Change the situation, not the child.

Advice I recently read in a book by Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D., and Gabor Mate, M.D., “Hold On to Your Kids“:  “It takes a truly adaptive parent to sense the futility of harping on behaviour and to stop railing against what the parent cannot change……It takes a wise parent to focus on what the child is reacting to: the circumstances and situations surrounding the child.  In other words, a parent must first let go of trying to change the child.”

This was written in the context of a natural discipline technique, but was something I found helpful to keep in mind when my child unexpectedly started crying at school drop off times.  My child has attended pre-school for a year, and never cried at drop off time. It is a situation I studiously avoid, by being very careful about settling in arrangements, so it was to my surprise and great discomfort to find myself in a situation where my child was being forcibly pulled away from me by a less than sympathetic adult, leaving me feeling I had little choice but to walk away and hope for the best.  Walking away from my child when he is crying, however, does not hold any place in my parenting philosophy, so I was determined to find a solution to avoid a repeat of this scenario.  Reports from my husband the next day of a similar experience left no hope that it was a one off.

Since my child seemed fine on collection, and continued to assert, as he has always done, that he likes school, I felt the problem must be something about the drop off arrangements.  What was different from pre-school?  At pre-school the parents went into the classroom with their child, settled them into an activity, and left whenever they were ready.  At school, the children line up when the teacher appears at the door, then go in alone, leaving the parents outside.  This makes the separation much quicker, and takes away any flexibility regarding the exact moment of parting.  My child likes to feel he has control over things.  Could this be the key?

The next morning I told my son that he did not have to get in line when the teacher appeared if he didn’t want to, that we could hide round the corner then run out and shout boo at the last minute, or that he could just get in the line, or go in, when he was ready.  He liked the idea of hiding and shouting boo, so we did this.  I feared he would try to extend the hiding bit in order to delay the parting, but not at all.  He ran out, shouted boo, joined the line, and went in happily.  The next day we didn’t need to repeat the hiding game, but he just took a few moments to decide to join the line.   This occurred some weeks ago, and we have not had any tears since.  A subtle change to the situation was all he needed.

Has anyone else had success with changing a situation?  Or any other school drop off experiences?

One Response to Change the situation, not the child.

  1. I love that quote! It’s exactly my battle right now, too many people round me trying to force their kids to behave in ways that aren’t age appropriate.

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