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Oh, 4 years old. It's a magical time filled with new experiences at pre-school, pushing boundaries, expressing opinions – and driving parents completely insane.
My middle child recently turned 4, and it's been, well ... And yet, simple requests like, "Hey, can you please try to go potty before we leave the house?" are met with dramatic flailing and wailing, "Noooo, I don't have tooooo!!"
Now, the old me would try reasoning with the beast at first. "Um, yes, you need to at least try to pee. We're going to be in the car for two hours, girlie." But she would only dig her heels in further. "NO!"
I would then resort to threatening. "If you don't try to go potty before we leave, then you're not getting any snacks." To which she would immediately burst into tears, "But I want a snaaaaaaack." Inconsolable, snot-dripping sobs ensued.
The final step would be leading her into the bathroom, turning on the light and setting her on the potty – where, lo and behold, she would empty a nearly-full bladder. The same saga played out whenever I asked her to (god forbid) put on her shoes. Or brush her teeth. Or wash her hands after going potty. It's mentally and emotionally draining.
My question to the universe is this: What is it with 4-year-olds and refusing to complete mundane tasks without having to be asked/coerced in 5 million different ways? Honestly, I have no idea.
What I have figured out, however, is a nearly fool-proof way of getting around it. Maybe it's because my daughter is ultra competitive like her mama. Or maybe I'm just some kind of parenting genius. (Yeah, I'll go with that.) But my secret weapon goes something like this:
"Hey, we should probably try to pee before our long car trip. I'll race you to the potty!"
Or, "Let's see who can put their shoes on the fastest! On your mark, get set, GO!"
Or, "I bet I can brush my teeth before you can!" *Takes off sprinting upstairs*
Seriously. Laugh all you want, but it works like a charm. When I approach boring, yet necessary, tasks in this manner, my 4-year-old is eager to comply and giggles through the silliness of it all – while completely forgetting that she hates doing these things in the first place.
Granted, it could be a fluke; maybe my kid is just easily distracted and weird. But I challenge you to try it with your preschooler. Because it is life-changing.
Images by Michelle Stein
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.