Next time you want your child to take a bath, brush teeth, do homework, eat dinner, or anything else that gives you that "here we go again" feeling, picture them on their own little train heading somewhere totally different than where you want them to go next.
How are you going to get them off the train effectively with love?
I invite you to try this strategy in 10 simple steps.
- Give a 10 minute warning. In 10 minutes it'll be time to _______. Please begin to finish what you're doing. I'll be back in 5 minutes."
- Stop talking! If your child starts arguing, says, "No!" or ignores you, exhale a couple breaths and calmly walk away. You can say, "hmmm", or "I hear you," if you want, but DON'T ENGAGE! Don't take the bait! Stop, Drop & Breathe.
- Set YOUR timer for 5 minutes.
- Return after 5 minutes and GET ON THE TRAIN* with your child. Join your child in their activity or just sit by them. After a pause say, "We have 5 more minutes together to finish doing (what your child is doing) _________before (what you want your child to do next) _________. Breathe and be as present as you can for those 5 minutes.
- Set a visual timer for 5 minutes where you can both see it. I recommend Time Timer.
- PAUSE AND READ #4 AGAIN. I cannot emphasize enough (though I'm clearly trying) how profoundly different it is to BE with your child during a transition than to try to get your child off a moving train and onto your train!!
- Talk less, breathe more and enjoy the next 5 minutes with your child like it's the special time you've been longing for.
- Gently slow down the "train" in the last minute or so as you help your child complete their activity, if they need.
- Get off the train WITH your child when the timer goes off. "It's time to ____________ now.
- Together, move toward the next activity. For a 3 year old you might scoop them up into a hug or a tickle. For an older child you might count steps to the kitchen, or engage them with a choice of 2 good options. For homework, you might decide how long to work before a 5 minute break.
Warmly in support,
PPS: If you could really use some help, just reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll set up a time to discuss what's going on at home.
*This metaphor of getting on the train comes from Bob Ditter, through my son who took a camp counselor training. The interpretation is mine.