Evie 55Comment

Clean up this mess (450x449)

We’ve been having a lot of trouble with A not wanting to clean up lately, at our house and at friends’ houses on playdates. At home, I can usually find some way to coerce her into getting the job done (“You can’t do X until you’ve cleaned up your blocks”). But when we’re playing at other people’s homes, and it’s time to leave, I have no leverage. She doesn’t want the fun to end, so she simply refuses to put a single item away. Brilliant!

I’ve tried reasoning with her, asking her if she played with the toys, and if so, who should be responsible for cleaning them up.

I’ve tried pointing out that the other kids are cleaning up.

I’ve tried putting her in timeout during the playdate.

I’ve tried putting her in timeout once we get home.

I’ve tried demonstrating what needs to be done by cleaning up myself and handing her toys to put away (which she simply throws to the ground).

I’ve tried praising the other children who are doing what they’re supposed to do.

I’ve tried explaining that she will be praised, too, for her efforts.

I’ve tried telling her that we can’t go to friends’ homes in the future if she won’t help clean up.

I’ve tried getting her to promise she’s going to help clean up right before we walk into a playdate.

I’ve tried telling her that big sisters (a title she’s really taken to) have to help clean up, and asking if she’s a baby or a big sister. Her response? “I’m a baby.”

Nothing works.

Each time, it’s the same story: I give her several minutes’ warning that it’s almost time to head home; she says, “No, I don’t want to go home!”; things spiral out of control.

One thing you should know about my child is that she’s incredibly stubborn. (Her father says she gets that from me.) If she doesn’t want to do something, she and I can sit and discuss/argue about it for thirty minutes without her giving in. She just will not budge, so I start to get frustrated and desperate that I have no way to make my toddler do what she must do. And, frankly, it’s embarrassing.

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ecard, awkward moment

The last time this scenario transpired at a friend’s house, in an act of desperation, I told A she would have to go in timeout when we got home and she wouldn’t be able to play with any of her own toys after that. True to my word, she spent fifteen to twenty minutes in timeout at home, just sitting quietly, totally unfazed by the punishment. Of course, this is how she normally responds to timeout: no response at all.

Sitting quietly—being pulled away from the activity—doesn’t bother my child in the slightest. She acts like it’s a nice respite, in fact! I can keep going over to her and saying, “Are you ready to be finished in timeout?” and she’ll say, “No, not yet.” Eventually, way beyond the point when anyone would reasonably think you can/should keep a two-year-old in timeout, she’ll call me over with a smile and tell me she’s finished, at which point we’ll debrief on the experience that got her there in the first place. But all this doesn’t change her behavior.

And what about not having any toys to play with for the rest of the day. Yeah, she didn’t really seem to mind. She’d go to pick up an item, and I’d calmly remind her that she wasn’t allowed to play with it because she didn’t help clean up the last set of toys she used at her friend’s house, and she’d just put it back down. No big deal.

Then, after eating her dinner, she made her usual request for dessert. I explained that since she had told me she was a “baby”—not a big sister—and didn’t have to clean up, she wouldn’t be able to have dessert either, because babies don’t eat dessert. Did she kick and scream and throw a fit about it? Nope. That would make things too easy. She didn’t bat an eye. Nothing fazes this kid!

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Now, I’ve done my reading. I found an article on Baby Center about “What to Do When Timeouts Don’t Work,” but they write nothing about strategies for the kid who doesn’t mind being in timeout for twenty minutes! And according to Parents.com’s “5 Ways to Get Your Kids to Listen,” which highlights techniques from “the Bible” on this subject (How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish), I’m already using some pretty reasonable parenting techniques:

  • Providing information about why A needs to comply and help out
  • Giving her a choice about whether she’d like to attend a playdate and help clean up, or not attend at all. Or, asking her which toys she’d like to clean up first.
  • Stating my expectations for her behavior prior to us attending a playdate, repeatedly.

I’m stumped!! Please, please tell me: What would you do with a child for whom no punishment seems appropriate, or like punishment enough, because it won’t get her attention enough to change her behavior?

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55 thoughts on ““Clean Up This Mess!” Punishing a Kid Who Just Doesn’t Care

  1. How old is she? With the caveat that I only have a 13 month old and learned everything I know about behavior from training my dog, I would suggest a couple of things:

    1. Ignore undesirable behaviors. Saying anything at all constitutes attention and therefore is a reward.
    2. In urgent situations (i.e. flagrant disobedience and actual danger), pick her up and remove her from the situation without saying a word.
    3. Praise/reward good behavior the moment you see it. If she’s playing nicely or doing something good, use that as an opportunity to praise, reward, and pay her some attention rather than as an opportunity to get stuff done yourself.
    4. Don’t worry about what the other parents think of whether or not she helps clean up / tantrums.

    Example: Ask her to help clean up at the end of the playdate, and start cleaning up yourself. If she helps say, “Thank you so much, X! You are such a good helper!” and/or offer some sort of reward. If she doesn’t help, just ignore it. If she refuses to leave at the end, then you pick her up and remove her from the room. Don’t worry about negative commentary from other parents. This is a phase, and if you acknowledge the bad behavior then she wins.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks for your input! Have you ever watched The Dog Whisperer? I always find there are so many similarities between training animals and raising kids :)

      First, my daughter is 2.5, so we’re right at that critical age. You’re probably right that part of her goal is to get attention. It’s just so hard NOT to acknowledge the bad behavior when it’s repeated so often and on an issue that I feel is kind of non-negotiable. You know, how long am I going to have to clean up her toys? And if I keep doing it, won’t she just come to expect this? I don’t want to raise a little princess!

