Hi Annie, I hope you are having a great day! I have a question for you. I’d really appreciate your advice as my child won’t get ready for school. He’s 6 years old and I’m having a hard time getting him to get ready for school every morning. He is very particular about his pants. The frustrating part is that after the struggle last school season with the same pant issues, we went shopping before school started and I let him try on his pants and tops for school and he picked them out. Now he is saying his pants are too long, which are the same pants he picked out. He says he does not like school, which could be the underlying issue, but I don’t know how to solve this. We have tried picking out clothes the night before.
I made him a getting ready chart, stickers, etc. I have even threatened to take him to school in his pyjamas but to no avail. It is very stressful, because he makes us all late in the morning . Any suggestions? Thanks Rosanna
Hi Rosanna, First you have to figure out if this is really about school or if it’s indicative of a control issue. One of the ways to tell is if the ‘control’ aspect shows up anywhere else in his relationship with you. Ask yourself questions like the following. Does he refuse to do anything else? Is he controlling over which story to read at night or where to read it, what to eat and when etc. If you think this is a control issue I’d encourage you to utilize my behaviour intervention service.
If this is about his unwillingness to go to school, then I would advise you to find out what’s at the bottom of his reluctance. Is he bullied? Is the teacher unkind? You may have to do some detective work to find out but I think it would be worth it. If it’s more about a control issue then what you’re doing is inadvertently making it worse.
It’s important to look confident even if you don’t feel it
The reason I say that, is I look at what you’ve done in order to get rid of this problem. It looks like lots of things but none of them stuck. Whenever you waffle and the more you experiment with different things, the more you send a message that you are concerned about this problem but you’re not sure what to do about it and are lost. When you send that message, the child feels uncomfortable and will test you more to get you to make a stand and take the lead. Then it becomes a cycle because the more he plays up, the more stressed you get, the more you waffle and as a result, the more testing you will get.
If this isn’t about what a miserable time he’s having in school and you’ve determined it’s a control issue, the next step is to allow him to see how his intransigence is affecting other people outside the narrow sphere of the family. He may only be six, but he’s not too old to learn one of his first lessons in the wider world. Far too many people these days create emotionally fragile children because they sweep away problems before the children have a chance to learn from them. By trying to forestall any problem and prevent natural consequences from occurring, they limit the growth of their child’s maturity. In your case, your son has had lots of warnings and by the sounds of things, you’ve given him a decent opportunity to come around. He hasn’t, so don’t be afraid to let natural consequences take their place.
Let natural consequences happen
Ok, so what are the natural consequences? Here’s what I suggest you do. Call the teacher and have a chat (away from him). Suggest that he’s having a problem getting to school on time as he’s slow to put on his clothes. Suggest that next time you get this problem, you’ll simply let him drag it out naturally and take him to school when he finally gets his pants on. Ask her to notice, preferably in front of the class that he’s late and ask her to provide a natural consequence such as staying in after school. Ask her to make her displeasure noticeable. You want the consequence to come from her and for him to feel the embarrassment of letting her down. It’s the teacher and class that he has disrupted by being late and it’s from her that you want him to learn his first lesson, that being late irritates people. It’s one lesson of many that he’ll learn as he grows and each one is important.
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Hope that helps. All the best.