“When my children have to change their routine, they have issues.
How can I make changing routines easier and less stressful?”
Designing a system that keeps your child calm during “unique” situations depends on personality and age. A ten-year-old should be able to adjust faster than a three-year-old. Designing a system that will be “unique” for your child depends on your understanding of their needs rather than your own.
The key is to find your child’s biggest desire and use that to control a behavior or to build a new routine. Parents make a mistake to assume that everything in the child’s life is up for grabs. It should not be. Let’s go through 5 Mommy Detective rules to help your child properly change their routine.
1. Vest previously earned possessions and social interactions.
When my husband tried to explain his profit sharing program to me, he talked about “vested” earnings. I hated the concept. “Vesting” means that the company may have given you a large amount of stock or profit sharing in a letter – but if it wasn’t “vested” when stocks went down or productivity slipped – they took the “unvested” portion away. I hated this concept because it punished Ron even if he increased his personal output 100%. He was helpless. At the whim of the company he could lose what he rightfully earned.
Most parents assume that taking a child’s possessions or social obligations away will help control behavior. IT DOES NOT. It does cause Rebellion. Before implementing a new technique on your children – ask how you would feel if someone did it to you. Of course we all implement rules with two-year-olds that a 40-year-old would rebel against – but once your child has a grasp of his environment be careful to imagine how you would personally react if the techniques you are considering were applied to you.
For example, suppose your boss calls you into his office. You are excited about the new business routine and you feel energetic and creative about your work. Instead of praising you, he frowns and says, “I’m not happy with the way things are going. Your actions haven’t reached my expectations. I’m going to give your new client to your co-worker until I see a difference in your attitude. I’m also going to dock your pay until I see more results. The good news is that you can have all this back if you change your behavior.”
Are you going to walk out of that meeting with a smile and ready to get back to work? Or…are you going to be mad and wondering if you should change jobs and get away from the awful boss who just took your incentives away. He can’t see how much you help his company. All he did was take away your new social interaction (the client who would cement a promotion and get you the respect you deserve) and your possession (your new raise that was going to finally ease finances at home). Why are you so upset? Why don’t you feel “energized” and competitive? Why doesn’t it make you want to work harder?
That’s the exact way children feel. Just because your child is small doesn’t mean that he/she doesn’t dream about or depend on possessions and social interactions. To take them away makes their life more unstable – not less. Giving your child the impression that his possessions, friends, earned money or social situations are up for grabs at any time – can make him feel like a slave with no options. You control his life and he/she has no recourse to hang on to what has already been earned. Feeling like you have no options causes rebellion. Adults quit, rebel, fight and picket because they feel as though they have no other options. Rebellion is a teen or adult way of saying – “I’m unhappy. I feel abused. I have to fight my way out of this.”
Vacations, holidays, birthdays etc…are all filled with fun and excitement. Suppose your child had a great time at his 8th birthday party and he received his dream – a new bike. The following day your child is still running on the excitement of the party. Your child is feeling great. He feels so great that he allows the excitement of the previous day to cause him to break some rules. He’s talking loudly, running through the house and acting out of character. Like a 200 mile per hour race car, his life comes to a screeching halt when you yell, “That’s it! You have to calm down. I’m taking your new bike away until you do!”
With one action you have taught your child that he can’t trust you to respect him or his possessions. You’ve destroyed the good feelings about the previous day and He’s now on alert mode – what else will she take away?
The solution is to use things the child has not already earned in order to get the desired behavior. “I know you are excited about yesterday and about your new bike. I’m sorry that it’s raining and you can’t get outside. Calm down now and we will watch the new movie right after supper. If you don’t calm down there will be no movie.” Now he’s concentrating on the future – not on vested possessions. You must think outside the box in order to parent a child when he’s excited.
2. Never punish a child for being a child.
When your child has had too much sugar, excitement or fun – don’t punish because he’s having a hard time controlling a nervous system that’s over-stimulated. That’s simply not fair. No matter how he got into the problem – it’s not fair to punish him for normal physical excitement. Instead, “teach” him how to handle those situations. If he’s young enough, hold him in your lap, speak softly but with firmness – “Your actions are not acceptable. I know you are excited but today we are going to practice how to sit still and be nice even when we are excited. You will be required to sit with me until you calm down.”