      I think you’re right that this is a phase, but each and every phase feels like it’s going to last forever, doesn’t it?

      1. How do you expectativas 2.5 year to clean up Her mess and to behave? Tbh she is a toddler maybe you should just listen to her that is what will work let each other listen to each other , you maybe don’t understand her and what is in her mind . Don’t treat her like she is a teen , I go through what you do I have a stubborn sister she is worse!

  2. Oh yes, the phases do seem to last forever. That is certainly true!

    I guess the only thing I might add is that with your current approach, you’re making an issue over something that you can’t possibly win if she chooses to defy you. And it sounds like she’s figured that out.

    Anyway, good luck! I look forward to hearing updates about what ended up working.

  3. What kids that age have a tough time with are dealing with consequences that aren’t right in front of their faces. Offering up a punishment for when you get home may not be that compelling since its not in the here and now. How about you take A out and have her pick out a super special amazing “big sis” necklace or bracelet (age appropriate of course- maybe something sparkly from Claires!) Tell her that when she wears it, it means she’s showing everyone what a great big sister and big girl she is. Make sure she really loves it! Only let her wear it at first on special outings outside the house for play dates. Make a big deal about putting it on when you get there. Show up early to the end of the play date to make sure you’re not rushed for the clean up part. If she doesn’t want to clean up, then you’ll need to take away her beautiful necklace or bracelet since only responsible big girls get to wear it. It gives you something to work with right then as opposed to theoretical punishments. Just a thought. Keep us posted on how it all turns out!!

    1. You know, this is a fantastic idea: to provide a compelling reward–on the spot–for good behavior! And I think a sparkly necklace or bracelet just might do the trick :) The only change I’d make to the technique you’re suggesting is that I wouldn’t be able to let her wear the jewelry until after she had cleaned up. Otherwise, again, I would have no leverage. Plus, trying to take the jewelry from her once she’s become defiant would be nearly impossible. Once we get a little closer to my due date, I’m definitely going to take her over the Claire’s and let her pick out something special. Thanks for the great suggestion!

  4. What a conundrum! It sounds like it is impossible to identify the “currency” she cares about in terms of consequences. (And lord knows that there is no reasoning with a smart 2.5 year old!) I honestly think you are doing some really good things and just hope that over time, she responds in a better way (ie, cleaning up). You are following the 3 guiding principles I try to parent with:
    1. setting expectations/routines
    2. providing clear directions, broken down into manageable steps
    3. approaching task oriented activities with creativity and fun

    I am not expert, and can’t say I’ve figured out how to solve this problem with a 3 and 4 year old, but just some reflections:

    -Have you ever employed the use of a “clean up song?” They do that at my children’s school/daycare, and I think have the advantage of peer groups cleaning up at school, so when we sing the same song at home, it triggers something so that they are more apt to help…sometimes! (nothing is full proof)

    -Have you tried to play specific games while cleaning up? “How do you think a mouse would clean up? How about an elephant?” Make some sort of silly association to clean up acting a certain way. Use tongs to pick things up. We have a huge plastic animal bin and we pretend that we are zoo keepers and have to lock the animals up at night, but are on an island a few feet away and toss them into the bin (okay, so they a lot of times throw and it gets out of hand…)

    -Announce something fun to do once clean up is done. “After we put away toys, we are going to go outside and play.” Or, “we’ll have more time to bake dinner together because we are doing such a good job putting this away quickly.”

    Something I used to do that worked, but might not seem to bother your daughter since she doesn’t seem to care if toys are taken away, is that I would say, “if you are not going to respect your toys, I am going to take them away and we will consider giving them to other kids who respect their toys.” I wouldn’t just deny them use of the toys, but literally take them away and put them in a huge box up on the counter for them to see. I’m sure a child psychologist would die knowing I said I am giving their toys to someone else, but I wanted them to know that their cleaning up served purposes: one, we needed a clean space to do something else, and two, we treat our personal items with respect. And if that was not done, then we would get rid of them. And I have actually gotten rid of a few cars and trucks as follow-through to when I did this.

    I also agree that at her age, immediate consequences (say at a playdate) are helpful. The threat of quiet time/time out later in the day just won’t resonate–especially if she likes the quiet time. You can say “In 5 minutes, it will be time to clean up so we can go home. I am setting my watch.” I like to give a warning with eye contact and a physical component (ie, I put my hand on their hand, look them in the eye). And then in 5 minutes, I will say, “we are going home now. Please put the toys away.” I try to avoid asking “could you please clean up?” Asking them gives them a choice. It is *so* hard not to phrase things like a question, but I think makes a difference! And also avoid ending directions with “okay?”–“Put the toys away, okay?” It makes parents seem indecisive. (I started tracking how often I do this on a daily basis with my kids in general, and it is astonishing how often I say “okay” or ask them permission!) And sometimes I use my 3 finger rule and create 3 “tasks” to do in the clean up to make it more manageable, “Please put away One–the green dinosaur (and point to my finger) Two–the racecar (point to my finger), and Three (point to my finger)–the doctor kit.”

