3.5-Year-Old Pulling Mom's Chain


The card system is working for the 3.5 year old and he is (begrudgingly) becoming obedient! However, he will not perform for me! He swims for his swim coach, but freaks out and demands to be put in a puddle jumper when he’s with me. He goes potty and blows his nose at his preschool, but demands a wipe with me. I won’t give him one, but there’s lots of crying. The most important one is that he will do his exercises with his physical therapist, but will only do a few of them with me. After that he says he’s tired or purposely does them incorrectly. What do I do about this? I was considering being a homeschool parent but he will only perform for someone who isn’t me!


You initially state that the card system is working and that your son is becoming obedient. In your next sentence, you state that he will not perform for you (but does for other adults). The two sentences convey two different messages. The fact that your son does what he is asked to by others is a clear sign that 1) he can respond properly and 2) he is choosing not to respond properly to you.

Your son is in the season of Leadership and Authority. He behaves the way he does with you because he feels he can. He will continue to do so until he is absolutely convinced that you are the authoritative leader of the family; one who is to be listened to and whose directives are to be followed. The only way that will happen is for the consequences for his misbehavior to be HIGHLY meaningful to HIM. He must be the one feeling the most pain - not you. I echo the advice that John gave you in his May response. Amy also gave some good advice regarding the card/ticket system.

Your issues with your son are solvable. Time to up the ante! Once he sees you as an authoritative leader and responds to you appropriately, life will be easier for both of you. Until that happens, becoming a homeschool parent is not advisable. Well-behaved children are happier children and parents of well-behaved children are happier parents! Be confident in your role as the parent. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and stay the course.

Wishing you the best,
Sharon Lamberth
Certified Leadership Parent Coach

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