12 August 2012

Question from a Reader

I received this request for help via my site, www.EveryBabyBook.com

Dear Been There Done That Mom,
My husband and I are trying to devise a system to help our 4 year old son get out of the house in the mornings to go to school  He NEVER wants to go to. Of course, once he's there, he is usually pretty happy.

Can you help?

Here are some sticking points:

1. When given the choice, Bobby (name has been changed) would rather stay with me and run errands than go to school.

2. Transitions are a terrible challenge.  If Bobby isn't finished with a task, he will have a major tantrum if I want him to do something else.

3.  Our weekend routine is not the same as our week day routine, do we need to keep it the same?

Thank you.

At My Wits' End

Dear Wits' End,

I can help but it will only work if you commit to it and do not waver at all.  Kids of all ages will latch on to what they see as your weakness and if you give in even just one time, they will remember that, not the times you stuck with it, therefor, if you make a statement, you have to stick with it, even if you later regret it. You must be consistent.  Say what you mean and mean what you say.

As far as going to school , I see this time and time again with the families I coach.  Of course Bobby would rather stay with you.  You are his world.  It is your job to teach him that the world is bigger.  It's not scary, it's great and that you are happy he is going, have no doubt he is safe and happy there.

In the morning, be clear that today is a school day and it's great.  You can say something like, "today is going to be a fun day at school and when I pick you up after lunch/circle time/whatever we will fill in the blank."  This will give him a clear idea of the series of events in his day. 

At drop off, if carpool line is offered, use it.   Do not walk him in to the classroom unless that is the way it is done.  Stick to the routine the school lays out.  Unstrap the carseat and get him out and hand him over to the teacher.  One kiss and hug, cheery goodbye and see you after fill the blank.  Then leave.  Even if he is crying.  It's a show, for you.  As you say, he's happy there.  DO NOT EVER offer him a choice of school or errands or anything else.  A school day is a school day, end of discussion.  Weekends are a different story and you can run them however you want.

For the morning routine, I suggest you make a list, perhaps with pictures, on a paper.  Then, have a meeting with Bobby.  Tell him it is a family meeting to fix some things that aren't working right with the family.  You can say it is for mommy, daddy and Bobby.  Talk about the weekday routine.  Show him the list: this is the list of everything we need to do every morning.  Read it to him and show the pictures as you do so.  Tell him that after he does each thing on the list and is ready to go, he gets to put a sticker on the chart, or color in the box, or whatever (you'll need to print off a success chart of some kind from the internet, put it on the fridge or some other permanent place so he can monitor his success.) Make it clear, when he colors 7 boxes, the reward is xxx.  At the meeting, tell him, this is the way things will be from now on.  It is a change but a change for good for the whole family so everyone can be happier.  Say that mommy and daddy make the rules for the family and we all follow them.  When it's time to get up, we get up and start our day, do the list and ...

Also, he can't play/draw/build whatever, until his list is complete in the morning.

If he is defiant, use time outs.  At the meeting, tell him that from now on, if he does not listen he will get a time out.  Use the 1-2-3 magic technique after you explain it to him.  Tell him, if he misbehaves you will say "1" as a warning, then if he keeps it up, "2" and then "3, time out"  time out is in the corner or on a step or some other place where he cannot interact with you and it is 4 minutes.    If he is yelling and mad, that's ok, that means it is working. 

Afterwards, you can hug him and say, "you had a time out because you..." make it short and to the point, no discussion or debate.  The 1-2-3 technique works into the pre teens.  It nips excessive arguing/debate in the bud.

If he won't put on his pants to go to school, he goes to school in his pjs.  You can send the clothes in his back pack if his teachers want him to change, or you can just have him wear the next day's clothes to sleep at night so you don't have to worry about getting dressed. 

Stay calm in the midst of his tantrums.  Tell him you understand why he is upset, and help him learn to transition.  "it will be here when you get back."  If it's a huge problem, try to make sure he doesn't start something he won't have time to finish if you have somewhere to go.

Mornings should be calm, leave plenty of time from wake up to departure so you aren't pushing/rushing him.  A calm voice makes it easier.  I changed my ways with this about 6 years ago and it really helps.  You want to start the day off in the right tone.  Kids take your lead and your mood can affect their whole day. 

I hope this helps, let me know if you have follow up questions.

I always tell people, Parenting is hard, but if you don't do it right, it gets harder.

Been There Done That Mom

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