    I think the hardest part is when you are on a playdate and don’t have much “currency” with consequences if they don’t pick up. What I find myself doing is that after I give the warning, provide very task oriented directions, if they still won’t clean up…I usually just end by saying, “We respect our friend’s toys and clean them up. If I clean up the toys, I will pick you up and we will leave immediately.” And then clean up, and sweep up my child grabbing my coat and stuff, say thank you, and leave without allowing them to do anything else.

    Part of this is just such an age thing, and I think with consistency and modeling good behavior and establishing/communicating why you clean up (respect, opportunity to do other things, etc) it will start to work.

    Good luck and keep us posted!

    1. Oh god, Alison. You are a wealth of information!! So many of these suggestions are things that I’m quite sure would work with A!

      The zookeeper game would be wildly entertaining for her since she’s currently obsessed with Curious George, and so many of his adventures take place at the zoo. I’m going to have to be much more creative in our clean-up techniques, I can see :)

      I have tried the whole “well, I guess you don’t deserve these toys right now” act, and I’ve even gone as far as putting some toys out in the garage on top of the garbage can for a few days. Unfortunately, that didn’t work for us. Weird, right?

      I’m also going to revisit the way in which I inform A that it’s time to clean up, with physical and eye contact. She tends to be easily distracted, so I’m almost always getting down to her level to communicate, looking her in the eye, to make sure my message is clear. But maybe I haven’t been firm enough in the language I use, at least at first. By the third or fourth time I’m telling A to clean up, I’m definitely being plenty firm about my expectations, but by that point, it’s already too late.

      I know we’ll get there, eventually. It’s just so tricky to negotiate on this point, because as I mentioned in my response to oldmdgirl, I want to make sure A understands that cleaning up is her responsibility, not mine. And waiting for this phase to pass (while I do the cleaning) feels a lot like giving my two-year-old the impression that mommy will do her work for her if she puts up enough of a fight. It isn’t easy! Thanks, again!!

      1. Haha when I brought a garbage bag into my daughters room and started putting old toys that needed to be gone anyways in it she started putting all of her toys in it. No phasing at all! She actually tells me she doesn’t care. Time is are fun. Everything is a joke… She gets rewards out the ass for behavior… My wall is coveted in colorful paper each one with a category (BIG CLEANER. BIG READER. BIG LISTENER. BIG HELPER etc) and a huge deal is made and she gets to pick it a sticker to put on the paper. My daughter is 3.5 and as she says just doesn’t care… Some days u just want to say do whatever you want I don’t care. Like you I’m at wits end so I don’t have much advice just letting you know you’re not alone!

        1. Wow, so familiar, Victoria! My daughter is 3.5 now, too, and it’s gotten a little bit better. But some days, she’s just unmanageable. They’ll grow out of this, right?? Thanks for commiserating!

    2. It’s unfortunate for you as a mother that you buy into this pacifist mentality. If she doesn’t do what she’s told, smack her. End of story. When she refuses to clean up, you simply ask her if she would like a smack. And you will see how quickly she listens. Children are not stupid and will take advantage of the stupidity of parents. Hit her and be done with it. I have no sympathy for your unruly child.

      1. Smacks don’t always work with a child that defies all discipline. I have a 3 year old son who has copped a few good hardy smacks. I asked him to do something there is a no I smack him I ask him again I get a no 5 later I am putting him in his room where he has no toys because they were removed as punishment long ago. Smacks don’t always work

        1. kids will be kids! Every kid is different from the other and what works for one might not work for the other. Being a parent is hard work! Like the other commenter, I just gave up too. No sense in beating yourself up or stressing yourself out because this is normal phases that children will go through. My son was the hardest to raise, even destroys everything he touches! He is 6 now and “THEE BEST” kid ever! I guess they just go through the phase and each is very diff because out of 3 he was the worst. I love children and they are so darn cute but damn…raising them is very different lol You just have to suck it up and deal with it. There is no cure, there is no tricks…these are all humans with a mind of their own with their own little personalities. It doesn’t matter how you raise them, they are going to do what they are going to do and let them fall, let them pick themselves back up, you can scold them and put them in time out and spank them all you want. You are not alone, you are not the only one going through this. You don’t have a bad child! Even if days on end seems hopeless, it can be done even if it takes time. We don’t have help or family so it is very tough. Keep u in my prayers and hope you find some relaxation through out parenthood lol it doesn’t get easier I hear.
          My almost 3 yr old daughter was the easiest to raise but she started going through this attitude phase and talking back so i left her alone for a while until I couldn’t take it and then SMACK…it stops for a while but it comes back. With each child u will go through phases, some being similar and some very much different. This is just the joys of parenthood but without these monsters…wouldn’t u feel empty now that they touched your lives in disasterous joy =D

  5. Wow, that girl means business! You have a tough job! I’m impressed with what thoughtful responses this post generated. The other women seem to have some great ideas – much better than I could offer! My boys usually scream straight through timeout, so I have no experience with the opposite! :) Hang in there, girl!

