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Use Pictures To Make Point About Child’s Personal Duties

Q. My 4-year-old wants me to do things for him which he’s perfectly capable of doing himself. These include wiping his bottom after he uses the bathroom, helping him get dressed in the morning, washing his hair, soaping and rinsing him in the bathtub, and getting him things to drink from the refrigerator.

A. I can share a technique that’s worked in many similar situations with children of your son’s age.

First, you must draw the line. Make a “picture list” of the things he wants you to do for him. Cut pictures from magazines that represent the things in question and paste them to a piece of poster board or construction paper. When finished, display it on the refrigerator.

Show your son the picture list and tell him you read a book that said 4-year-olds are supposed to do these things for themselves - mothers and fathers aren’t even supposed to help.

Why tell him you read a book that told you to do this?

It’s easier for parents to stick to disciplinary procedures when the prescriptions in question come from third-party authority figures. When children complain, parents can just shrug their shoulders and say, “I have no choice in the matter. Remember, so-and-so says this is the way it’s got to be.”

In fact, since this same advice will someday appear in one of my books, you are, in effect, reading it in a book.

Once the picture list has been posted, be assured you’re going to have to be firm concerning your new policies. Your son will definitely test the rules. When he asks you to do one of the things on the list, just take him into the kitchen (or, if that’s not possible, just refer to it) and say, “See? I can’t do that for you any more.” That should do it, but sometimes it doesn’t, in which case you’ve got to move to Plan B.

Plan B: If your son persists in demanding that you do an unapproved task for him, don’t try to persuade him to do it for himself or explain why he should. Any such attempt will only lead to argument. If he gives you any resistance at all, simply say, “OK. I’ll wipe your bottom (or whatever).

But the book I read says that if I have to do one of the things on the list, you can’t watch television (or go outside, or have a friend over) for the rest of the day and have to go to bed an hour early. Do you still want me to wipe your bottom?”

The consequences of having Mommy “serve” unnecessarily must be powerful enough that you effectively make your son “an offer he can’t refuse.”


The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Rosemond The Charlotte Observer