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nearly 3 year old refuses to do anything.

(27 Posts)
superchick Sat 14-Jun-14 05:44:58

DD is nearly 3. Last night she refused to have her hair washed. She usually takes a bit of persuasion but yesterday nothing worked. I usually go for a matter of fact "let's wash your hair" and if that doesn't work making it into a game or being silly myself to lighten the mood. This went on for ages and she still refused and she's to old/big to do it without her consent now. So I moved on to various mean-mummy tactics including refusing to play with her until she washed her hair and threatening loss of a fun activity (we have a party to go to today). She eventually ended up sat in a stone cold bath crying her eyes out while I washed her hair and was upset for some time afterwards. Yesterday it was hair washing, often its teeth cleaning or getting dressed, sometimes its eating or leaving the house/park/wherever.

Now I get that she's a typical toddler and that she's trying to exercise some control over her life. Im all for giving her options and some basic negotiations and I refuse to argue about things that don't matter but some things just have to be done. How do I make her understand and get some compliance?

MabelBee Sat 14-Jun-14 06:08:26

I'm no expert! But I am having some success with giving two options where the outcome of either choice is what I want them to do. Do you want me to wet your hair or do you want to do it yourself?

MoreSnowPlease Sat 14-Jun-14 06:20:11

mabelbee method sometimes works for me. Sometimes I use the not telling/asking ds anything and just getting on with what needs to be done, if he doesn't anticipate it happening or get a choice it can result in fewer tears.

mustardtomango Sat 14-Jun-14 06:21:14

Or how about bribery...

'well, you know we're doing X tomorrow, and I'd been thinking I might buy you y / let you do (fun thing), but we can't do that if you're hair's not clean'

Alternatively... Use other people, eg 'tomorrow we're seeing X, have you noticed how's she's always got lovely hair? Well, wouldn't it be nice if she liked your hair too, then you could both have special hair for the day. Would you like that?'

You get the idea smile

superchick Sat 14-Jun-14 06:27:55

Thanks everyone. Some good ideas.

MabelBee Sat 14-Jun-14 06:33:46

I'm up for bribery! Our second attempt at potty training is going to involve a very visible jar of chocolate buttons...

I also use flattery which works in one of my twins. Especially if she just overhears me saying something about her and she thinks she wasn't supposed to hear. If she hears me gushing to my husband about how helpful she was today/kind to her sisters/well behaved, I tend to get better behaviour for a while off the back of it.

Universal Sat 14-Jun-14 06:35:30

We are going through the same thing. It's a constant battle of wills! I have to keep reminding myself that I'm negotiating with a 3 year old.

TeenageMutantNinjaTurtle Sat 14-Jun-14 06:42:13

Try smarties instead of buttons, they are slightly less melty! And they can pick a colour!!

I second the gushing praise thing. I tell dd's toys how great she has been and it works a treat. She loves hearing me tell cow that she brushed her teeth with no fuss etc.

YouAreMyRain Sat 14-Jun-14 06:44:21

She's 2 years old. She is not too big/old to do it without her consent.

When my (older) dc refuse to cooperate with hair washing, they get water tipped over their heads.

You are the adult, you are in charge. She ended up in tears in cold water anyway, much kinder to ditch all the pleading and get it over with quickly. Once hair is washed, they can play with toys in the bath. Simples.

superchick Sat 14-Jun-14 06:54:36

I definitely try not to make it a battle of wills which is why I refuse to engage in an argument 90% of the time. Bribery works sometimes, especially with leaving somewhere, but it usually results in me feeling that I've reinforced poor behaviour. E.g DD time to get in the car. No. Yes. No. Here, have some biscuits. Ok.

ThinkIveBeenHacked Sat 14-Jun-14 06:56:50

The two options thing wprks in our house too at the minute.

"You can either go to bed with a story or go to bed without a story"
"You can either get your hair washed now, and then we can watch a cartoon, or you can grt your hair washed and go straight to bed".

wigglylines Sat 14-Jun-14 07:17:40

I agree about the two choices thing, that workedreally well for DS, but it does rely on you anticipating the things they'll argue about. Sometimes my 3yo would argue about the most unexpected/random of stuff!

