how to compel a 3 year old to clean up his messes, not hit his brother w/o rewards or punishments - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 03-15-2012, 03:51 PM - Thread Starter
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So, I watched Alfie Kohn's DVD. What he says makes a lot of sense but I need help implementing. 


My 3 year old pulls all off his books out when he's looking for one, or when he's angry. So almost every day, I'm asking him to clean up his books. He says no, he can't, and freaks out. He has cleaned them up before without trouble so I know he *can* but he just doesn't want to. He'll also empty his drawers in a rage and throw all kinds of things helter-skelter about the house. He then refuses to clean any of this up. Am I expecting too much to think he should be able to clean up his messes? If he can't clean up his messes, is there any way to stop him from creating them nonstop?


Also, he hits and throws things at and is just generally incredibly rough with his baby brother. How can I not give him some kind of consequence this behavior? Talking to him about it does nothing.


I'm yelling way too much right now. I really want to stop but I don't know how to get his attention otherwise. :(



mom to DS born 5/29/09, DS #2 born 5/2/2011, partner to a PhD (finally!), pleased to be co-sleepin', lovin' our 3 cats and 4 dogs and raisin' our LOs vegetarian.
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#2 of 4 Old 03-16-2012, 09:34 AM
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Well It's different for every issue, but I'll give a few suggestions, some specific and some general.

In general, when kids make a lot of messes, it can be a sign that things aren't organized in a way that works for them, or that too much is available all the time and toys should be cycled. So, to be specific about books, books organized on bookshelves don't work well for kids who aren't reading very well, because they can't see which book is which unless they see the picture on the front. I put picture books in bins so the books can be flipped through. But in general, look at the way things are orgnized, and maybe ask him why he does it the way he does. It depends on how verbal he is and how aware of his needs he is, but he might say, "I like to see the pictures" or something like that. If he can't communicate what hte problem is, try to think of why it isn't working, and try out some different ways of handling things to see if something works better.

An idea for toys is to get plastic bins and split them up into thirds (or fourths, or whatever, depending on how many you have.) And then just keep one bin worth of toys up at a time. When he seems less interested in that bin, or when it seems like it's been a while, bin up that bin, put it in storage (like a basement or wherever), and get up another one. It's much easier to clean up toys when you're working with fewer.

He's too young to expect him to clean up on his own, but he is not too young to learn how to clean up and get into a habit of cleaning up. Unfortunatley, that means you'll have to do it with him, which can take more time than doing it yourself. But if you are very consistent with keeping things clean and involving him, it should eventually turn into a habit for him. And it'll be a habit he'll keep into adulthood. It will be a huge gift to him if he gets into that habit, so try to think of it as giving him a gift.

In general, UP involves looking at the reason behind the probem, and then getting up and doing something about that reason, rather than rewarding or punishing. So if he's making a mess, get up and help him clean, and maybe reorganize to make it work better for your family, rather than telling him to clean and then punishing for not cleaning. But that idea of getting up and doing something with him rather than making him do it and hten punishing when he doesn't is the basic idea.

Good luck and come back and post with more specifics if something doesn't make sense. It takes a while to get used to it!
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#3 of 4 Old 03-16-2012, 09:38 AM
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One other thing I thought of. How you handle things can make them either feel like a punishment to him or not. So if you separate toys into bins and have him help and say, "This will be fun! We'll have a group of toys up and switch them out every week. Then we'll have more time to play, and less time that we'll have to pick stuff up!" That doesn't sound like a punishment. But, OTOH, "You can't take care of your toys, so we'll have to put most in the basement and only let you have a few at time" probably will feel like a punishment. Try to communicate that you're looking for solutions, not punishing.
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#4 of 4 Old 03-16-2012, 11:19 AM
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Ditto the rotating toys. It works well for us. (Love the idea about the books, something I want to try too!)


As for hitting/being rough with the younger sibling, I think some sort of consequence is needed. You don't have to say punishment, but maybe consequence is a good word. If you don't want to use the words "time out" another option is "take a break"


SOmetimes my son can sit for the whole minute without a timer, some times we need to use an egg timer. So, it is kindof like a time out, but we try to take the negative spin out. SO, he hits his baby sister, we say that he can hurt his sister by hitting, he need to play with her gently, etc...and we say" YOu need to take a break for a minute" etc SO he (hopefully) sits for his minute or two, and then we ask "How was your break? Are you ready to play gently with your sister?"


Maybe you can try something like that?

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