Am I being too hard on my 3 year old? - Mothering Forums
 
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#1 of 12 Old 01-16-2005, 03:18 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I know the question has been raised previously with a 4 year old - I just didn't want to hijack her thread - and wanted some tips.

I've been teaching my 3 yeard old to clean up/put away a toy before moving on to another. She's good sometimes but this week was really bad. She took out all the books from the shelf and had them all over the floor. I asked her to put all the books away and I'm sure it was very overwhelming but I was so angry I didn't know what to do. Needless to say she didn't clean it up. I put all the books away in the bag and said she would have to keep her room clean in order to get them back. Later on the next day - I asked her to clean up some cards she threw all over the floor and she cleaned them up right away and I hugged her and told her how proud I was that she cleaned up so quickly and said that she did a good job and was able to get her books back.

What do you think of the way I handled the situation? ( you can be honest - but constructive criticism preferred)

How do you get a toddler to keep the room clean?

Is taking away toys/books effective for getting a 3 year old to do what you want them to do?

I usually help but If I help all the time isn't that "bad"? Won't she always expect it?

Can anyone offer me any other tips?

Thanks so much! I appreciate your help!
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#2 of 12 Old 01-16-2005, 11:31 AM
 
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Quote:
How do you get a toddler to keep the room clean?
Are you serious?

While I think it's a good idea in concept, I just don't think it's realisitic to expect a 3 year old to always put away a particular toy before she moves on to another one.

At our house, we don't mind if there are lots of toys out at a time, so long as they stay pretty much confined to the playroom or the bedrooms. If toys start making their way in mass quantities to the kitchen or other areas, I ask ds1 to help me round them up and take them back upstairs.

If a pile of books really bothers you or if you are deadset on enforcing a 'one toy at a time rule' then what I would do is this. Rather than taking her books away (a punishment) I would just ask her to help you put them away and then after you are done, help her get another toy. If she refuses, then don't get the new toy out for her until you are done.

~lisa~mama to 3 boys (1/02, 5/04, 12/06)
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#3 of 12 Old 01-16-2005, 01:04 PM
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I think you're expecting a bit much from your 3 year old to independantly not make a mess, and to clean it up by herself if she does.

With that said, I also understand your desire to have an orderly house. Here's what I have done (keep in mind, I am by no means the best housekeeper in the world). I have organized my kids play areas, so they aren't so cluttered. I got some big bins to put toys in. This makes it easier for my almost 4 year old to clean up when the time comes. I have put a lot of toys behind closet doors, so they aren't so easy to throw around the house. Books are pretty easy to clean up, so they're out. It has made a big difference.

Also, when clean up time comes, I am very specific with directions. "Get me a book. Great, now get me some more." By saying, "Clean up the books," it is very overwhelming to her (unless there are only a couple of books out). By breaking it up into smaller chunks, and doing it with her, she is able to cope with it. If she's having a hard time cleaning that day (hey, we all have days when we just don't want to do it), I will offer a small reward, like a sticker or hand stamp, or other activity. This usually cuts through all resistance. It isn't every time, though.

I also try not to punish over cleaning chores, at this point. I will say, that we can't play with X until we put Y away. Sometimes this is met with great resistance, but playing with the next thing is it's own reward.


Bec

Mama to: Katie, Emily , and Abby
Not perfect, Just amazing!
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#4 of 12 Old 01-16-2005, 01:37 PM
 
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How do you get a toddler to keep the room clean?
**I don't. Our toddler shares our room with us. My 6 year old has his own room, and I never make him clean it. If it gets too messy for my liking then I just close the door.

Is taking away toys/books effective for getting a 3 year old to do what you want them to do?
**No. At that age toys tend to be 'out of sight, out of mind'. so the only person that effects is you, cause you have to spend the time taking the stuff away.

I usually help but If I help all the time isn't that "bad"? Won't she always expect it?
**At three years old she *should* always expect your help.

I do think that you are being too hard on her. I think that trying to punish her isn;t a good idea. SHe is only 3, she should be busy enjoying life, having fun and learning new things..don't try to punish her if she doens't learn as fast as you want her too.
It's great that you want to teach her to be responsable for her own messes, but stressing it all the time will just make it into a big deal, and that will turn her off of it pretty fast.
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#5 of 12 Old 01-16-2005, 01:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the response ladies! I am really interested in finding effective tools.