  6. Your A reminds me of my E. She was exactly like that and would put herself in timeout or sent herself to her room when I corrected her because she knew the drill. She’s now 15 years old and I can tell you that it is not just a “phase”. This is E. She can turn a switch on and off. She decides that she doesn’t care and guess what? She really doesn’t care. At 15, it gets much more messy than not cleaning up after herself. She got into a spot of trouble last summer and I just at one point had to tell her that her punishments were because I loved her and she had a choice to fight it and make life miserable for herself and us until she could move out or realize that we were being the best parents that we knew how to be and wanted to help her. She chose to trust us, but this was a crossroad decision. The punishment that was effective, you ask? We took away all social outlets of any kind that didn’t include her family for a long period of time. No computer, phone, meeting friends (unless a sister was with her), etc. It seems harsh for a 15 year old, but we explained that she was making very poor choices with her existing friends and that since she had the chance to correct it herself and didn’t, we would do that for her. We asked her to take that time to practice making better choices and as she did that, she would earn our trust and then her freedoms back. This was a huge gamble, but paid off well. She is now, loving, respectful, helpful and makes much more mature choices. We also dealt with heart issues because behavior modification is not always a valuable tool in raising kids to make thier own choices. You have a two year old, so you are in the training mode. I tell you all of this as a cautionary tale. Looking back, I wish that I had been more intentional with her, but she was the baby. I was just glad to have kept them all alive at that point! You are absolutely right in wanting to deal with this issue with your daughter now. It may just be how she is wired and you will need to be more intentional in your parenting her than most parents are with their kids. We raised 6 kids and I always tried to keep in mind that we really aren’t just raising kids, we are raising adults. The goal is to teach them and equip them to be adults, not perpetual children.

    1. Cassy, I think you and I would agree on a lot of parenting issues. I’m really impressed with the approach you took with your 15-year-old daughter!

      You say you wish you had been more “intentional” when E was my daughter’s age. What would you have done differently, if you don’t mind me asking? Do you have any tips for me, since it sounds like you and I are dealing with children with very similar personalities?

  7. My five year old, K, is exactly like your daughter… It is a daily struggle with the smallest of activities. For instance, I had taken her to a nearby park for the day and within the first 10 minutes of being there, I was already extremely frustrated. After her third infraction we left. She had a very brief meltdown when I told her we were leaving. We get buckled in the car and she acts as though she wasn’t bothered by leaving.

    1. My gosh, this sounds like something right out of A’s playbook! I was in a situation like this once when I was out to lunch with a couple of mommy friends and their kids. My daughter just would not behave, so I threatened to leave with her. The threat didn’t bother A at all, so I actually had to walk out in the middle of lunch. And guess what? She still didn’t care! It was more of a punishment for me than it was for her, but I still felt like I had to follow through.

      Interestingly, since A has become a big sister, she’s become a lot more dramatic–a lot less cool and casual about everything. Most days, this is just an annoyance, but when it comes to punishments, it’s actually a blessing, because for once, she seems to be affected by whatever punishment I’m doling out.

  8. I feel your pain. I didn’t check to see how long ago this was written, so I’m sorry if what I have to say is totally irrelevant. I have three children, with a fourth on the way. My oldest is a girl…and extremely similar to the nothing fazes her…but that changes day-to-day. We believe in spanking the little ones (too young to reason with, so, my youngest at 20 months gets a swat to his diapered behind and told no and why…after telling him no two previous times. I digress) but Emileigh is 6 and too old for spankings, most days. We kept trying different things until we found one that worked. Used it until she no longer cared (no toys in her room? She didn’t care) and then tried again…and again and again and again. We now have about ten different choices to cycle through and she is starting to pick out her own punishment within the parameters we set. It gets better; it gets easier. One day, you’ll go to a play date and she shall do exactly as she ought. Peer pressure kicks in around 2.5-3.

  9. If this kid is happy to sit in time out for 20 mins, you got too much happening. Try scaling back on the things and activities and you may get a more co operative child. She mau be a more introspective, internally oriented kid. I know I LOATHED being forced to interact with others and would act a lot like your daughter. What leaving? ABOUT BLOODY TIME. :-D
    In short scale back — way back — on the social structured stuff for her and see how she does.

  10. Personally, I wouldn’t negotiate with my toddler. Either she cleans up I take all the toys away for a few weeks. Nothing but her bed left and no playdates. If she throws a tantrum then give her a spank and remind her who is boss. Children get away with way too much these days. They need limits and guidance.

    1. Helga, I have to say that I find your response very old-fashioned. I’m probably the strictest parent I know, and these measures would never enter my mind.

      If I am staying at home with my daughter and I take away all her toys for a FEW WEEKS, what would she do all day? Literally, WHAT would she do?? I know: she’d find ways to make mischief with things that are NOT toys, that she should not be playing with and ordinarily wouldn’t.

      I’ve also made the decision not to spank my children. It sends a very strange message to kids that adults in their lives who love them can hurt them through physical force to get them to do something, yet they are not allowed to hit us back or hit their peers or siblings. Plus, I never want to have to gain my daughter’s compliance through violence or bribery or any other method that ultimately undermines her coming to the rational conclusion that she should do what she is told because I am her mother, I know what’s best, and I have certain expectations that I want/need her to meet. I definitely what my children to know I am the boss, but I don’t need to prove that by hitting them.

