Advanced search expect my 4yo DD to do what she is told? Friend said IABU

(118 Posts)
ThatsNotMyDinosaur Tue 25-Jun-13 20:26:20

My 4yo DD is a lovely girl, if you ask anyone who knows her they would say she is polite, well mannered and well behaved. But what they don't see is that at home she can be very stubborn, refusing to do what she is told.

It can be anything from 'stop being silly on the stairs, you will fall' to 'stop teasing your little brother' to 'please put your shoes away' or 'come on, into the car please'. She doesn't do it, she looks at me and just carries on whatever she is doing.

I always ask nicely the first time (this is usually enough if we are out or with others), then I ask a second time with a tone that says I am serious, and if I have to ask a third time then I show that I am cross with her (no yelling or anything just a cross face and very firm) and she has to do her 4 minute time out. This always turns into tears and sobbing because she has been told off and in time out, but she just doesn't get that if she had done what she was told then she wouldn't be in trouble.

It drives me mad, why can't she just do what she is told? She used to, then she turned four!

My friend said I am expecting too much, I shouldn't expect a four year old to do what she is told. But I don't think IABU because she used to do what she was told before this attitude arrived and her 3 yo brother mostly does what he is told will cry if he turns difficult on his 4th birthday too


thegraduand Tue 25-Jun-13 21:00:54

She sounds exactly like my 4 year old. She is beautifully behaved for other people, but never does a thing I ask. I find myself endlessly bargaining and mild threats, usually to speed things up (sit still while i brush your hair or the telly goes off/ hurry up and brush your teeth or there won't be time for bedtime story etc).

No advice, but wanted to sympathise and say YADNBU

ImperialBlether Tue 25-Jun-13 21:01:40

One thing I used to do with my children (who are now adult) was to sit with them when they were in bed in the evening and we'd talk about one good thing that had happened that day, one bad, one thing they had been excited about and one thing that had disappointed them.

I found that talking things over at night (because you get a turn too!) can make them see things in a different light. Nice sad voice, "Well, the thing that disappointed me today was that X kept messing about on the stairs. After it happened last time, I thought she'd realised how dangerous it was. Wouldn't it be horrible if tomorrow night we were saying "The bad thing that happened today was that X fell down the stairs and broke her ankle so we can't go on holiday"?

NeverBeenToMe Tue 25-Jun-13 21:01:42

I did a positive parenting course - they recommend catching the child being good, lots of praise for good behaviour, star charts if they work, quiet time - same room - then time out - which starts when they're sitting quietly! - and my favourite - one start, two stops (instructions). She gets one chance to start tidying up or whatever, before consequences begin, and two chances to stop whatever. Clear simple instructions of what you expect and the consequence that will follow if it doesn't happen.

Most of the above worked with my dgs(4.7) but I need to revisit it at the mo hmm as he is pushing boundaries yet again.

Good luck!

Smartiepants79 Tue 25-Jun-13 21:02:37

Think what you are already doing sounds just fine.
She is more than old enough to be able to do as you ask.
You are not unreasonable to expect her to do as you ask her but perhaps unreasonable to expect that she wil actually do it, if you get what I mean!
She will test you for the rest of your life!
Pick your battles just means pick the things that are important to you. If its all important to you fight for it. I would.
I agree with you that any form of defiance is defiance. It doesn't matter what it is about.
Crying because she is in trouble is normal.
She will get it, eventually, if you are consistent.
Three repeats of instructions gives her plenty of time to do as she is told.
Have faith in what you believe to be right. You are teaching her lessons for the long haul.

lecce Tue 25-Jun-13 21:12:50

Is it just a battle of wills and I have to make sure I win?!

No, just no. Pick your battles - give the two of you a chance to start enjoying her childhood. Yes, she is old enough to understand that she should do as she is told and that actions have consequences etc, but she is also old enough to know her own mind - she needs space to follow it sometimes.

I have never understood the logic behind enforcing time-outs. It seems to create two 'issues' out of one. And removal of items seems pointless too - how is she going to associate no pudding with the fact that she didn't put her shoes away two hours ago?

Lighten up smile.