Picking your battles is important. Personally I might have left the hair. You are setting youself up for lots of battles of wills if you have to "win" everytime IME. Sometimes it's ok to say "ok, we won't wash your hair today" remember it was a problem area for next time and pre-empt by making it more of a game or doing the two choices thing. There may be reasons she genuinely doesn't like having her hair washed but is unable to articulate it(water in eyes, is freaked out by the shower, just doesn't like it for sone reason, or it is simply about her exercising control) That's not to say give up and don't wash it! But maybe recognise her feelings as valid and take the approach that she needs abut more support to make it more fun.

DS was very argumentative when he was 3. I found it exhausting. The one that was a real problem was getting him up the 5 flights of stairs to our flat when we got home and he was tired. He didn't want to, and actually I didn't blame him as it was a long way for little legs! But I had developed a hip injury (from carrying him on the same side all the time) and I just couldn't carry him any more. The thing that worked best was turning it into a game (we would be explorers climbing a mountain, or whatever). It was a real battle for a while. We solved it ultimaly by moving! (I was pregnant and those stairs with 2 DC would have been too much).

DS is still argumentative, but we got through his 3s ok in the end, and that his language skills have developed helps masses as we can negotiate so much better now.

I'd suggest perhaps trying the books "calmer happier easier parenting" and "how to talk so children are listening and how to listen so children can talk" for some perspective on why they do it and some practical tips on how to deal with this kind of thing (the positive praise thing really worked for us for example, i forget which, but one if thise books starts with it - you chose a specific behaviour you want them to change and massively praise them when they get it right, or even seem to br heading in the right direction)

storm4mozza Sat 14-Jun-14 07:46:11

Not sure if this will make you feel better or not but your not alone. I have a 3 yr old son and i have had all of these issues / still do have some of these issues from bedtimes to meal time.

Son is terrified of the whole bath in general , he thinks himself and his sister are going to get dragged down the plug hole, I was suggested to put toys in the bath, though that didn't work for me personally, doesn't mean it will not work for you. He has a favourite teddy and I often bathe 'Munchkin' and towel dry him first to show son that all is ok. I have found that letting have his hair blow dryed on a low setting is fun for him, he see's it as a reward (obviously I hold it at a safe distance, he doesn't.

I know some people said bribary , each to their own didn't work for me lol... hit me in the face it did, I use reward charts, If he behaves (does what he is told, could be washed his hair) and he gets a sticker when he does certain things, after a certain amount of stickers they get a reward of your choosing, I find it motivates him alot.

It is hard not to be the 'mean mommy' we are only human and sometimes going to loose our cool don't dwell on it everyone has those 'moments' or even 'days'

Teeth time:

'I brush, You rinse' I let him show me which is 'his' tooth paste and which is 'his toothbrush' I brush his teeth and I let him rinse them, it's so exciting just for him to have that little bit of independance.

Time to get dresed:

We play '1 or 2?' Pants, trousers, tops / dresses (for daughter not son hehe), socks, (sometimes shoes depending on weather) . I pick two weather appropriate outfits and then let him pick which one he wants to wear (pants number 1 or pants number 2?) He feels more independant then and I have noticed less tantrums because he feels more trusted and respected.


I was advised (which worked for me, again each to their own) to give them a five minute warning, then 2 minutes and then 1 minute, I also say things like 'last time on the slide then' and then instead of telling him we have to go (though sometimes it has to happen I need to be stern and tell him its time to go) the majority of the time I can say things like 'Let's go home and feed the fish / wash up / cook / go shoping etc.


Do you let her feed herself? ,My son loves picking his own fork and helping lay the table, he also helps cook (washing mushrooms, helping shred chicken with hands etc) helps him feel involved and want to try out his new food (doesn't always work :D ) Also need to seperate everything so he can eat exactly what he is eating.

Hope this helps x

wigglylines Sat 14-Jun-14 09:24:11

Ha! That sounds like we moved just to get DS up the stairs! Turning it into a game worked a fair bit -but not all - of the time.

wigglylines Sat 14-Jun-14 09:31:57

storm4moxza good advice smile

Sticker charts worked for us too. What worked especially well was, in addition to having stickers for general good behaviour, I chose two things at a time I wanted DS to improve on. I told him what they were, and he would get a sticker every time he did it well.

The goals needed to be achievable, so for example I made "getting dressed by yourself" a goal (he was 4 then) and he just wasn't doing it without loads of fuss, and it seemed not quite right to reward him for getting dressed when it had involved major tantrums.