You can do yourself a favor if you allow your child to get excited when the two of you are at home alone and then take the time to practice. That way he will be ready when he is excited but in a room full of friends.
While riding in the car or waiting for a bus – use the time to teach. “Johnny, if you were excited about….and everyone asked you to…..would you?” Explain why it’s important to remain calm and do the right thing in any situation. Repeat this explanation over and over until it becomes a normal response for your child.
Be like the boy/girl scouts. Teach your child to be prepared for anything he might face.
3. Be compassionate enough to let your child work through excitement.
Have you ever been excited about a new promotion or something new you bought and when you showed it to a friend they pointed out everything that was wrong with it? You can go from a feeling of euphoria to total disappointment. It’s a horrible let down and feeling.
When your child is enjoying the situation and is excited – don’t be the wet blanket. Laugh, smile, be excited but explain, “I’m so glad you had a great vacation and that you are excited about all your Christmas gifts. I hope you continue to be excited. That’s a good thing. But…there are plenty of wonderful things in the future for you too. In order to get to those we have to control our bodies and get our work done. How can we use your excitement to help with your homework?” Maybe the solution is to help him do his math by counting new bikes. Don’t stoop to make him think that excitement and feeling good is not an acceptable emotion.
4. Be quick to encourage creativity. Ask what the two of you can do to help your child eliminate the nervous excitement he feels.
As parents we have to assume responsibility for our children. Unfortunately, we can begin to assume that we know it all and that they are robots. As your child grows he should be learning things about his environment. Teaching and allowing him to be creative will be the best gift you can give him. Remember – it’s important to help your child become a leader, not a follower. Teaching him to be creative will help him lead the crowd not follow them over the cliff.
If your child is in an emotionally charged situation (A valentine party at school) and he has high hopes or is excited about the movie they are going to watch, make sure he is prepared for the situation. Before you lay out a plan, ASK YOUR CHILD for possible details. Make him/her part of the plan. Be creative. Give them something to do, something to touch, something to think about in case they are tempted to act out. Ask your child, “What can we do to help you eliminate “acting out” when you are excited. You may be surprised at their suggestions.
One mother asked her daughter for input. Together they came up with a game. Mom gave her daughter (self-conscious with low self-esteem) two pieces of brightly colored yarn to sit on her desk at school. Anytime during the party when she felt nervous or out of sorts, she was to tie a knot in the yarn. Mom made it a game. The object was to get home with the least amount of knots in the yarn. And what if someone made fun of or took her yarn? She was to smile and say nothing. When they moved on she would draw a circle and fill it in for every time she was nervous or out of sorts. This creative little game did three things. 1) It gave the child something to do when she was nervous. 2) It was a visual that kept her calm 3) It became a learning tool when she explained it all to mom. 4) It became a bond between mom and child. 5) The child felt empowered because it was after all – a fun game.
5. Remind your child that accomplishing the goal is possible!
The movie “Steal Magnolias” with Sally Field and Julia Roberts has a subplot about the relationship between mother and daughter. Through the entire movie Julia Roberts character Shelby looks to her mother for facial support whenever there’s a crisis. The supportive look is most prevalent the night before Shelby is to have a kidney transplant. Shelby has long hair and decides to cut her hair very short. Her mother – M’Lynn is in the beauty shop getting her hair done. When the hairdresser says “Ta da…how do you like it?” Shelby begins to cry. She doesn’t say a word until she looks at her mother. Her mom smiles and nods, “I like it!” From that one look Shelby gains her strength, stops crying and boldly asks for a manicure.
Children crave the support of their parents. We walk a fine line because we can’t support bad behavior. Yet…we must be sure we use enough words and facial expressions to show our support for any – and I do mean any – small accomplishment. Pay attention and look for signs that your child is controlling their excitement or behavior. Point it out by saying things like, “Way to go! I knew you could do it!” “Great job. I can see how hard you are trying.” “I told you this was possible. I’m so proud of you.”
Be the foundation, creative support and cheerleader your child craves. Be the person he can depend on for support. Help him to see that no matter what changes he faces – he can control his body, his actions and his feelings. He can be successful no matter how much his schedules change.