21 answers

4 Year Old Son Gets into EVERYTHING

My four year old son gets into everything, I mean EVERYTHING!! And it makes a huge mess. He gets into the lotions, toothpaste, baby powder, soaps, diaper rash creams, shampoos, you name it he gets into it! I have used every lock I can find and he figures out how to break in, I have tried keeping things high up and he just climbs to get to them. I have put him in time outs, I have sent him to his room, I have taken toys away, we have talked and talked and talked some more about what belongs to him and what belongs to other people, and if it is NOT his then he needs to leave it alone unless he asks. This is not new behavior, he has been doing this for over two years, most of everything I have is some how stained or destroyed by his actions. I try to NEVER leave him out of sight, but as a single parent sometimes I must fold laundry, cook meals, clean up something he most likey has done; so there are minutes where I am not paying close attention to him and then you hear the sounds....the sounds that make you RUN and there it is....the mess and the maker =]
I have one daughter who is 9 (she is helpful but she is bipolar and ADD so there are some things that are just a bit beyond her attention span) and I also have one younger son who is 3 (boys are 14 months apart). I am looking for some advice as to others ways to deal with my darling little mess makes, please help me!

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So What Happened?™

Thanks for all the advice! i think over the weekend I am going to try making him clean up whatever he might get into. I had not thought of that one! ANd to let you know that the reason I work part time is so I am home with the kids. We do not watch TV during the week, we walk all over different neighborhoods everynight, I get two of the children involved in an acctivity so I can spend some time with each of them one on one. I MAKE a point to let them know that are each special with different talents, and they all have chores at the house. So having the 4 year old learn to clean up should not be too hard technically LOL but will help him understand that if "you spill it you clean it" a rule we already use, not sure why I had not thought of that one before. And for those of you who were wondering who had the boys during the day, they are in a family owned/runned daycare and both boys are in a preschool program, the four year old goes 3 days an week and the 3 year old goes twice a week. My oldest and only girl is in 4th grade and I drop her off and pick her up everyday. I will let you know how the cleaning up after himself works. And thanks again for all the wonderful ideas, I am looking forward to putting them to the test this weekend. =}

Okay so this weekend, his first mess, he HAD to clean it up =] Well the good news is that it was the ONLY mess he made. But I have recieved some more advice and will be going out to purchase some play dough and some other squeeze type toys. I had not thought that this might just me something he likes the feel of, so Thank you to all of those moms that gave me that suggestion too. And I am looking into those locks - I had never heard of them before. Thank you all again, it has been greatly appreciated!!

Featured Answers

I know you already responded but I wanted to let you know also about locks called "tot locks" they are magnetic and they are the only locks I found to keep my daughter out of the chemicals and other poisonous stuff!!! You can find them at just about any hardware store!

What a busy mom and what a positive attitude! Have you wondered if he might have ADHD? I also wonder if he might have some sensory processing issues, since a lot of the stuff you listed is shampoo, lotion, etc. Maybe he's a "sensory seeker" with a need for tactile (touch) experiences? You can get more info online re this issue. Good luck and hang in - they're lucky to have you! J.

More Answers

You already got some great advice! I just wanted to say that I agree with keeping him busy, get him to help you in whatever you are doing! My son is 5 and yesterday I was doing a project for his teacher and he wanted to help so bad. She wanted it a certain way and since he couldn't help me I made up a project he could do for me on his own. It was nonsense but it made him so proud to be doing something just for mom.

Also a cabinet of his own is a great idea! Fill it with all sorts of things he can play with and praise him highly when he does. Act like you just won the lotto because honey you did! The more you catch him being good the less you will catch him being bad. I promise!

Another thing to try is to set aside time just you and him, even 15 min before bed. No other kids, no phones, no tv, just you and him to cuddle, read, play a game whatever. Just give him one on one attention and I bet his behavior will improve as well.

There are tot locks that work really well. They are magnetic and keep the doors locked. I had to use them because my daughter figured out how to open the other locks just after we put them in. Good luck.