      At this point, more than a year after originally writing this post about a 2.5-year-old, I can tell you that waiting out this phase and continuing to use reason with my daughter is what worked. Today, I can ask her to clean up a room FULL of toys and she will do it just to hear my praise. She may not do it immediately, and she may need a few reminders, but it will get done—no spanking necessary.

      1. I actually think spanking once in a while works, specially with my stubborn daughter, she is almost 4, I love her dearly but she needs to understand who is the boss, if you knew me you would be able to tell I am very easy going and love to please everyone and that is why my daughter thinks she can act like she is the boss. But we can’t let the new generations think they can get away with whatever they want to do. I warn her twice or 3 times, put her in time out but if nothing works, one quick spank wont humiliate her and she will think “wait a minute she really means what she is telling me” Other than that, I love all the suggestions you mentioned. thanks! Lili from Uruguay

        1. forgot to ask, Im not trying to start a debate but do you see any relation between the violence in US schools or the world in general with the non spanking trend that has been around for many years? or it could be because mom and dad work the whole day and don’t dedicate time to their kids?

          1. Yea, sometimes spanking is necessary. I think nowadays that kids aren’t truly afraid of any punishment. I was spanked…. and never once did I feel my parents didn’t love me or that they wanted to hurt me or that I could go hit someone else just because they did….It kept me line because I knew that if I did something bad, I would be punished. I actually had respect for authority, which is what the youth lack today

        2. I have to agree with u Lili. Spanking is healthy to a certain extent. You don’t have to spank them with your hand because children will associate violence and pain through you BUT if you use a rod of correction or a stick/ruler (something small) then they will see that object as a punishment so when u go for that object they will be on point when u want them to do something. They will not associate you and that object because it’s the object that gives them the pain…you show them the love! It does work but you have to be disciplined yourself….I am not, I give up more than I should. Everyone has diff parenting skills and noone is right or wrong. I know there will be lots of judgements with topics like these. I hate when I go out and scold my kid in public and people stare at me all crazy! These people don’t have kids and/or never experienced one like mine LOL
          believe me, I have been there and done that before…I have been the other person to judge a parent even tho not knowing their situation! It didn’t dawn on me until I was ‘THAT PARENT’ looking at others who were once like me, and looking at me all crazy with judgement haha vicious cycle I tell ya!

    2. Hand over hand! Take her hands and physically make her pick up toys and put them away…do it until she does it on her own. Show her she will do it-no isn’t an option.

  11. Instead of making a mess with toys that aren’t cleaned up, I would get a pencil and paper and use the time to teach my child things like the alphabet, numbers, writing the numbers and letters as well as other educational things. Also there is outside play like the park or going for walks. I may be old fashioned but I believe in discipline, children cannot learn boundries and social behavior without being taught. For instance, when I daughter was 2.5 years old she found it funny to run away from me in public areas. I tried to tell her why it wasn’t allowed but she didn’t listen and the very next day at the park she ran away from me towards a busy street. I snatched her up right as she hit the side walk and gave her a big spank and told her no! Then we went home immediately after and she has never run away from me like that again. So at that time I found it necessary to take that step to spank. Raising a child is all about preparing the child for its future.

    1. I’m with you on a couple of key points: kids need to know who’s the boss, and I really do believe in discipline. I’m just taking a different approach than you.

      I think it’s great that you would want to use some toy-free time to teach your child some early literacy skills! The problem for me is that if I take away all my child’s toys, explain that I’m doing this because she hasn’t been listening when it’s time to clean up, and then I tell her we’re going to sit down to learn some new things, she’s naturally going to associate learning with the punishment. And I never would want that!

      In a case like the one you’ve described, where your child was running away from you in public and putting herself in danger, I couldn’t agree more that the only appropriate response from a parent is a harsh one. In that case, I would definitely have raised my voice, gotten down to my child’s level, held both her arms so she was looking right at me, and explained, very firmly, that she was not to do this again. I just have not found that I need or want to resort to spanking.

  12. Wow grow a backbone!!! ASKING your child to clean up? NEGOTIATING with your kid?? Really? If she “refuses” it’s because she knows you let her refuse. You need to spank her when she acts like this. I’m not saying go ape s*** crazy on her butt, but giving her 2-3 quick swats on the butt will definitely let her know you will NOT stand for being ignored by a 2.5 year old. My 2.5 year old cleans up every day before dinner and he does so happily. If he ignored me, yes he would get a swat or two. I cannot believe you let your 2.5 year old ignore you, that’s ridiculous.

    1. What I think is sad is hitting your child. It sends entirely the wrong message about power and violence. Why should I have to physically harm my child in order to scare her into submission?

      Instead, I stuck with a more reasonable route and a year later, this is no longer a problem. It was a phase that she outgrew. I wish you good luck with your method, but I can already see the payoff with mine. No regrets.

      1. I know it is not funny but going down the comments I have run across MANY people who are on your case for not using physical force haha I know everyone has diff parenting skills but I give it to you for not spanking! IDK HOW U DO IT? How do you do it? Were you raised that way? Do we spank our own kids cuz we were spanked as kids? I always wondered this! I was abused growing up…all forms! I feel that I spank my kids out of anger because I was once spanked and therefore IDK how to step back and NOT spank. I don’t beat or abuse my children, noone should ever have to endure somet hings that I have BUT I do remember some of the spankings worked but I was truly getting spanked for wrong reasons tbh. Regardless what others opinions are, YOU know what is best for you and YOUR family! Noone is in your situation…creating blogs like these are good for everyone regardless how many stinky opinions u run across because it has reminded me that I am not alone!!!

