Signs, signs everywhere there are signs. As a parent, you look for signs your kiddo’s making milestones. You’re also helping them recognize signs in their own bodies as they grow and learn. A few BIG signs during those early years relating to children recognizing their own bodies’ signs:
1. Needing to use the toilet
2. Being hungry and/or
3. Needing rest and/or sleep
Back in my preschool days, my advice to folks regarding these, and the other big one (Getting dressed), was: It does no one any good, in the long run, to force the issue. In addition to taking a deep breath (or many) and tapping into their compassion, I’d suggest parents depersonalize their routine.
What does this mean?
Rather than have parents pleading, bribing or yelling at their kiddos to go to bed (or get dressed,etc) I’d suggest directing their kiddos’ attention towards a clock.
Why a clock?
Because it’s awfully hard to draw a clock into endless rounds of negotiations or argument!
So when your making up your family’s schedule. Figure out the answers to questions like these:
●What time does your kidlet need to be dressed in the morning? Do both parents work outside the home, traditional hours (9-5…who works only 8 hours these days?!) and therefore daycare is needed?
●Are there chores that need to be done when everyone gets home?
●When is there a block of family fun or free time?
●What time does the bedtime routine need to start and what does it involve?
NOTE: If your kiddo is young make your schedule in rebus format.
A sample schedule might look like this:
|5pm||PLAY Time at Home|
One rule that’s a MUST:
Parents must give kiddos enough lead time for any upcoming transition.
Keep in mind five minutes might be adequate for some kiddos whereas others might need 15 minutes. Similarly, depending on what they’re doing—like being deeply involved in free play—kiddos might need more prep time in knowing the ‘clock’ is close to signaling a change.
But Parents Rule…Don’t They?
Think about a typical infant schedule. It looks something like this:
3. and sleep some more with diaper changes thrown in here and there
Of course, as weeks go by, there’ re gradually longer and longer periods of awakefulness between nursing and sleeping. Mom and Dad cope with the lack of their own sleep by taking shifts to get the rest they need.
Even going on into toddlerhood, parents have more control over kiddos’ sleep process because children usually still sleep in cribs. It goes without saying, I do not advocate leaving a child in a crib to ‘cry it out’…refer to my tapping into compassion comment above. Read here to find general guidelines to facilitate sleep for your young kiddo.
However, moving from toddlerhood into the preschool-years things often prove more challenging. Threenager is a description some people use for kiddos in that 3rd year of Life. That’s unfortunate because it’s unfair and inaccurate.
A Look into Child Development…
One of the early childhood education courses I took had a great explanation AND visual description of children developing and growing over the years. It was something like this.
Notice the moments when children are in equilibrium. Those are times they’ve been able to master skills they’ve practiced and/or understand concepts. It’s a time they’re at ease with themselves and those around them. The time of equilibrium is fairly easy on parents. Parents enjoy their kiddos then when they are generally calm and cooperative.
Around 18months though, and following roughly every ½-year point thereafter until age 5, children enter a period of fast growth; leaving them imbalanced. Kind of imbalanced in body, mind and spirit! It’s tough time for kiddos—and can be a tough time on those around them!
Check some of the characteristics a 2 ½ year old going on 3 experiences as well as those of 3 ½ year olds. One trait that’s somewhat common between the two ½ years is the desire to do things the way they want. But instead they see a lot of road blocks put up with a parent (or caregiver) saying Do THIS! Don’t do THAT!
(Goodness we’re back to signs. This time the 5 Man Electric Band’s Signs, signs everywhere a sign!)
A Slight Change in Presentation…
I had another tip I’d offer to preschool parents as a way to convert confrontations or meltdowns into cooperation. And that was for parents to simply change from asking to requesting. What’s the difference between asking and requesting? It’s subtle but huge for parents. I’ll illustrate by way of example.
Problem: Child needs to get into the car
Parent asks: “Can you get into the car now please?”
Child may respond with “Okay” in which case there’s no problem—YAY! But more often than not you’ll get “No.” Then where are you? You really didn’t want to give him an option, but in reality you did. Not only that, you got an answer. And as you try to cajole them into changing their mind or out-and-out force them they feel you:
1. Don’t value their answer/their feelings/them and/or
2. It’s okay to try to change someone’s answer.
It ultimately undercuts your relationship.
In the heat of the moment, your kiddo’s probably pretty hacked off. You asked a question, they answered you so what’s up? Yeah, I’d be irritated too.
Instead of asking, parents can request with a statement! Try: “I need you to get into the car now please.” (Another option: “Time to get into the car now please.”) With this phrasing there’s no ambiguity about what needs to be done. Your kiddo might say “I don’t want to” or “WHY?!” You can empathize in your response with “I understand, but it’s time” or “I know, we can come back another time” but there’s no changing the fact: Your kiddo needs to be in the car.
In summary, parents:
1. Educate yourselves on child development. Find a book or two plus a few websites and/or podcasts to learn about ages & stages as your kiddo grows and learns. Perhaps even more important you’ll know what is developmentally appropriate of your kiddos at each age.
2. Pay attention to your words and phrasing. If your kiddo really doesn’t have a choice, don’t ask the question.
3. You’re the adult, stay calm. Breathe. Practice mindfulness techniques if you need.
4. Be consistent. Find a routine for your family that works. Incorporating the 4Bs (Bath, Brush, Book, Bed) are often helpful.
5. Posting a schedule, to help your kiddo know what to expect and when, is another helpful strategy.
6. Look for the humor or bright-side of things. Remember these disequilibrium phases are (somewhat) quickly followed by periods of easy-going harmony.
Of all the signs out there, the “Under Construction” sign is one that speaks volumes.
Yours in PLAY!