one on to the clean up thing even at 4.5 now keeps her room very tidy.  One day she even started taking her clothes from the dryer and putting them away and has continued to do so ever since.  The other thinks that she does but needs a little encouragement to tidy specific bits.  But every now and then she does a spontaeous serious tidying.  She's tried to copy her sister with the laundry but it usually ends up mostly as a pile at the bottom of the closet.  She is still distractable.  We don't need to pick up after dinner every night any more, but when asked to do so they both do without complaint.  So seeing how things are working out as they get older, I think routine and the confidence that it will happen eventually would be my approach if I were to do it again.

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#8 of 9 Old 08-30-2011, 08:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Well, we've started eating with real clothes instead of pjs.  There are some things I really like about changing after breakfast, but with preschool starting next week, I think it was time to start this anyway. 


I'm going to be more disciplined about getting her room clean before bed.  We make sure the living room is clean before bed, but by the time we get to her room my focus is on bed, not tidying.   Even if it's late, it'll be easier for me to help her and keep her focused because DD2 won't be around.   Then it won't be quite so much to deal with in the morning. 


Yes, a routine helps even me!  We've gotten so much better about having picking up in the routine.


I struggle with how much I should have to use games for this kind of thing, but if it can be pleasant, that's just so much more fun for everyone.  I feel like I've definately not been the best at that with her lately.  I grew up with everything being taken away, and after a while I didn't even care anymore.   I try to avoid that. 


The REAL deal...  I think sometimes she's overwhelmed, sometimes I really think she just doesn't want to do it.  These things aren't always issues.  Occasionally she'll get dressed or make her bed or pick up the floor quickly and without even being asked, other times it's forever even with help.  She's always been very perceptive, so maybe she's just getting distracted. 


Pretending does help.  When I forget, sometimes she starts it herself.  Sometimes it drives me crazy to pretend to be each and every thing she's putting away, but it does (slowly) get it done. 

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#9 of 9 Old 08-31-2011, 08:09 AM
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While getting dressed isn't an issue, picking up toys inevitably turns into a draw-out miserable affair, usually with dd (4.5 in October) ending up rolling around on the floor saying she is too tired/sick/busy etc. to clean up.  Fun, right? I think part of the problem is that I tend to spring it on her when I get frustrated with the mess so we start off on a bad note, but part of it is probably just that she doesn't like doing it!  None of us in our hosue are naturally neat and tidy people, so I think we all need to work at it and it isn't really fair to expect her to just do it on her own.  I don't really want to make it a game every time either.  So, strategies I try to use on a good day are to remind her to clean up as she goes so we don't end up with a big mess, to make sure there are clear-cut places to put each toy, and doing the clean up at set times so it is predictable.  We have definitely gotten out of any routine lately, so this post is inspiring me to try again! 

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