So I broke the task down further and he would get two stickers potetially: a sticker for getting dressed without fuss, and also for getting dressed by himself, so I could reward the lack of fuss even if he didn't manage it all by himself and vice versa. We kept it consistent, and it worked.

superchick Sat 14-Jun-14 11:29:47

We tried reward charts for bedtime dramas a few months ago and the thought of having to brush her teeth in order to get a sticker instigated a massive strop so I put them away. Might be time to get it out again.

I definitely do the two choices thing and it works well with getting dressed, putting shoes on and story time/bed time although ive found putting things off never works - if its bath time its bath time, delaying it for 10 mins as part of some negotiation just delays the tantrum. And makes it worse because shes more tired and unreasonable than she was 10 minutes previously (and so am I!). The times when I just get a flat "no" are so frustrating. Food is a classic - I'll give her choice eg risotto or stir fry and let her help with every stage (she loves helping and cooking and is generally really well behaved in the kitchen) and then when it's served up she'll say "I'm not eating that" and the drama starts. On a different day she'll eat exactly the same thing without comment. Argh.

LittleLionMansMummy Sat 14-Jun-14 15:13:21

Would have chosen one of two options. Either decide not to have the battle on this occasion and do bath time and hair wash when she's more amenable (or shower her). Or tipped water over her head and got it done with really quickly. I have also employed the "who will wash your hair, mummy or daddy?"

startwig1982 Sat 14-Jun-14 19:30:32

We have daily struggles and I've learnt to pick my battles. If ds (3) won't put on trousers without kicking and screaming, then he goes in the car without them and puts them on when we get to wherever we're going.
I find that saying 'mummy's going to count to three' really works with him. Usually he's done whatever it is by the time I get to 2. However, this only works because I follow through with it. It doesn't work for DH as he always gives him another chance.

Goldmandra Sat 14-Jun-14 19:53:19

Hair washing is non-negotiable so I would try the joking around very briefly then move on to "OK, we will just wait until you are ready" followed by doing exactly what you did and just waiting and being very boring until she realised that she might as well give in.

when it's served up she'll say "I'm not eating that" and the drama starts.

Don't engage in any drama. Say "OK" and let her get down if she wants or wait and join in with fruit afterwards. After that, nothing until the next mealtime.

PhoneSexWithMalcolmTucker Sat 14-Jun-14 20:48:05

Watching with interest here. My almost 3yo DD is being extra contrary at the moment, probably in part because I've recently gone back to work full time after being a SAHM. The two choices thing doesn't work with her, neither does soliciting her involvement in the task. She wants complete independence and control, or it's tantrum time.

Potty training looms...I'm not looking forward to it.

Goldmandra Sat 14-Jun-14 22:35:33

The two choices thing doesn't work with her, neither does soliciting her involvement in the task.

Try not to think of it as working or not in the immediate sense. Children this age are scientists. They are experimenting and processing piles of data from thousands of situations so they can begin to make some sense of the world and their relationships in it.

One thing that complicates it for them is that, no matter how consistent we try to be, we don't respond in exactly the same way every time and they do need to carry out each test on multiple occasions before they can be sure they know what will happen. Add to that the variations in their tolerance levels and you've got a long series of badly designed experiments with unpredictable variables and poorly recorded outcomes.

It takes them a long time to learn this way and we need to just be patient and try to give them the most consistent responses possible to help them build the best picture as soon as possible.

resipsa Sat 14-Jun-14 23:50:07

I have nothing constructive to add but can sympathize. The only thing that works here is if I tell DD that I am not happy with her. It works in the end but feels like emotional blackmail!

Viviennemary Sat 14-Jun-14 23:53:12

A lot of children don't like having their hair washed. I don't think that can be compared to general stropiness and refusal to co-operate. Not sure what the solution is. But it will improve with time.

PhoneSexWithMalcolmTucker Sun 15-Jun-14 08:28:04

Beautifully put Goldmandra and I completely agree. I think we were just spoilt by having DS first - he is by nature very even-tempered and reasonable, so doing two choices, appealing to his better nature etc all worked brilliantly grin DD seems so much more complex and I always feel like I'm getting it wrong.

Goldmandra Sun 15-Jun-14 08:42:22

I think we were just spoilt by having DS first

We were too. DD1 could always be reasoned with. DD2 is a very different kettle of fish. It just shows how much is nature rather than nurture.

I'm not looking forward much to a teenaged DD2 smile

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