One of the trickiest times of day for me is the 10 minutes before we have to leave for school. My youngest, who is now 5, has always known the routine. Even as a baby she has had to go on the school run to get her big brother to school. Now she is at school herself, and you would think that having done this routine her whole life, getting out of the house in the mornings would be like clockwork wouldn’t you? Unfortunately not!
She always seems to involve herself in some game or activity just when we are trying to get out of the house. Preferably something messy involving paint or something that has to be finished before we leave. Even when she was a toddler we had the same problem: she would be doing something fun and mean old mummy was dragging her away to go and do something boring. It’s not fun going out in all weathers to wait in a school playground then turn around and come home again.
It’s not just going to school of course, it can be getting ready for bed, going to the supermarket, going home from the park. I find these “transitions” between something they are enjoying and something that doesn’t sound so fun can be particularly difficult. Nagging, shouting, and cajoling never seem to work that well – my kids develop the most amazing spontaneous hearing loss! I then get more and more stressed and feel powerless.
I do have the answer to this problem, though you might not like it as it means putting in a bit of effort. The answer is that you have to make it FUN. Children are competitive little beings – they love to beat you in a race. They also like to show you how clever they are. They particularly like to feel in control of a situation. Hmm, it’s not just children who are like this is it? Anyway, here are some top tips for getting kids to cooperate with you:
1 Make it their idea: Ask them what needs to be done in a certain situation. So ask them what they need to do before going to bed – pretend you have forgotten, rather than asking them in a testing way. Try telling them you have run out of bread, then ask them, ‘where can we get some more?’ That way, it’s their idea to go to the supermarket, not yours. If you have a problem and they have the solution, how much more cooperative will they be than if you are imposing something upon them?
2 Make it a race: Who can get up the stairs and into the bathroom the quickest? Who can find their shoes first? I would suggest that it’s you that races them, rather than creating competition between siblings, as that is bound to end in tears!
3 Get them to show you how it’s done: For example, if getting them into their pyjamas is a nightmare, take the pyjamas, put them on your head, and ask them, is this where they go? They will find it funny to see you doing it wrong, and will want to show you where they should really go.
Making things fun is an effort, especially when you are feeling rushed, tired and irritable. However, if you put the effort in upfront, it really does pay off, and save you a huge amount of nagging.
A slower pace
Also, consider whether you can change things around slightly to give your child more time. Why are you in such a rush? Children work at a slower pace than us, and they don’t understand our sense of urgency. If it is possible to give them more time then please do.
All you need is love
They might also be stalling and putting things off because they don’t want to leave you – whether it is going to bed or going to school. Maybe they just want more time with you and more attention. (They are getting attention from your nagging and shouting, even if it’s negative attention.) What can you do to spend more quality one-on-one time with your child? Would spending more time on cuddles and stories in bed mean they are keener to get ready for bed? The more connected to you and loved they feel, the more cooperative they will be, as they will feel like you are on their side.
Making things fun and playful is a really great way to connect with your kids and to not only get them on side, but also to help them work through any stresses and issues they might be facing. I highly recommend Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen if you would like to read a bit more detail on how you can use play in helping your child.