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The guiding tool: Working with children and their day-to-day activities
As parents, every day, most of our time and communication seem to be spent on getting our child to do routine activities.
Playing, watching TV, drawing and colouring, reading, being with friends are all more interesting and exciting for a child, and the daily drill of brushing, bathing, having breakfast, getting ready for school or bedtime, etc.seem mundane and boring to them. Yet, aren’t they essential?
Even transitions — moving from one activity to another, can be tedious for the child. For example, moving from play to having a bath can be difficult for younger children. It can sometimes be hard even for older children, to make a smooth transition from leisure time to studying.
Let’s look at how this scene plays out in most of our homes.
Parent – Neha, go for a bath.
Neha – Hmmm.
Parent (after a few minutes) — Neha! It’s getting late, please go.
Neha – Wait, two minutes.
Parent (again a few minutes later) – Neeehaaaa! How many times to tell you? Can’t you listen? Stop reading and go to the bathroom.
Neha – Going! (Neha is still onthe sofa.)
(Parent comes to Neha and pulls her arm roughly and drags her to the bathroom) — You just don’t listen to anything I say. You are becoming very stubborn. Go now and finish quickly. We are getting late! (Parent pushes Neha into the bathroom.)
When children don’t listen, it can be frustrating for parents to keep repeating instructions for every small thing. Sometimes, like in the situation with Neha, we end up having to physically move, push, drag or force our child to get the job done, adding to our frustration. Of course, tasks need to be complete, and done nearly on time.How then, can we help the child make the transition, with the least amount of distress?
We can use a tool called‘Guiding’ where we gently steer the child from one activity to another with respect and empathy.Here are the steps of the Guiding tool explained using the above example.
Firstly, parents need to ensure that they have acknowledgedtheir own feelings, and are in a calm state of mind before approaching the child.
Routines and transitions must be planned ahead of time. Children need adequate time to prepare for any change. Begin about ten minutes before the actual transition by saying, “Neha, 10 minutes until bath time.” After 5 minutes, say “It’s time to put away the book and to go for a bath in 5 minutes.” Children might not be able to respond instantly as they might be engrossed in the earlier task. Their responses are much more cooperative when they are adequately prepared. It helps them to feel in control of the situation.
Choices can be offered to the child, making her feel valued and confident to make decisions. “Neha, would you like to take a bath before eating or after?”
If the child does not cooperate even after reminders, the parent could work on preparing the child for the shift in activity by saying kindly but firmly, “I can see how much you want to continue reading the book. It is time for a bath. I’m going to take you to the bathroom.”
The parent then puts a loving hand gently on the small of the back (of the child) and steers her to the bathroom, while continuing to speak with empathy — “You wish you had more time to read! Such an interesting book! Bathing keeps germs away.” The parent could assist the child in the bathroom or wait until the child completes the task.
With an older child, the parent could link arms and with a gentle tug says firmly, “Engrossing book isn’t it? I know a bath is the last thing on your mind. Sorry, it requires to be done.” Most importantly, the parent needs to abstain from yanking or pulling the child’s arm roughly.
If the child continues to resist, as the adult, the parent can use their discretion to decide when to push the task, and when to hold back. ‘Is there room to allow the child to complete what she is doing? Does she have to bathe right away?’ Most importantly, we must guard against letting the situation become a power struggle.
Throughout the ‘guiding’ process, the parent is acknowledging the child’s struggle in transitioning from what she is enjoying doing, to something that needs to be done. Haven’t all of us, at some point, had difficulty putting down that book, or work, or activity to go and get our daily chores sorted?
Using this simple tool, helps us nudge our children into action. It shifts the approach from control to understanding, thus creating a caring and peaceful environment for the family. Also, when we are able to consistently role model respectful communication and behaviour in this way, eventually, we are aiding the development of self-discipline in our children.
— Sujata Dewaji is a certified Parent Educator with Parenting Matters, an organisation that promotes parents to build deeper connection within families. To know more about our programs and workshops, look us up on www.parentingmatters.in
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