ThatsNotMyDinosaur Tue 25-Jun-13 21:15:09

Imperial We do something along those lines at bedtime, we both say what our favourite and least favourite part of the day was. I often use this to reinforce a point from the day, say discuss why you have to hold mummy's hand when we cross the main road etc. I could probably give it more structure though and it might be a good way to keep up to date with things happening at school once she starts too.

ThatsNotMyDinosaur Tue 25-Jun-13 21:16:47

Lecce And just let her do what she wants?

The battle I am choosing at the moment is the 'do what your mummy tells you to do' battle!

CreatureRetorts Tue 25-Jun-13 21:18:30

There's quite a lot of negative talk in there. How about being more positive and telling her what she should do?

pointythings Tue 25-Jun-13 21:24:52

Four is a difficult age, and they do need boundaries. I agree that doing what they are told is important, but I wonder whether you are telling her to do too many things? Does she feel she is constantly being told to do something? That's what I call picking your battles - which behaviour is important and needs to be curbed, what's less crucial. Picking up shoes for instance is not something I would push - I'd make it part of a bigger sweep. When DD1 was 4, we made picking up and putting away part of the bedtime routine - it was pick up stuff, get PJs on, brush teeth (shower already done before dinner) and then story and bed. Because the treat of being read to was there to be had at the end of the sequence, the picking up was less of a battle.

I do think telling her when she is doing things you appreciate is also important - you don't have to gush about it, but saying 'I really like it when you...' reinforces the lesson that good behaviour gets noticed. I do think your approach at the moment is a bit weighted towards the negative. Positive parenting has definitely worked for me.

birdsnotbees Tue 25-Jun-13 21:24:58

She's testing boundaries. DS has just been through a period of it (he's 5), with a lot of not doing as he is told. I found we got into a cycle of negativity - my and DH would snap at him straight away as we were assuming he was being a PITA from the off. We had much less patience and I think he started reacting against that a bit.

So as well as enforcing clear boundaries we also did the positive thing. More one on one time (he has a little sister who gets a lot of attention). Lots of praise. Talking quietly at bedtime about the day. Stressing how grown up he is, taking the time to let him tell me in minute detail things he has done at school (& being interested). It seemed to really help.

The other thing we do is say we will take away whatever toy he is playing with (ie the thing he is at that minute most keen on) and put it on a high shelf for a period of time. We do follow this through if need be but rarely have to - and it's only for when his behaviour is really bad (which thankfully is not too much at the mo).

ThatsNotMyDinosaur Tue 25-Jun-13 21:27:43

I do try to praise lots, when DH comes home at about 5.30pm I always tell him in front of them something good or clever or whatever that they did today. If they are playing nicely together I tell them how proud I am of them playing and sharing. If she helps her younger DS to do something I tell her what a good big sister she is, that sort of thing. It isn't as if she doesn't have an ongoing system of praise.

On Sundays, if they have done all their jobs for the week (make beds,tidy room, put cutlery on table, help put laundry away) then they get their pocket money and often if she has done something extra helpful (this week it was matching up all the socks from the dryer and folding her playschool uniform) she got an extra 20p. I do try hard to praise and reinforce the positives.

lecce Tue 25-Jun-13 21:30:00

Not let her do what she wants without limit, no, but some things you mention (the shoes) don't sound that important to me, while others could just be enforced by you without recourse to a (by the sounds of it) ineffective time-out.

Stuff like the shoe thing, I find it more effective to just state it as if I expect it to be done, rather than asking:
Good day
Me: Oh, ds, you've left your shoes in the sitting room.
Ds: <moves them>.

Bad day
Me: Oh, ds, you've left your shoes in the sitting room.
Ds: moans and doesn't move them.
Me: They're in the way here. If I need to put them away, that leaves me less time to play/bake/look up stuff you want on google etc. Then I put them away if needed.

I gave up fighting every little battle when he was three and it was becoming draining. Now he is 6 and we have far more good days than bad and, over the last 18 months or so, many tasks like this have just become automatic to him.

Stuff like getting in the car when told, I would put her in myself (cheerfully but firmly) if she refused. Life is too short for four minute-long time-outs for every little thing.

I agree it is infuriating, but I don't agree that the only way to ensure future good behaviour is to enforce it at every turn in very young children.

