First of all, let me say that I just started reading your book. So maybe the answer to this question is in your book but I really need some ideas right now. I have a 5 and a 3 year old. My biggest problem is getting them to mind me. It's a constant battle to get them to clean up their rooms or messes. With the oldest, I've explained that if he doesn't pick up his own toys then mom will pick them up for him and that means they will get put away for a while. This seems to work with him, albeit with a lot of nagging and prompting on my part. The youngest one is a completely different story. He is a very willful child and is always coming up with an excuse. I will plead with him to clean up and he basically ignores me. I try not to use time out, but when I'm at the end of my rope I will have him go and sit down in a chair. It's either that or face a screaming mom. But even then, that doesn't seem to faze him. When I check on him on him a few minutes later, he's usually busily playing with his hands and talking to himself. If I ask him if he wants me to put his toys away he usually says "sure mom, I don't want that toy."
So, how do you deal with a child who can't be reasoned with, but not resort to punishments? In this household, I need everyone to help, so I can't just simply let him not do his part. Any ideas?
Dalila, mom to two boys, 7 and 5
It's so exasperating when we ask our children to do something and they don't do it. This is such a perennial problem! However, most children under the age of 5 exhibit little self-control. They are egocentric by development and don't follow directions very well. Try not to make the mistake of a lot of parents thinking that if you don't address this in the bud, right now, it will grow into even bigger problems. It won't! Much of children's obediance ability is developmental meaning that they listen much more in the school-age years and even more so in the teen years. Keep working on the relationship and the compliance will come. Try not to punish with time-outs. Get your child involved in problem-solving instead. Say, "We have a problem here in that I can't walk across the floor because of all the toys. Any ideas of what we can do?" It builds their self-esteem when they come up with an idea to fix the problem and they are more likely to help in doing it. In the book, I outline what children can do at what age, and cleaning up rooms independantly is more in the teenage range. At age five, if all they do is pick up the stuffies, then they are still contributing. Appreciate the effort and more will come. For age 3, even picking up one or two things is "helping".
If you truly need help, enlist your partner or hire someone, but still ask the children to contribute, so they enjoy the feeling of being part of the family.
To give you something to look forward to, my 5 children were the same as yours at that age. But today, at 20, 17, 14 and 9 (one is away at university) they emptied the dishwasher (each child takes plates, or cutlery, or cups to put away), shoveled the walk (14 yr old), done their own laundry including putting away, (except 9 year old), vacummned the tree bits off the living room carpet (20 year old) and went to the store to get milk (17 year old). I only asked once! See, it does get better!
My apologies for taking so long to answer this. I've just switched over to a new computer and lost all my bookmarks, including this portal. You have probably solved this problem by now, but thank you for your patience!
Warmest wishes, Judy
Author of Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery, and the new book, Parenting With Patience: Turn frustration into connection with 3 easy steps. President of Attachment Parenting Canada, and Best of all, Mom of Three Adults and Two Teens!