This week a mom talked to me about her very strong willed, temperamentally challenging child named Abbey. You know the type. Abbey always went against the grain. Whatever direction the family wanted to go, she wanted to go the other way. Flexibility of style and “going along with the program” were not qualities that came to mind when thinking about Abbey.
We talked about how the mom felt like she was turning into a screaming, raving lunatic (her own description). For example, getting dressed and out the door became an enormous battleground, whether getting ready for events like birthday parties or going to school.
My question to the mom was why she cared so much about any of it when there were logical, built in consequences to the child’s choices that were there for the child to experience.
Why do we get so caught up in rushing kids to events like birthday parties and soccer, when there is often minimal child compliance?
I know that some of you will react negatively to my suggestion thinking that the child is too ______________________ (fill in the blank with a diagnostic category) to be able to handle a consequence, but I go back to good old fashioned approaches and mindsets with the vast majority of children.
A firmly delivered, but very matter-of-fact statement, such as the following works wonders:
“I know you wanted to go to your cousin’s party, but you didn’t get dressed when I asked. Now we are staying home. I’ve been to many birthday parties in my life. I’m really fine not going to this one. Sorry you’re going to miss it – I know you were looking forward to it…. Oh, and one more thing, there’s not one electronic anything on in the house for the rest of the day.”
No anger. No lecture. No raised voice, but eminent clarity.
These lessons tend to stick (even with kids who don’t pay attention very well).