I really am serious I honestly don't know what's too much for a 3 year old in general - I don't read developmental books - I know what's too much for MY 3 year old and she seemed to be doing ok with cleaning up her room. Maybe she was having a bad day and didn't feel like cleaning up and I didn't respect that and help her through it properly. : My house is my no means neat. The minute you walk in you know it's a very child friendly home. I don't mind a few things out of place in the playroom - it happens, but when all the books are piled on the floor, toys all over I really can't stand it and I want to encourage responsibility and good habits now, kwim?

I don't mind helping her clean up most of the time. I actually do most of the cleaning (once a week I do a thorough cleaning and dusting) and throughout the week I help but I don't want to set up bad habits by doing this all the time so sometimes I help and sometimes I don't and she's ok with it sometimes. She even asked me to help her clean up and I said I would help but only after she started on the books.

I've got bins too - organized with the stuffed animal typed toys and plastic toys. She knows what goes where so all she has to do is toss them inside- and if they go in the wrong bin not a big deal as long as it's put away.

I will have a new baby in the house in a few days (hopefully) and lately I've been letting her play in the room by herself (checking in often) so I dont always have the opportunity to say "you can't play with y until you put away x" until after everything is already a mess.

Maybe I need to loosen up a bit
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#6 of 12 Old 01-16-2005, 01:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ms. Frizzle thank you! I think I will calm down a bit with this. I will continue to help as I have and *try* not to let the mess bother me. Goodness I don't know why I just don't close the door You're right though it bothers me more than it bothers her
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#7 of 12 Old 01-16-2005, 01:54 PM
 
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Hey, congrats on the soon to be birth of your next babe!
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#8 of 12 Old 01-16-2005, 02:15 PM
 
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Hope you aren't reading this and are having your baby instead now...but if you aren't in laborland I thought I'd share an idea with you...

It is really difficult for children of that age to understand the concept of "Ok your done playing with this now put it away before you get that out". They move fluidly from one play activity to another. Requiring them to break this fluidity to put a toy away is just not how kids operate. Maybe you can just have her clean up each evening, with you of course. A special basket for this activity is really hepful (something that she can put say her blocks in and bring them to you...or her boks that are all over the room)...plus kids are wonderful modelers (is that even a word???? ). If she has you modeling how to clean up she is much more apt to follow your lead and clean with you! Doing this is not going to set up bad habits for her....she's only 3...as she grows you can expect her ability to do things like this more independently...but it isn't going to be for a while!!!!
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#9 of 12 Old 01-16-2005, 04:09 PM
 
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Oh, I wanted to add something else.

Sometimes the kids get out way too many toys at a time. As in there is very little walking space. Usually at that point they become overwhelmed with all the clutter and can't really focus on anything. What I've done is at that point say something like, 'gosh, it's really looking junky (ds1 loves that word ) in here, let's pick up'. It used to be that I would be the one doing all the picking up. Now, however, ds1 has started doing this all on his own which just amazes me. He recognizes when things are too out of hand, declares the place a junky mess and picks up. Maybe I'm just lucky, but I think it's because he's modeled my behavior.

I know what you mean about loosening up. I've had to do alot of that over the last 3 years!

~lisa~mama to 3 boys (1/02, 5/04, 12/06)
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#10 of 12 Old 01-16-2005, 08:23 PM
 
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I totally understand the need for tidyness! I get anxious when it is too cluttered.

I encourage picking up, but I think insisting on it and punishing for it aren't worth it in the long-term. I think you can absolutely condition your kid to pick up by taking away their toys--eventually they will do it. But, I think the bigger lessons are really detrimental.

First, you become an adversary--this is never a good thing to promoting attachment. There are hard feelings all around and generally it is a lose-lose set up. The stakes always seem to escalate, too. Yuck.

Secondly, the kid learns that the way to get people to do stuff is to take their things. If they are at the park and another kid won't get off the swings, should they take the kid's jacket? "I'll give it back as soon as you get off the swing." Might makes right and all that.