Wolfiefan Tue 25-Jun-13 21:31:30

I don't mean she should be allowed to do as she pleases. When I say choose your battles I mean things like what top she wears, choosing her own top to wear, wearing shoes or trainers etc. I try and give my 3 1/2 year old some say on how her day runs. The big stuff. She does as she's told. Hold my hand as we cross the road etc.

iamadoozermum Tue 25-Jun-13 21:32:55

What do you do when she does do what you've asked her to do?

At the moment, we've been using "I can say Thank You to X for doing Y", whenever we catch any of them doing something well behaved so, say I come into e room and the boys are playing nicely together then I say "and I can say Thank You to X, Y and Z for playing beautifully together". This also works as a "I will have a big thank you for the boys that put their shoes away neatly". And it really works as they fall over themselves to do what I say!

The other thing we do is the count down. So, give them an instruction and if they don't do it, I tell them I'll have to start counting. I ask them again if they still don't do it I start counting from 5 downwards. If I get to zero, then there is a consequence relevant to the task, normally don't get much further than 3 though. DS3 usually shouts "No" and then does it anyway.

greeneyed Tue 25-Jun-13 21:33:18

Er feeling like the worst parent in the world reading this thread - my four year old rarely does as asked first time. Any cross words result in absolute sobbing. Time out is a disaster as he has to be force ably closed in a room as will just get up repeatedly, scream, shout cry. I would worry he has behavioral problems except he is angelic at nursery and for other people Thought it was just being four and trying to be separate from mum but seems like your lot are all bloody angels and I am doing something very wrong - sad

lecce Tue 25-Jun-13 21:33:50

I also think the praise has to be really descriptive and of the moment - I did lots of "great, now your shoes are out of the way we've got plenty of room to play and we'll know where they are when we want to go out," type-stuff.

Btw, that bedtime chat in the 'nice sad voice' about disappoinments and slipping on the stairs sounds bloody sinister to me hmm.

CreatureRetorts Tue 25-Jun-13 21:34:47

What I mean is instead of saying "don't do that", say to her "please can you do x dd". Eg walk down the stairs carefully, come over here and help with this. So you're telling her what to do and setting boundaries but in a positive way. It takes more effort but you get a better reaction.

Your DH thinks you're too harsh? Might be worth heeding him as something isn't working?

ThatsNotMyDinosaur Tue 25-Jun-13 21:37:04

Wolfie Yes, I see what you mean. She does get some say, she chooses her clothes (as long as they are reasonably weather appropriate) and chooses her own breakfast each morning. She'll often get the choice of what we are doing in a day if go nothing planned, soft play or park, or play doh or baking, that sort of thing.

Maybe I am just too strict and mean sad

Alibabaandthe40nappies Tue 25-Jun-13 21:37:10


My almost 5 year old is just the same.

I've started trying to let him have a bit more control over things that don't actually matter, while remaining immoveable on the important things. Time will tell whether it works!

greeneyed Tue 25-Jun-13 21:38:13

Cross posts - your 4 and 3 year old, make their beds, tidy their rooms, put away laundry, set the table? crawls away and cries where the fuck have I gone wrong...

CreatureRetorts Tue 25-Jun-13 21:39:15

greeneyed, it all sounds a bit regimented and scary to me! Where's the fun?!

ImperialBlether Tue 25-Jun-13 21:39:42

lecce, I thought that afterwards, but it wasn't, I promise! It was a way of talking about behaviour when it wasn't actually happening and I found it happened less in the future.

mrsjay Tue 25-Jun-13 21:40:17

nah she is 4 she knows it is winding you up give her a a minute warning of what is going to happen if you are going out then Tell her dont ask her you are asking she doesnt want toowink your friend is a bit feeble to think a 4 yr cant do what she is told, Oh you can tell her to do something with please and thank you I am not suggesting you roar like a sargent major

CreatureRetorts Tue 25-Jun-13 21:40:20

I will also add I didn't do anywhere near as many chores at that age but did when I was older so didn't harm me not to be vacuuming as a toddler.

ThatsNotMyDinosaur Tue 25-Jun-13 21:41:20

No, DH doesn't think I am too harsh, my friend I was discussing DDs behaviour with did.

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