You just got home with your 2-year-old. She is trying to take her shoes off and, bless her heart, is taking forever. So you go ahead and take them off for her.
Your 3-year-old is crying because he wants to go to the park but doesn't want to clean up his toys in the living room first.
Your 4-year-old doesn’t want to leave the playground, even after you ask them over and over and over...
Are these scenarios familiar?
And what do you usually say to your child at these times?
“Let me take those shoes off, we have to get dinner ready.”
“You have to clean the toys, those are the rules!”
“We will not go to the playground anymore if you don’t leave when I ask you to.”
Are these words effective? Sometimes maybe, but not reliably.
But, behold! There is another way to speak to your child that actually teaches them something and will help get them to cooperate next time. Check it out:
“I see that you’re trying to take your shoes off, let me see how you do it. Would you like me to help you?”
After this, wait while they try, giving them tips here and there. If you do this every day for 15 to 20 minutes, your child will develop the skill instead of depending on you to do it for them. We have to stop being problem solvers for our child. We have to give them a proper space to learn in.
“Let’s go to the park! What do we have to do before we go? First we clean up the toys in the living, then we put on our shoes and jacket.”
You can even make a list of steps you always take before going to the park or a playdate and read it together. This way, you are engaging your child’s cognitive skills with memory and giving them stability with routine. It helps them get out of their emotional reaction of having to clean up before having fun.
“This is the second time I’m asking you to leave the playground. In 5 minutes, when I ask you for the third time, you will have to leave the playground or I will have to carry you out.”
The countdown allows your child to know there’s a structure and a boundary to what you’re asking. Then you warn them that you will ask again, so they can prepare for that impending event. Then you give them the choice of leaving the playground by themselves, or being carried out. This speaks to their desire for independence and accomplishment, of wanting to do things themselves.
All of our communications with children are teachable moments. We are explaining the world to them, modelling for them how to proceed with life, interact with people, be happy and self-sustaining. And this is what they are waiting for: to be taught through examples and concrete words, instead of threats and bribes.
Dive much deeper into this concept with an expert on teachable moments, Ms. Alex Atkin, premiere trainer of CLASS, a classroom tool that looks at the exchanges between children and adults. She joins the Child In Mind Family Wellness Webinar Series this Thursday, June 24 at 1:00 PM.