Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How can I get my child to cooperate when it's time to go?

Imagine you are at a dinner party with your spouse. You are talking with some friends you have not seen for a while and you are having a great time catching up with them. Suddenly your spouse walks over to you and says “It’s time to go, get your stuff, I am going to the car.” What would your reaction be? It would most likely not be a positive one.

This is a lot like what we expect out of our children every day. Whether it is a trip to the park or time spent at home, our children become engrossed in their play time. Their imaginations are constantly running. For us to break that flow of creativity to tell them it’s time to go somewhere they have no choice in or control over is a lot like your spouse telling you to leave a party you are enjoying.

Children, like most adults, need to be given some warning of what is to come. They may not completely understand what “5 more minutes” feels like, but giving them some warning that the time to end the “game” is coming can make that disappointment a bit more manageable.

If when at that dinner party, your spouse were to instead come up to you quietly and say “I am going to be ready to leave in 5 minutes,” would your reaction be more pleasant. You would be given the chance finish your conversation and say goodbye to those you needed to say goodbye to.

It is also a good idea to prepare your child for what is to come in the day. Over breakfast you can say “today we have to go to the bank, get groceries and mail the present to Grandpa. After that we can go to the library for story time.” This is a lot like you and your spouse discussing how long you are planning on staying at the dinner party. It gives your children a map of the day and lets them see what is coming.

Giving your children some choices in the day’s activities can also help make the transition a little easier. If you are running errands, give them the list of what needs to be done and ask them what they want to do first.

Sometimes we adults don’t understand the importance of play so make sure you build plenty of play time into your day. Perhaps if you were to spend some play time with your children at the beginning of the day, they would be emotionally ready for the busy day ahead.

Children who are over-tired or over-stimulated are more likely to fight against transition. Avoid letting your child get to this point. Watch how many things you try to cram into your day. Remember that we adults get cranky too when we are tired.

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