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How can I get my very stubborn 4 year old daughter to pick up after herself and not argue?

The problem is that she does not want to clean up after herself, clean her room or even listen to what we ask/tell her to do. She is 4 and stubborn about everything, we are at our witts end, we have tried: punishment(s), reward(s), grounding, payments, consistant and constant positive regard and attention, promises (both parents and children), bribing with candy, money or toys. I do not think we are bad parents but we just can't seem to make an impression on her to be responsible, think of others, show initiatitive or accountability. It has gotten to the point where we constantly battle over her being lazy or just stubborn. We know she is 4, but we believe that she should be aware enough of what cleaning up after herself means. Got any advice? Just short of a therapist, we have tried so many different alternatives, but we need some more.

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Asked by Anonymous at 2:45 AM on May. 25, 2009 in Preschoolers (3-4)

Answers (13)
  • I have no advice since I'm going through the same thing with my oldest. She likes to clean with me, like doing the dishes, or polishing furniture, but says cleaning her room, or her mess is "boring" and refuses to do it.

    Answer by LolosMom at 3:14 AM on May. 25, 2009

  • turn off the everything and tell her nothing willis getting turned on and no games will be played until the toys are picked up
    My 16 yr old works in a preschool afterschool and she told me she does that when she's watching her brother, who is 4.
    I was fighting the same battle until I took her really works!
    Now when she was little I would do cleaning up races...back then I was young and could move quikley, I'm older and have artheritis and can't do this with my son...
    oh another thing I have done when the girls were little (I had 3 in my 20's and a boy at 35)
    I would tell them if they can't take care of their toys I will throw them away and I did...once.
    my son I use that trick and he says "okay then i will get new ones"


    Answer by wheresthewayout at 3:35 AM on May. 25, 2009

  • **nothing will get turned on***

    Answer by wheresthewayout at 3:36 AM on May. 25, 2009

  • wheresthewayout has some great advice. Make it fun, but also make it mandatory. Have you sat down with your LO and explained the importance of a clean living space? Have you explained the concept of respect to her--repsecting other people, respecting herself, respecting hers and other people's property/belongings?

    The other thing I can think of is to have her help you clean up a big mess of yours. Tell her you're having a really hard time doing it yourself, and you need some help. If she can help you finish the awesomely hard task you couldn't do by yourself, she will be so proud! Then you can turn around and offer to help her with her own awesomely impossible mess. HTH!

    Answer by epoh at 6:41 AM on May. 25, 2009

  • Check these books out of the library: 1-2-3 Magic


    Answer by MichiMomma at 8:57 AM on May. 25, 2009

  • My dd did this and I decided enough was enough. We went and got a box and labeled it charity. Then I told her that if she didn't pick up her stuff she would have to put it in the box and we would give it away. She thought I was joking. When I told her to pick up her stuff, I told her I was going to tell her once . When she didn't listen I told her I was going to put her stuff in the box, and I did. When she saw what I did with her stuff she flipped out, begging and crying. I reminded her that I gave her a warning. At the end of the week we took her stuff to local charities. Now she picks up her things and even gives away things she no longer plays with or wears. She has really grown up.


    Answer by krissyvelazquez at 9:52 AM on May. 25, 2009

  • a therapist? naw, you probably don't need therapy, yet. 1) you are the parent, don't let your child blackmail you, who cares if she argues. 2) if her room, for example, is already over-the-top dirty, you can't send her in to clean it. she needs to start with a clean slate. she can work with you to get it clean. make sure she understands: she may play all she wants, but before she gets out a new activity, she HAS TO clean up the last job she was working on. EVERYTIME. be consistent.
    if she refuses, take her by the hand, physically guide her if she goes limp on you (like she's a marrionette), by taking both her hands, walk with her, bend down with her, guide both her hands to the mess she's left on the floor, table, whatever, use your hands around hers, pick up the objects, put them where they go, and do it until it's all clean & then she can sit until she's done screaming, go talk to you about it, then go play. BE CONSISTENT!

    Answer by vickiathome at 10:08 AM on May. 25, 2009

  • What i did and do....thanks to my daycare with there help, is they always sang the cleanup song. Ever heard of it? So when we are at home I say, its time to cleanup..and i start singing the song (clean up cleanup everybody do your part) and i would help clean the toys up to....but he does it himself now. He isnt even 4 yet and hes always done good about cleaning most of his stuff up. I also reinforce the fact that when he gets quite a few toys out...i tell him he has to pick 4 toys up and put them up before he plays with more. He likes it..cause it helps him with his numbers too. He will say 4 toys? and then he picks the 4 toys he wants to put up before playing with the ones he got out. All I can say is consistency is the key!!!

    Answer by angie_david at 10:37 AM on May. 25, 2009

  • Thanks everyone for all your comments. To summarize, all the suggestions you gave are great; however, I have done all of them and still nothing. When it was suggested to donate her toys and things, we just did that yesterday. She does not know, but we filled two bags of toys that were just bought this past year, and others that we wanted to keep from when she was a baby and put those in the attic. Everything else we brought to the Salvation Army. At first she said take them, then she said no and afterwards she tells everyone (almost proudly) what we have done with her toys and why. She simply does not care about anything it seems. This is why I was seeker any advice!! I feel like she is just not fazed by any consequence(s) that are give to her. We also gave a few select toys and her toy bins to her brother, so she has a constant reminder of what she has lost (and still does not care). Please any more advice on this topic!!!???

    Answer by Anonymous at 1:34 PM on May. 25, 2009

  • Who is the boss in your house?

    There has to be something she can't live without. My son will be 5 in July, and when my husband passed away, I got slacked on my parenting skills a little bit as he was the discipliner. Well, it came to the point that my son was running the show in the house. It was very difficult for me.

    Taking toys away and no tv time didn't work. My son loves "soccer" (we call it calcio here in Italy) and we usually went to see games weekly. Everything from pro-soccer to games in the park. He looooooves it. Well, I told him that if he didn't obey, we wouldn't go to any soccer game. He didn't flinch, he tested me to see if I would be consistant. When I refused to bring him to a game, he yelled for 2 hours straight. But I didn't give in... It was the only time I ever had to do it. He cleaned his toys and listened to me afterwards.

    Answer by ItalianFlavor at 2:20 PM on May. 25, 2009

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