        1. Oh yes and I forgot to add…u can’t reason or talk or explain to toddlers because sometimes it just doesn’t work but you can make a habit of doing it anyways! Not in the sense while they are lashing out but do it with everything. Eventually they will get it but do NOT repeat yourself over and over. If you do that over a period of time, it will not sink in and they will no longer take you serious. I did find that explaining to my kids works a great deal BUT not so much toddlers. I used to get mad and revert to spanking at times but if you talk to them and explain, it does work. If thre are two parents then u must be on the same page…if u are not on the same page then u could be playing good cop bad cop or just confusing ur child even more creating further problems that do not need to be there. Sorry I am rambling but I say things as they come to mind. I am not directly talkn to u evanthia but I am speaking in general at the same time, while I am talkn to u haha if that makes sense. For the past 5 days I told my son to clean up cuz he is on summer vacay now and because I have been busy it doesn’t get done. Finally today I couldn’t take it, I took out the rod of correction and he is cleaning! I had to explain to him about life and how things work in order for him to clean…u would think a 6 yr old wouldn’t listen but it does work! IDK I learn things along the way and it will never stop as they grow. We all will learn from eachother and make mistakes. It is hard living with others too. Anyways…the people that have judged or been judging are no saints..they are and will do something someone else will disagree with as well and will further be judged.

  13. The first that I will advice is do not take it personal. And do not be ashamed other parents go thru the same situation.
    Talk with you child in a very simple way about responsibility. Tell her what are your responsibilities and what are hers.
    Until she learns to pick up, limit the toys, put some away and leave some out so, she doesn’t make a huge mess. At the beginning make a game of it. Handle her toy and tell her to make it jump in the place it lives, and do it with all the toys, once they are all pu away. Say Yay !!!!!!! we clean everything how good it looks. After a while of doing this, let her clean by herself, if she doesn’t do it implement the rule of one toy at the time. She cannot get another toy out until she puts the one she was using away. Tell her I feel sad that you cannot use any other toy until you put this away, I know that maybe this makes you sad, we will try again tomorrow to see how good you do. Try to give her choices too, what toy would you like to put away first. Keep a schedule so she knows what is going to happen first.It is always a work in progress with children

  14. Try spanking I have a 3 year old and I spanked her and after that she did every thing I said when I threatend to spank her!

  15. First of all, punishment only creates resentment. Try using the word “discipline” instead. And the fundamental problem here is that all solutions you have offered are based on behaviour modification. No one likes to be told what to do, no matter how old they are. But you have a right to a clean, orderly home and a schedule that you determine. The only solution that will ensure your sanity is to change YOUR behaviour, not your child’s. So, if you are at a friend’s house, and A refuses to clean up, you do it. Have everyone else help you put the toys away, then take yourself and your friend and the other child out of the room and go do something else (something fun). Your goal should be to take control of your own behaviour and to do what makes you happy. Focus on what you want, not on the problem. Then you can let everyone else off the hook. When you’re at home, do the same thing. If it’s time for dinner, tell A it’s time to clean up. If she refuses, you do it.Then have your dinner. Then be happy. xo

    1. That is a reasonable approach for a husband or friend who does something you don’t like but not for a child. Children who think they can do whatever they want without consequences do not learn to make healthy and happy choices as adults. They become entitled and lack empathy. I don’t recommend a power struggle if you can avoid it, but teaching them that they don’t have to contribute or take responsibility for themselves is a recipe for disaster

    2. Doing it for them doesn’t teach them anything! This is awful advice! Children aren’t born knowing how to behave therefore behavior modification is required. It is rude to make a mess at a friends house and not clean it up. Mommy won’t always be there to pick up after her! Hand over hand works perfectly. You aren’t punishing the child, there’s no room for arguments, negotiations, etc. it’s simply done. The job gets done and the kid doesn’t get out of it!

  16. I know this post is old but having just read through the threads I am hoping you might be able to tell me that all is now well & what the solution was for you??! I am experiencing exactly the same with my 2yo little boy, absolutely nothing phases him, time out, toys being taken away. In fact, when I asked him recently if he wanted time out (expecting him to say no & be upset!) he answered yes & took himself off. I suppose the most frustrating thing I find is that he thinks everything is amusing or a game. The latest ‘phase’ is the jack-in-a-box bedtime scenario & I am pulling my hair out. He has always been a great little sleeper, moved into a cot bed 8mths ago, I had our second baby boy 3mths ago so the biggest is now in a proper bed & was fine initially but now gets up all of the time, even in the middle of the night & lies on the landing??!! It’s driving me mad! I have tried being cross, taking toys, the silent return etc sooooo googled my options & found you! Please help!! :-) xx

    1. Hi Katie,

      Our daughter is now 4, so I can tell you this phase doesn’t last forever. However, she’s still a very strong-willed child that we’ve had to learn to wrangle through positive reinforcement and an instant punishment/reward system. Right now, we have a chain of paper links hanging from the top of our refrigerator, and perched up there with it is some little prize that our daughter can hear.

