What to expect at the 3-4-years-old of age
A three-or four-year-old does not have the ability to focus on kindness or understand his role in the family, and even less his role in society (he does know, however, that it is the center of the universe!).
Nor is he prepared for complex tasks or to mark his routine. But he does want to be as busy and as important as you are. So look at it positively if your little one is always by your side when you try to do things.
His desire to help helps establish good foundations to make him a teenager and then a responsible adult.
What you can do
- Choose tasks that are appropriate for your age
Tasks that are too difficult will overwhelm you. You will feel overwhelmed if you ask him to “order his bedroom,” something that surely you also find overwhelming. “Please put your shoes in the closet,” it’s simpler. You will be surprised by the pride and self-confidence you get when you perform these simple tasks.
- Be a good example
The best (and probably hardest) way to teach you to be responsible is to be a good model for him. Always put your keys in the same place, instead of leaving them on the dining room table. Order your magazines instead of leaving them lying on the couch. So, when you give your kid his little chores, show him exactly how to do them.
Say, “It’s time to set the table,” it makes less sense for him than a demonstration of how to do it, like: “Look, you put a plate in front of every chair and the napkins get like this, do you want to help me do it?” If you find that you spend too much time showing your child how to perform a task, it is probably too complex for him.
- First things first
Your child at this age is not too small to learn that you have to work before you play. You will understand the message when you say, “I do want to take you to the park, but first we have to pick up the table.”
Tell it in a friendly tone and admit that you also prefer entertaining things; then you will understand that you are not bossy, but you only expect it to behave responsibly.
- Turn the task into a game
We all enjoy more of the tasks when they are entertaining and social occasions. Your child is happy to spend time with you and does not consider emptying the dryer as a chore. It is fun to take the warm clothes out of the dryer and put it in a basket. Play music and dance with him while they clean the dust, or make races to see who keeps more building blocks.
- Sets a routine
Your child will learn more about the habits of responsibility if you set a routine from the beginning. Teach her to keep her laundry in the washroom and save her toys after the bath. You will learn that the tasks are part of the day to day, and they are not just something that adults make you do on a whim.
- Make yourself a positive vibe
Make that your home has rules that everyone has to follow, but establish it in a positive way. Instead of giving him an ultimatum (“If you don’t do this, I won’t give you that”), he adopts the attitude of “when you do what you have to do, then you can do what you want to do.” If your child says: “I want a cookie,” he replies, “When you sit at the table, you can eat a cookie.”
Saying “If you clean your room, I will give you a reward” is a bribe for your child to do what should be normal behavior, and also gives you the option to believe that you can live without the reward, and so decide not to save your toys.
- Give him space
To save time and effort, you may be tempted to grab your plate and take it yourself to the dishwasher. Try to resist that temptation. Instead, focus more on your child’s efforts and not on his accomplishments.
You may not do a perfect job, but criticizing or doing your chores will only stifle your desire to help. Remember that with practice you get better. Try to make positive suggestions: “You cleaned your dish very well, but I like to put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and not in the closet.”
- Get ready for ups and downs
Because of your age, your son can’t do everything right, always. But you’ll usually get better results when you realize there’s a pattern. Try not to express anger or disappointment if you have a bad day. Just tell him calmly: “Remember that you always have to keep the toys when you finish playing with them.”
The positive reinforcement will teach your child that their efforts are important and that you appreciate them. Be specific when you praise it: “You did so well when you put the dog food on your plate,” instead of saying “Well done!” When appropriate, tell him how his efforts have helped others: “Now that you’ve put the spoons on the table, we can take the soup.” “Let’s sit down!”