Why is it so difficult to get my child(ren) to _________________________
- get into the car in the morning?
- go to the dinner table?
- do their homework?
- say good-bye to me at school?
- stop playing and get ready for bed?
Sound familiar? All of these are called transitions. You are asking or telling your child to stop one activity and move on to another. As a classroom teacher, I had to plan my transitions very carefully. In fact, I teach my college students that planning for transitions is just as important as planning a lesson.
Many parents think that they simply should be able to tell their child that it’s time to do something or change an activity. Then the child should comply. For most parents and children, it’s not this easy. In fact, children need to be taught how to transition. As a teacher, I taught my students how to transition explicitly with modeling and practice.
If you feel like it takes forever or turns into a battle when you ask your children to stop one activity and do another, keep these in mind.
- Consistency is critical.
- Keep to a regular, predictable routine whenever possible.
- Stay calm (really hard when you have to get somewhere on time!)
- Understand that this takes time to learn. The time will be worth it!
- Make sure your expectations are developmentally appropriate.
- Be kind to yourself. Don’t expect perfection. (Even with all my experience as a teacher, I struggle with this as a parent.)
- As your child grows, the transitions and expectations will change.
Here are some ideas to try that I’ve learned as a parent and teacher.
- Make a visual chart with the morning and/or evening routine. (This can be a basic checklist with pictures for younger children or simple phrases for older children.)
- Give yourself a lot of extra time (way more time than you think is necessary).
- Show and teach your child what they must do. (You must make sure it’s realistic so that the frustration level doesn’t escalate. Example: Let me show you how I want you to get dressed and brush your teeth in the morning. Now you try it.)
- Do the same things in the same order everyday.
- Use the same words and phrases. (Example: At 8:00, we need to be in the car so you can get to school on time.)
- Practice. Practice. Practice.
- Explain to your child the reasons for this in a developmentally appropriate way.
- Show your child your routines. (Example: In the morning, just like you, I have to get dressed, eat breakfast, and brush my teeth so you can get to school and I can get to work.)
- Give your child many warnings when a transition will occur. (Example: In five minutes, you will need to stop playing and come to the table for dinner. In one minute, you will need to come to the table for dinner. 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1: It’s time for you to stop playing and come to the table for dinner.)
- Use a visual timer to prepare for a transition. (Example: Put five minutes on the timer and put it near your child.)
- Praise your child! (Example: I am so proud of you for stopping your game and getting in the car in a calm way. I know that it’s hard to stop that game because you love playing it.)
My next newsletter will focus on behavior management plans. If you need more than the bullet points about transitions, behavior plans can be effective for children of almost every age. They can also help with other challenging situations you may find yourself in.
Until next time,