      If she does something exceptionally thoughtful (sharing a toy with her sister), doesn’t need to be prompted repeatedly to do X, Y, and Z, or takes initiative to do something like, say, cleaning up, she earns one link. When she’s really not listening, I remind her that if she doesn’t comply, she will lose a link and her chain will get shorter. She understands that she can only earn whatever trinket is sitting on top of the fridge by making her chain long enough to touch the floor, so losing links stinks!

      I’ve found this system of punishments and rewards puts the burden on the child. It lets HER think about the consequences of compliance. If I have to tell her to put her pajamas on 3 times, she knows she’s going to lose a link–no arguments. And the visual evidence of my ripping the paper link and the chain getting shorter has worked wonders for us.

      Not to say that this system is a panacea, but we’ve been using it for several months now, after trying a number of other systems over the years, and we’ve had a lot of luck. It’s also decreased the amount of time I spend pestering or yelling.

      The trick is that you really, REALLY have to play up the system at first: let your child know that this is a highly desirable item they’re earning (our first “prize” was a Hello Kitty watch she’d been eyeing in the store), and spend a lot of time upfront explaining what he can do to earn it. Demonstrate how the chain can get longer and shorter, and under what circumstances. And on the first days of this system, you have to give lots of feedback. Provide a link even for silly little acts of compliance and get them excited, and remind them often about what happens to those hard-earned links if they disobey.

      If you give it a try, I’d love to hear how it works out, Katie! Good luck!!

      1. Thanks Evanthia!

        I really like the idea of the paper links! I think in a few months this would work really well, at the moment he is only just starting to string words together so it’s hard to fully communicate with him but after saying ‘bye bye’ to all of his toys last night I think we also have a strong willed little one on our hands!

        I think we may do some sort of reward chart to begin with as he loves stickers so this could work well but will definitely let you know about the links. Love it & thank you for replying! It’s great to hear other people are experiencing or have experienced similar & have made it through the other side!! Ha xx

  17. I don’t know if you still check this post but I just came across it when searching for answers dealing with an almost 3 year old. He has problems transitioning and especially leaving fun places like the park. I give him lots of warnings that it’s almost time to leave but it doesn’t matter. It’s frustrating but it’s normal for his age so I don’t mind as much. If he doesn’t listen I pick him up and he rides in the stroller instead of getting to walk. He cries and carries on but eventually stops. But my question was about cleaning up. I ask him to pick up his ball and he straight out refuses (this is at the park but it happens at home too). I don’t know when to give in because we are both extremely stubborn. Do I just forget it and pick it up for him and put him in the stroller? Will that teach him that he can rudely say No to me and get his way? I sometimes will take him by the hand and have him pick it up even if he is objecting the whole time but he has gotten into the whole drop dead thing when I take his hand and he ends up practically popping his wrist out and getting hurt. I refuse to hold his hand anymore when he is in his stubborn mode because I don’t want to risk him pulling and dropping and maybe seriously hurting himself. So should I just give in and clean it up for him? I don’t know what to do. It’s different at home but out somewhere like the park it needs to be done. Next time I think I might just leave the ball there, but what if it’s something that can’t just be left? Any suggestions?

    1. These are really tough questions! I’ve been there, too. Some of the advice I received from friends and readers after this post really helped me shift my thinking on the subject though. My daughter is now 4.5 and doesn’t have any trouble cleaning up at all.

      What I’ve discovered is that going toe to toe with a child is rarely going to end with the adult “winning,” especially in public. Even if, in your mind, you think you’ve “won,” your child likely won’t see it that way. By the time you’ve gotten your way, your kid is so worked up that she may not even remember what it was you were fighting about!

      When we’re home and I need my daughter to clean up, we make a game out of it: some bad guy (Captain Hook is a favorite) is going to come and steal her toys, and we have to get them all put away before he arrives. Now, when it’s time to tidy up before bed, she’ll specifically request that I tell her the Captain Hook story! And as she’s going along, cleaning up, I’ll keep telling her he’s getting closer to the toys and he’s got his eye on the ones that are still out. She’s old enough to know the whole thing is silly (not scary or anxiety-producing), so it works well for us, making a game of clean-up.

      I’ll also help out a bit. I don’t try to make her clean up everything by herself. Plus, I never let my two kids take out more than I think they can reasonably put away with minimal assistance. If they’ve got a whole bunch of stuff out and they’re trying to pull out more, I make them clean up a few things first.

      When you’re out, as you know, that’s a completely different story. With your son being almost three, I would suggest that before you even go to the park, when he’s picking out something to bring, remind him that if he brings it to the park, he must be the one to pick it up when it’s time to go, not you. At the park, when it’s getting to be time to go, step in and stop his play by physically holding him for just a moment and looking him in the eye. Give him several warnings to let him know you’ll be leaving in 5, 3, then 1 minute(s), and remind him about picking up at that time.

      Then, when it’s time to go, ask him to pick up his toy. If he refuses, warn him that he will not be able to bring a toy to the park again if he doesn’t pick it up this time. If he’s still not going for it, I’d pick it up myself and make a big fuss about how sad it is that he won’t be able to bring a toy to the park again next time and how much he enjoyed having that one with him. Of course, don’t forget to follow through: no toy next time, and remind him why. He’s old enough to remember the consequence.

