When a Helpful Preschooler Isn’t

Sometimes, Norton can annoy me.  Sometimes when he annoys me, it’s because he’s trying so hard to be a helpful preschooler… and it just doesn’t work.  That realization is crucial to my ongoing attempts at being a better mom.  Like the most recent “helpful preschooler” incident…

This morning I posted my first Train Track Tuesday post in a while.  I just hadn’t been able to sit down and really build a nice layout that we can have fun with.  Usually, it’s either because Norton’s room isn’t clean enough for me to want to be in there and build or because Eudora is “helping” by being The Destroyer of Worlds.  (Read: Eudora is knocking things over and making it impossible to build.)

When a Helpful Preschooler Isn't (Cloth Diaper Addicts)Norton came up to me the other day and said, “Build twain?”  I told him no.  His room was, as far as I was concerned, gross.  And it smelled ripe because he’d peed on the floor for what felt like the thousandth time that week.  (Yes, I spot clean the carpet with my Bissell SpotClean, but still.)  I was not going to sit down on his floor and build until I’d finished shampooing his carpet, cleaning the walls, and giving it a thorough “stem to stern” clean up.

Norton, however, is not one to accept “no.”  If there’s a reason behind it, he will try to solve the problem and convert a “no” to a “yes.”  Since Mommy thought his room smelled yucky, it only made sense to him to fix it.  My helpful preschooler grabbed the stain treater from the bathroom cabinet and doused his room.  Heavily.  He sprayed the walls.  He sprayed the furniture.  (Just an FYI: Baby OxiClean spray can take the finish off of furniture.)  He sprayed the floor.

Needless to say, I was not impressed.  My first inclination was to yell.  Honestly, did he have any idea how long it would take me to clean this up?

Then it dawned on me: in Norton’s own way, he was being a helpful preschooler boy.  Using three year old logic, if something smells, you make it not smell by spraying stuff that doesn’t stink.  I didn’t yell.  I just put the spray away and told him not to use it again before cleaning it up.

And then?  I got his room immaculate.  And we were able to build train tracks for playtime again.

Have you ever had a moment when you started to be angry with your child and then realized that it was an attempt at help?

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. Yes ma’am! It happens all the time. My kids always want to help, and it often ends up being more problems. I have to remind myself like you did, that they don’t know what we do as adults, and need guidance when “helping”.

  2. EVERY DAY! We need to take a step back and realize they’re learning too! 🙂
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  3. Suzi, I feel your frustration! I actually wrote about losing my cool earlier this week. You’re a good mom for keeping it together and finding a way you could work on the trains. It’s hard sometimes to let them learn on their own – it’s something I struggle with a lot. Here’s to all of us learning together!
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  4. The fun of preschoolers! I can understand how you feel. I have three little ones and I do my best to be patient every day!
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  5. Oh yeah! Happens all the time. I hate it when I realize I’m being discouraging when I should really be happy at what they are *trying* to do. I think we’ve all been there.
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  6. I honestly could ONLY think about the times when they literally were being incredibly disobedient.

    Okay, that’s a lie. I do have some memories of the girls being helpful. And, like you, my first inclination is to yell if they’ve made a mess with their “help.”

    It’s hard sometimes to not lose it… and I’m really glad that you had the patience to see the big picture, and that you got to spend that special time with each other afterwards. Kudos, Mama. I’m sure he loved every minute 🙂
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  7. Jamie @Momma Without a Clue says:

    My little guy (almost 3) loves to “help” too… Luckily we haven’t had any major moments yet, but there are times when his daddy gets frustrated at him for trying to help. I have to remind him that he just wants to be big like his daddy and then it usually gets a little calmer

  8. All. The. Time! One time we were talking about something and my 4-year-old dumped all the toys out of her toy box, flipped it over, and started to climb on it. Before I could yell, she reached up and grabbed the thing we had been talking about. In their own weird (and often unhelpful) way, they are just trying to help!
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  9. I am struggling with keeping my kids in bed when it is time to sleep.

    My youngest, which has recently transitioned from the crib and in the process of potty training, gets up every couple of hours and uses “need to potty” as an excuse to get out of the bed, mostly as an excuse to play.

    I will be honest, my husband and I are fed up with this…we told him that he needs to stay in bed until it is time to wake up (I have been getting less sleep than I was when he was a baby).

    Well, my words have now kicked me in the rear, because during nap today he decided to walk around his room and pee all over the carpet…
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  10. This is definitely a familiar happening in my home. I have a 4 year old and a very soon to be 3 year old. Sometimes they will try and “help” by emptying an entire tub of baby wipes and trying to clean everything with them or even trying to feed to pets, making a huge mess in the process. As much as I want to get mad, I just can’t!
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  11. My month old always wants to “help” with folding my laundry. It frustrating when I just want to finish but it’s so cute to see her trying to fold her dad’s big shirts.
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