21 answers

Seeking Suggestions for Battles with 4-Year-old

When we tell our 4-year-old son to get dressed, brush his teeth, etc., he is so slow to respond and obey. You have to practically sit on him while he dresses or it would literally take hours. He's generally fairly obedient, but not with this. It's hard to tell if he just gets distracted or if he's being defiant. Any suggestions?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

I have three boys 1, 7, and 13. I have found that kids that age love sticker charts. When he does what he is suppose to without beig told he gets a sticker. When he has so many stickers he gets a reward. With my first son he got to pick dinner on Friday night.

I have found that children love timers. You may want to try setting a timer (like a digital kitchen timer), and making a "game" out of getting ready. He may find it fun to try to beat the timer. Good luck!

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Go on line and check out Growing Child. It is excellent, objective, talks about the range of healthy - not just this or that, but these - has been around over 30 years. My children are almost all grown, I still remember this as one of the best things I read. I read alot. It's available in print and /or on line, in a book and in monthly increments.
Nleda C
M. of 5

1 mom found this helpful

Make it a game. Set a timer and see if he can put his clothing on before the timer goes off. At first set it for something like 15 min. After he gets faster and can do it in less than 5 set the timer to be something shorter. That way he's always trying to beat his best time.

You can be his cheerleader and tell him to 'hurry hurry go go go!!!'

1 mom found this helpful

would not suggest this for under age three, but at this age I would suggest taking him to whatever the outing is from the home "as is" when the time arrives ...and bring clothes along so he can change into them. a couple of these events will show him you mean business about schedule

also there are "visual clocks" out there and timers. www.parenthacks.com has some great ideas for using these. I balked at this at first as felt might create anxiety with my kids but timers with beepers are working great things in our home. for ex. my husband was taking them somewhere one morning and I was staying home and he was in hurry. they wanted some time with me while I bathing (one is 2, one is 4) ..he said five minutes. I set the timer, the beeper went off ,I made one comment and they dutifully went downstairs.

go figure. I never would have thought.

hope that helps.

1 mom found this helpful

We are having similar issues with my 3+ year old. I too believe it is all about control. At this age they start to understand that a lot of people have the power of control and he/she is not one of them.

In our case, the problems started when we put him in pre-school twice a week and both my husband and I started working more hours. I think he feels out of control because he "has" to go to school and we are not always there 100% when he is home. So... what we are trying that seems to work is for one of us to spend a certain amount of intense quality time with him each day and to allow him to take control and make more decisions about other things. For example, we let him choose between two outfits for the day... He gets to choose which plate and spoon/fork to use... He gets to decide which glass to use... which shoes to wear... which books to read... you get the idea.

While he will always have some things that he has no control over, the more he does have control over, the less he will fight you on the "must do" things.

And when all else fails, we use timeouts. Most of the time, just the threat of timeout works well enough to get him back on track.

Good luck and keep us posted on how it goes!

J. B

1 mom found this helpful

Deal with this with my niece, with walking. She would go sooooo sloooowww on purpose. It's a control thing. Period, they are seeking control and attention, this is a way to get it. Just don't give it to them. If he only get's half dressed (and it's a day you are home) so what, don't say a thing. If he misses out on breakfast becuase he is too slow, well then maybe tomorrow he has better do it faster. It might seem harse but I if you use this approach I bet it won't take very long for his dehavor to change, especially if he is missing out on stuff. But, don't threaten if you won't follow thru (like if you don't hurry I'll have to leave you behind, well obvious you aren't going to do that unless he says home with dad or something). That might teach him. He is old enought to know how to manilupate and get what he wants. Possitive reward is better than punishment. So, just make a big deal when he does it right and ignore all the rest. Don't mean to come across as telling you what to do - it's just a theory.

1 mom found this helpful

My third child is 4 now and we have the same battle. I start telling him to get dressed and I keep doing things around the house. He knows I am not ready so he doesn't get ready. Now I get his clothes out and make him get dressed and tell him the importance of being on time. I have gotten in the car and started it while he stood there thinking mommy is going to leave if I don't get these clothes on. They are 4 and we just need to be organized and on hand to get them motivated. Is the T.V. on when you are telling your 4 yr old to get dressed? If it is you probably sound like the Teacher in Charlie Brown. *&N^$*#^*(#&@()*#). I turn off all noise and clearly tell him that it is time to get dressed and walk out the door.
Be consistant, organized but mostly stay calm.

1 mom found this helpful

Try taking a Love & Logic Course. It will give you ALOT of useful lifelong tips and makes parenting FUN. You will see a BIG difference in your son and yourself! Another option is to buy the Love and Logic CDs or check some out at the library. I find the CDs are more helpful than the books. Try to find: Love & Logic Magic for early childhood-birth-6 years, or Toddlers and pre-schoolers Love & Logic parenting for early childhood 6 mths to 5 years, Avoiding Power Struggles with Kids featuring Jim Fay's "Science of Control" You can search the library database from your computer and place a hold on items even if they are checked out. They will notify you by email when they are available. Good Luck!!!!
~Leigh Ann~

1 mom found this helpful

I probably don't have much advice to tell you. I have 3 kids and they have done well at getting themselves ready since they were about 3 years old. I guess it was always routine and they learned quick. I had their clothes laid out before they woke up. When they wake up they put on their clothes, come into the kitchen and eat breakfast, go to the bathroom and brush their teeth and hair, get their shoes on and coats ready and if they had time left they could watch TV or play their video games until time to leave. My 8 year old learned quick this year when he got up and played video games before he got ready. He was grounded from games for a week. He now stays with his routine. Now they are older and all I have to do is make sure they are awake and they now pick out their own clothes and get ready with that same routine they learned when they were little but added showers to their morning routine so now it's like a race to be the first one to get the nice hot shower.

1 mom found this helpful

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