Mom takes clothes out of Junior Zap's drawers for him to wear. She is rushed and trying to get him dressed quickly. Junior Zap doesn't want to wear what Mom has picked out and will not cooperate with the dressing. Junior Zap is upset and Mom is getting frustrated. After she struggles to put the turtleneck sweater she has chosen on him, she finally gives in. She invites him to choose the pair of pants he wants to wear. Junior, allowed to dress himself, feels proud. Mom is now focussed on her son and is happy that she let him do it himself. She is also proud of how cute he looks.
Children need to be given some choices as they struggle to gain confidence and independence (however much they still need you). As a parent, offer some limited choices that suit the weather and, hopefully, the occasion. But even if the choices aren't your preference, be happy if your child is happy.
Create a routine for the mornings so your child knows what comes next. Getting a child up and out in the morning can be difficult, because little children don't like to be rushed. Your child may not want to leave the comfort and safety of home for the outside world, so she dawdles. She may also find it hard to move as fast as you want her, because that speed doesn't match her natural rhythms. And just like adults, some children are better at night than first thing in the morning - she may still be tired and sleepy, so when you push her, she gets stressed. She may also feel that you think your work is more important than she is, and this is a feeling you want to avoid.
Try to allow enough time in the morning that you don't have to rush - it'll be worth it. Set a schedule and explain it to your child, so he knows what to expect in the morning: he has to get up, get washed and dressed, eat breakfast and leave the house. Keep the routine as regular as possible. Build in a little time for your child to play, and give him the feeling he can come back to his game later. Allow yourself enough time to get ready, so you can stay calmer, and not take out your stress on your child. Try to focus on your child and his needs and feelings as you deal with him. Prepare as much as you can (clothes, lunches, things to take to daycare) the night before, to save time. Share the routine and all there is to do with your partner, so you each have some time.
When you drop off your child, be sure you don't leave her feeling that you are angry with her. And make sure she knows you're coming back.
Food for Thought:
- What kinds of choices can you give young children that are reasonable?
- What do you do if your child refuses to pick one of the things you're offering, and throws a tantrum? (For information on tantrums, please watch the video "Junior Zap throws a tantrum.")
- What kinds of challenges do you run into in trying to get your child ready and out the door?
- What is the best time of day for your child? When is he most alert and happy? How can you adjust to him when he's moody or slow? What is your best time of day for patience and playing?