Dear N.,
I don't know if this is possible in your house, but I would try to put up some sort of gate keeping your son in the one room that he is allowed to play in that you can see him on a regular basis. Essentially, I would give him NO access to the rest of the house. I know this sounds cruel, but I think he has to earn going in other spaces of the house. I don't know if you would be able to do this in your house, or even if you can find a gate high enough that he can't climb over. The other choice would be to put him on a child's leash attached to your belt. Again, this is to let him know that his space is restricted and he has to earn access. After doing the gate and/or leash for awhile, you can try letting him go into another room to play with specific toys. If he gets into everything again, the gates and leash come back out.

I am sorry you are having to deal with this as I can tell from your note how difficult it is.

Does he do this sort of thing when you are at work and someone else is watching him? If not, it could be that he is trying to tell you something by only doing these things when you are around and not the other caregiver.

I liked some of the other mom's ideas. I had 7 kids, so I truly understand that sometimes the way kids teach you about what's
really important in life is by BREAKING everything that ISN'T! The only way I got around it was by being pro active, and always one step ahead of the kids. Never have nothing for them to do. Follow them around and get them busy. When they are that age always endeavor to get them occupied HELPING mama, if possible. If you are folding clothes, get them to pick the things out of the pile you tell them to. Make a game of seeing who can find the most matching socks. Show them how to fold. Each moment can be a teaching moment. THe will NEVER do it as good as you can, but then, when the kids move out you can be perfect again, so don't worry! If you NEVER let them help, or get frustrated by their results they will become discouraged. And eventually they WILL get better at it, so DOn't give up. PRaise each little effort they make: to sprinkle cheese on the pizza (and floor, accidently), to crack the eggs, to feed the dog, etc, etc, etc. Let them get proud of themselves, or the only thing they will feel inside is a knowing they are no good. And you don't want that, I know, or you wouldn't have asked. I found such a great help in making charts of things they could DO, then reminding them it was time to do them throughout the day so they wouldn't forget. I put them on my website to help other moms here:
Check it out and see if any of the ideas are a match for you!
Best, R.

Hi N.:
I agree with SH,and With an older sister,and a younger brother,your son probably is seeking ways to be his own person. He most likely has to share everything,and maybe his getting into personal items,is his little way,of having his own personal smorgesborg of items.I'd go to target,in their lotion section,where they have $1dollar deordorants,lotions,shampoo,shaving cream..baby powder..I'd put them in a small container,with his name on it,and tell him that "I think you needed some of your own personal items, just for you to use. These are just for your use,and you need to keep them in your case,and clean any messes you make with them, Now, you have your very own,and mommy has her own. Give it a try. I think you'll be pleasantly suprised. The best to you and your darlin son.

Hi N.,

This won't be a total fix but it may help to contain some of the things he's commonly getting into. I don't know if they've been mentioned already but "Tot Locks" are wonderful things. They're not like ordinary child proof locks because they attach to the inside of your cabinet and require a magnetic "key" to unlatch them. The doors won't open for anyone without the key (which is universal by the way so you don't have to worry if you loose one). I've got a busy 4 year-old and we've been using these since he was a baby and he's still not figured them out and lost interest a long time ago because they've been there for so long. They're available at Lowes and Home Depot in the baby proofing section. They run a bit more than regular child locks but they're well worth it!

Hello N.,
Looks like your son loves to feel different textures of things, I would suggest on getting him a small texture table with a plastic mat for spills you can purchase these at any teacher store; then you can put some flour,soap shavings,cotton balls,tear some toilet paper and water with soap shavings together,little shampoo soap with water for bubbles,if he doesn't eat it you can also use beans,ect... use your imagination,some play dough.
You can make playdough with flour,salt,oil,koolaid,and warm water. Have fun and go see him every once in a while.
This way the little 3 year old boy can also enjoy it.
Hope this helps you out.
Doris y

Two of my daughters are mess makers. It turns out that they REALLY, REALLY just enjoy the sensation of squishing things in their hands. Get him some Play Doh, Silly Putty, those stress balls and water tubes, the balls encased in mesh that you squeeze - ANYTHING that he can safely squish or smear. When you can supervise, let him finger paint.

When they got older, my daughters loved squishy cooking tasks, like kneading bread dough or rollong cookie dough. In a few years, try some of those activities.

Good luck, Mom! :)

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