      One other tip that works with my older daughter (4.5yo): every night before bed, she has to tidy up her toys in order to earn the right the following day to watch one television show. That carrot will always do the trick for her! :)

      Good luck!!!

  18. My daughter is 5 and punishment does not phase her.
    Talks of what kind of behavior is expected does not work.
    Punishment of any sort has not worked.
    Positive reinforcements have had no effect.
    I finally spanked her which broke my heart and there had been no improvement.
    How do I instill regre and remorse into my daughter who has shown signs of bullying and mean behavior towards her friends who now no longer wish to play with her?? I now have grounded her from playing until she can improve her behavior and her response was she can just make new friends

  19. Thanks so much for the response, Evanthia. I know that all the child experts say 3 year olds have the capacity to remember consequences but even if I repeat it the entire way to the park it always falls on deaf ears by the time it’s time to leave. I guess I understand it could be that he just doesn’t want to leave that he doesn’t care about anything else at the moment…. But it happens so often and he must know by now that no matter how much he makes a fuss, we are going to leave when I say so. The tantrum always wins out over logic for him I guess. The biggest issue for me isn’t that he won’t clean up but it’s the rude defiant attitude. I guess it’s his way of having some control, but I don’t want him to think this is okay. Also, it really seems to me he does not remember episodes like this. We had one really bad one which resulted him going straight to nap with no story, and just four days later when we tried to go to the park again, he just repeats the tantrum and defiance. I don’t want to take away park time because it’s unfair to his sister, and honestly to me too because I need to get out of the house.

  20. My seven year old still does this. Not only that, we dump food, bedding, whatever, wherever. He’ll do ok fir a day or two, but as dun as I’m not standing over him (literally) he goes right back to trashing stiff. I’m at my wits end. I’ve tired everything I can think of, to no effect- he goes back to the bad behavior when he feels like it.

  21. I wonder what would happen if she had to do chore WHILE her friends were playing one of her favorite games. Consequences should be immediate, so how about she has to clean up 15 minutes before it is time to go. If she cleans up, her and her friend get computer time (or a similar playtime treat) if not then she has to clean up while her friend plays.

  22. I grew up in a family with 7 kids. We were raised with a certain pride in our family that we still hold today. Each time we would go out, our parents would remind us that we were representing our family, and that others would associate our actions with our family. This made us each feel that we had a special role in our family. We would say ‘yes sir’ and ‘yes ma’am’ and if we stepped out of line we were spanked or put in time-out, and if we threw a temper tantrum we were sent to our room for the comfort of others. Instead of the usual punishment of taking something away, our parents would also give us some unpleasurable task to fill out. I remember in Highschool my friends said they didn’t care if something was taken away because they could always find something else to do. With my parents’ punishment method, you actually had to work at extra chores, or helping your siblings, and you couldn’t just ignore it. HTH

  23. I have to say that I agree with the several posters who recommended giving her a spanking. Children do need to learn to obey, for their own sake in the long run. Her behavior is showing that she has little or no respect for you as her parent and eventually she could wind up having no respect for society’s laws or moral values either. Spamkings do need to be done correctly in order to be constructive. Explain to her that you will no longer nag her to obey. Instead you will expect her to obey you the FIRST time you give an instruction or she will have a spanking. If (when) she is defiant then calmly remind her of your expectation, take her to a private room, unceremoniously lower her panties and give a good hard spanking over your lap. Yes her hiney should be pink and stinging a good bit, or else she will laugh off this correction as well. The spanking needs to be sharp enough that she will not want to repeat the experience anytime soon! Of course I am only talking about a good dpanking, NOT a beating or abuse. She needs to be a bit afraid of the sting of a healthy spanking but never afraid of Mommy. I have raised and am still raising four great kids, one of whom is quite strong willed like your daughter. I really feel that teaching first time obedience and employing spankings when warrented by naughty behavior have made such a positive difference in our family’s peace of mind and in our children’s behavior, attitude, and overall happiness. There are no prolonged arguments or prolonged punishments like taking away all of their toys would be — simply an instruction to obey, which if not followed results in a temporarily sore bottom, a sorry child, a hug, and forgiveness.

  24. I feel for you, your child is controlling the situation and you can’t do anything about it. My now 12 year old is like this, but a thousand times worse. No consequence fazes him. Grounded? No problem, I’ll walk out when you aren’t looking. Can’t play my video game? No problem, I’ll play at my friends house. It will only get worse for you, and there is no cure for truly controlling children. We can’t even get him to stop leaving school in the middle of the day, and he goes to the school that deals with trouble kids! They only care about controlling you, the situation, your actions (they will smile smugly when they finally make someone lose it), others, even going so far as to steal, break your things, or cause any amount of upset to your home and life. If they have siblings, it becomes another source of control they will usurp from you(depending on your other kids may or may not work for them). They will lie, twist everything to their favor, and accept no responsibility for their actions-it’s always someone else’s fault. Do not let it make you crazy. If they try to ruin a family holiday dinner by disappearing or starting a fight that ends your other child in the er, don’t let them realize how much it bothers you, they thrive on this stuff. Most people will tell you a child like this doesn’t, can’t exist, but there are a few, and if you are the unfortunate parent tethered to that child for 18 years, it is hell, but it does eventually end.

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