Member question:

How do you motivate a 4 yr old who would happily spend every day in her pajamas with unbrushed teeth to complete her morning and bedtime routines? We’ve incorporated some sort of novelty in the routine at various times in the past, but she’s become bored with them all over time. Or she gets really frustrated when we turn it into a “challenge” with a timer. We’ve run out of ideas…and patience. And she’s got more than enough energy for stalling.


Rachel’s response:

I would consider a few things:

1.) IF you think that she simply needs more ideas for engagement, you can check out the “Ways to Engage Kids” document here: Making Activities Engaging to Reduce Misbehavior.

2.) I would also consider using the Joint Problem Solving Strategy where you’re talking to her AHEAD of time about
a.) what the expectation is
b.) what it’s like for her when she has to complete her routines so that you can respect her perspective + understand what the obstacles are
c.) come up with a plan for how she can meet the limit (this may include engagement, and at 4 she can suggest ways to engage as well)
d.) decide what will happen if she doesn’t follow the plan
e.) find time to revisit.
Here’s a video on the Joint Problem Solving Strategy

3.) This one might be the hardest but it is incredibly important: Try not to see her “stalling” as her “winning.” Her stalling is her way of feeling in control when she’s in Yuck. It’s her current (unhealthy) coping mechanism, and as long as she knows it creates power over you, she’ll use it.

Try to see stalling not as something that needs to frustrate you, but as something you expect because she’s struggling with not wanting to do what you ask but doesn’t know how else to handle it. Build time for stalling into the routine if needed. Expect it to happen and you won’t get as impatient. And once her little brain realizes that even stalling won’t make you less consistent, she’ll likely stop using that to cope because she’ll know that it won’t work to control you.