I am getting ready to head off to visit friends and family. The extra cool part of this plan is that all this visiting is happening in warm and dry Arizona.
Ahh, the joys of a winter holiday. I feel so lucky.
As a result it will be three weeks until my next newsletter but if you need a fix, all the past editions and blog postings are on my website.
Meanwhile, I am busy tying up all the necessary loose ends before I go away and somehow that made me think about the frustrations of dealing with a dawdling preschooler.
It was the day he almost wore his pyjamas to preschool.
Kids dawdle. I’d like to say all kids dawdle but then one of you will talk about your child who hops to task immediately. I do know that most kids, particularly toddlers and preschoolers, dawdle. And it can drive us crazy.
We just can’t figure it out. Even when they’re getting ready to do something they love, they still dawdle. We can understand why they don’t want to go to bed, have a bath or pick up their toys. But, here you are trying to get out the door to go to an event they love like preschool or a birthday party and they just aren’t getting ready.
They just get distracted. They don’t see the world the way we do. For example, take a sock. Now when I have my sock in my hand I simply put it on my foot. Effective, but boring. Your preschooler sees a multitude of possibilities. He may put it over his hand and turn it into a puppet and the puppet show takes over from dressing. Or he may swing it around over his head yelling “Yippee” and is soon running naked through the house swinging his sock and yelling.
It’s fun and it’s creative. But that’s not what you see; you see the clock ticking, the time passing and know that he’ll be late for preschool again. So you grab this squirming mass of child and force him into his clothes.
There has to be a better way.
Understand that while he does like preschool, getting dressed just isn’t as interesting as trying out new ideas with his articles of clothing. He’s distracted. He also has no stake in dressing on time because when it’s time to leave you will do it for him.
Don’t hand him his clothes and expect instant success. Preschoolers and toddlers want to have some control over their lives. If every time you can you give them a say, they become more cooperative. So offer choices. “Do you want to wear the green t-shirt or the red one?” “Which shoe are you going to put on first?” Soon getting dressed is a task he wants to accomplish because you have given him the control and he loves it.
When you’re trying to brush the hair of an active child who just wants to run, tell a story. “Guess what I saw today?” will stop him in his tracks to listen. You talk about some silly thing you saw and quickly he’s listening and you’re brushing. As a bonus the story will also cause you to laugh together.
But there is a point when you can start to expect her to dress herself without you being involved every step along the way. With toddlers and young preschoolers we need to figure out what works and just make things happen. But as they get closer to school-age, it’s time to hand the responsibility over to them.
Once kids are truly capable of dressing themselves, the next question is timing. They just don’t get it. For some, kitchen timers are a godsend. Set the timer for ten minutes and let him know that when it dings, it’s time to leave. He can watch the dial move and act accordingly. The advantage here is that it is a neutral objective reminding him of the time, not you.
But be careful. For other children the timer causes stress and they become panicky as they watch the countdown. They probably need quiet reminders of how much time is left before you leave. Don’t count down every minute, mention five minutes and two or one and that’s enough.
So your 4-year-old is now ready to get himself ready with a reminder of some sort. And he still dawdles. What now?
When it’s time to leave, you leave. Grab his clothing and shove it in his backpack, tuck him under your arm and you’re off. One Mom I spoke with told me her child managed to get dressed in the back seat before she had the car started. Childcare providers and preschool teachers tell me they have seen many children arrive in pyjamas. They welcome them and let them know that they’ll have to be dressed to join the others outside.
Another option is to stay home. Let her know that because she wasn’t ready you assumed she wasn’t interested in the party so you’ve started your chores. This option is only fair if she knows this may happen, if she is truly capable of getting ready and she understands the consequences of her behavior.
Vive la Différence: Raising Children with Different Temperaments.
I have always known that each child is a unique individual. I looked at my two who are as different as night and day. Then I consider my siblings and we are a texbook example of different.
But, now that I have three grandchildren, all the same age the differences from their births has been striking. Just before they were born I was thinking about the two movies about Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and this also caused me to think about the differences of people who live together.
The result is the e-parenting mini guide, Vive la Différence: Raising Children with Different Temperaments.
Parenting Today is keen to speak as part of your professional development event, parenting workshop or workplace wellness support program. I offer keynotes and workshops, have written books and have ongoing newspaper columns, books, blogs and newsletters. And, no matter what the actual topic, they all share a basic value that I call:
P — is a parenting plan
U — is unconditional love
R — is respect for your child as he is right now
E — is encouragement
These make up the framework of any resources that will come from Parenting Today. These four pillars are the essential ingredients for raising healthy children who will develop into capable young men and women.