Thirdly, the kid learns that you aren't trustworthy. You may give them things, but you may snatch them away at any time. What a cruddy feeling of helplessness and resentment for a little kid to have towards its mom.

Fourthly, the kid learns that cleaning up sucks. It must if you have to be cajoled and punished into doing it, right? Cleaning up is just part of life--shouldn't we make it more enjoyable, if at all possible?

And finally, the kid grows up with your voice in his head saying, "Clean up, or else." And he will likely seek to shut that voice off. That is your voice! Wouldn't you rather have him remembering your voice saying, "Let me help you with that." And wanting to hear it? And having it be helpful and meaningful?

Furthermore, he will likely not want to clean up just because he now doesn't HAVE to. Punishing doesn't really instill a responsibility of tidiness, it just makes him comply to tidiness when someone compells him. When that compelling force is gone, then what? Most people react by doing the opposite--just because they now CAN. That's no good--it's not your goal.

So what does one do? :LOL
I try to remember that tidiness is MY goal. And therefore is my responsibility. That's a biggie for me--and not always easy. But it really is the truth.
I model picking up cheerfully as much as I can.
I try to make it a game ("Let's put the animals away REALLY fast! C'mon!).
I ask for help and take what I get.
I got a toy vacuum for my son and he pushes his right along next to mine.
I talk about how I don't like it when the house is SO, SO messy; and I talk about how nice the house looks when it's clean.
I thank people for cleaning up (and mostly in this house, they do it as a nice thing for me--which is pretty cool!).
And as everyone else has said, I have had to change my expectations--this is not just me living here getting what I want. Other people live here and DON'T care so much about cleaning up (damn them! LOL)--so there has to be a compromise. And little kids are messy. But they're not little forever, so knowing that helps. But, I really had to laugh when we pulled out home videos of when Sam was a baby--my house was f-ing SPOTLESS! Man, it looked good. But, it wasn't nearly as joyful and fun. So this is just one chapter in our lives.
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#11 of 12 Old 01-16-2005, 08:53 PM
 
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don't think you are completely off base. It is great that your 3 year old will clean up after herself at all. However I think it would be better if you supervisedmore closely so that she doesn'tmake an overwhelming mess that she can't claen up. Ibelieve toddlers and prescho9olers hould always be within arms reach ofparents so that things such as thebooks don't get out of hand and then when things do get past the point of acceptable a parent is right there toguide them in the restorations process. (be it cleaning or making amends or whatever) but with really good supervision you can usually catch it before it even gets to that point.

So really the book mess comes down to your fault for not watching her carefully enough. Since that is the case I would have helped guide her with cleaning it up (bring/hand me the books so I can put them on the shelf or even more specific hand me the Madeline books ok now can you find the critter books . . . ) And if these sorts of messes and refusals to properly care forher things are consistant perhaps shehas too much stuff and rotating might be a better option than having it all out.

So expectations a little too high but not out of the ball park IMHO. The higher your expectations the higher your supervision needs to be to help themmeet those expectations. It doesn't take mych teaching for your child to wreck a room and then refuse to clean it up. thereforenotm uch supervisionis needed. But for a toddler to refrain from the dumping thing (why do they do this? it inborn though, I can tell you that much) and then teaching them to clean it when they do requires a lot of direction, teaching and encouraging but in the end you will have a child who values those things which is nice.

The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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#12 of 12 Old 01-17-2005, 01:50 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Ms. Frizzle - thanks!

So looks like I will need to help out with the cleaning.

Earth Angel - thanks! -

The lucky one - that is good news about your ds. So there is a light at the end of the tunnel

Monkey's Mom - you listed some great points that I had not even considered. That really helps me to see things in a different perspective

lilyka - you are so right. I have been letting her stay in her room more often than usual because I wanted her to get used to being in the playroom. And if I had kept a closer eye perhaps she wouldn't have had time to create such a mess - although that can happen in 30 seconds or less sometimes I just got rid of some stuff and put stuff away in the closet but I don't think it would hurt to put away some other stuff. She does have a ton of books that probably don't all need to be out. The biggest mess is the kitchen set and the accessories. I went from 210 pieces to about 20 and I still think it's too much.
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