How to handle wall scribbling by 3-year-old

CHILD LIFE

May 22, 1994|By BEVERLY MILLS

Child Life is a forum for parents to ask child-rearing questions and share tips with other parents. Call our answering machine with any advice or questions you have. Please check the end of the column for the toll-free number and today's question from a parent who needs help.

Q: How do you get children to stop writing on the walls? I have a 3-year-old, and no matter how many times I explain that this is unacceptable behavior, he still writes on the walls.

A: Outsmart those little Michelangelos, say parents from around the country.

"If you can't beat him, join him," says Debbie Hartmann, a preschool teacher from Little Canada, Minn. "Designate a wall in your house specifically for your child to write on. This is his wall, and all other walls are off-limits."

Several parents painted the designated wall with either washable semigloss or slate paint, which turns the wall into a blackboard of sorts.

Or, try doing what a mother from Blue Point, N.Y., did.

"The next time your child wants to write on the walls, direct him to his closet," M. LoVece says. "Slide his clothes to the side and let him write away. It's fun to look back in a few years to see what he wrote. You might even want to date his artwork."

Other ideas include taping large pieces of paper over one wall for writing and giving your child an easel, oversize note pad or blackboard.

Several other parents solved the problem by putting all the pens and markers in the house where little hands can't reach.

If scribbles still find their way to off-limits walls. some parents make children responsible for their actions.

"When my daughter tried it the second time, I handed her the soap and water, and had her clean up the wall," says Grace Roberts of Minnetonka, Minn. "She saw how hard it was to clean and didn't write on the walls again."

Even though 3-year-olds can understand the implications of cleaning up, don't insist that they do a good job, says Roni Cohen-Leiderman, Ph.D., associate director at Nova University's Family Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"You have to consider what's developmentally appropriate for a 3-year-old," she says. "You'll probably have to help."

If, despite your efforts, the child continues to write on the walls, Dr. Leiderman says parents need to look at the bigger picture.

"This can be an attention-getting thing," she says. "Is there a new baby in the house? Is the child adjusting to a new school?"

Though soiled walls can be exasperating and even expensive, don't blow your cool.

"Don't scream and yell," Dr. Leiderman says. "That's not what we want children to learn about how we deal with anger."

CAN YOU HELP?

Here's a new question from a parent who needs your help. If you have tips, or if you have questions of your own, please call our toll-free hot line any time at (800) 827-1092. Or write to Child Life, 2212 The Circle, Raleigh, N.C. 27608.

* Separate vacations: "My children are 5 and 20 months, and I'm concerned about leaving them with their grandparents for a week while we go on vacation," says Criena Sekhon of Victoria, British Columbia. "How traumatic is that going to be?"

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