Refusing to Go Up and Down Stairs

You live in a fourth-floor walkup.  The kid won't budge.  What now?

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A PSP member writes:


I am looking for help motivating my daughter to go up the stairs to our fourth-floor walkup. She is two-and-a-half and capable running up and down the stairs fifty times a day. However, it's become a power game where she whines and asks to be picked up most of the time. What usually works is to compromise:
she walks a flight, I carry her, she walks the last flight. Or we sing a banister song to get her up the first flight and by then she has forgotten that she was refusing. Or she shows me how to walk backwards or sideways up the stairs. Sometimes we are in a true rush and I just carry her with no discussion. My husband usually just carries her.
But I think she is getting more resistant, particularly those times where she is already tired or whiny. Today I was fed up, and I tried a consequence, but I think it was a mistake. After trying all the other strategies, I told her that if she didn't walk the first flight of stairs, she would not get milk before nap. I couldn't think of anything else to withhold. She walked three steps, then refused. So I had to follow through - I carried her up. At each landing I asked her if she was ready to walk and she said no. So I put her to bed minus
the comforting nap milk. We were both so angry and tense she fell asleep screaming. I would rather have naptime comfort be a constant, especially when she is wound up, but I was hard put to think of a consequence I could follow through on.
We live in a small building where sound carries, so the option of just waiting it out while she loudly demands to be picked up, and progresses to a tantrum, is tough for the neighbors. Any ideas are much appreciated. I will summarize and share responses to the list.
S (mother to A)




Sounds like my daughter when she was 2.5! (She's now 3 yrs 4 months and still engages in little power games from time to time, but these days, she usually walks where she needs to.) I would have done what you did - it's not pleasant, but yes, there has to be some negative consequence. And she'll learn soon enough, get with the program, and be having her naptime comfort again.

As you recognize, it's a power game. Unless I feel like in a bind (eg - we are someplace with other people where we can't leave - like the subway) I do very little to appease my daughter (eg - by trying to make it fun for her) in these situations - it feels too much like I'm catering to her when I shouldn't need to. When she used to refuse to walk, and wanted to be carried and we needed to get somewhere, I would carry her sort of sideways under my arm, or partly upside down. She didn't like this, so the problem was solved pretty quickly.

Also, when she's doing or has done what she should be doing (which is most of the time), I tell her quite genuinely that I'm having (or had) a very nice time with her.

D, mom to N