Seven thirty Monday morning, and all of us are enjoying the last day of lazy wake ups, and watching cartoons before school goes back tomorrow. There’s all sorts of mixed emotions about it here. Taylah and Bridie are about as excited as a person can be. I’m happy because I know it will make this week go much faster which means Boatman will be home sooner. Ava is completely indifferent, and BJ is quite sure the entire world is about to implode.
Now his reasons are few yet varied, but honestly none of that actually matters. Unless I’m willing to homeschool, (which at this point, definitely not), he has to go to school. It’s the law. He’s five and a half, more than ready and despite his great protestations that he doesn’t like school, I know he does when he gets there.
(Just quickly; I am talking about a stubborn little boy here with no other behaviour considerations or learning difficulties. I’ve got no experience in that area, and if that’s your child, you may need a completely different approach. Xx)
Now I’ve done all the things a parent should do when a child is unsure; we’ve been to the school (a hundred times), met the teacher, talked through his fears and concerns and talked about his friends. And every single time I have done any of these things I have been met with extreme resistance and reasons as to why I’m wrong.
Can I just take this moment to say how exhausting it is to try and be upbeat with someone who is convinced the sky is falling? And that not only is the glass well and trike half empty, but also likely to NEVER EVER, be filled EVER again!!
It wears you down.
Now if I was a parent whose main concern was my child’s happiness, no doubt I myself would be a basket case right now. Thankfully though, I’m not; I’m all for happiness of course but not at any cost. And from experience, I’ve learnt that in life you rarely grow through the easy, happy times, but always through the challenges.
To me then, the job becomes getting him to conquer this mountain when he just really wants to avoid it; not an easy task at all.
So how does one deal with an extremely negative, melancholy child determined to not do what is necessary?
Well this is what I’ve been doing:
1. Talk through the fear. It’s real it’s not imagined, and it needs to be acknowledged.
2. Be positive but realistic. Don’t set them up with false hope or exaggerate the goodness of things. That’s only going to make it hard for them to trust you in the future. The melancholy personality is often a little skeptical anyway, so if you oversell you’re making things worse for the future.
3. Be clear about expectations. Somethings we don’t need to ask our kids to do until they are ready; others, like this, they don’t get a choice about. Explain that there is no choice here about going, however they can choose the attitude with which they will go. I’ve explained to BJ more than once that tomorrow he WILL be going to school. He can go happy or grumpy but he still has to go, and happy is so much better.
4. Be positive. It’s hard when they are so negative, but remaining upbeat and positive really does help. And don’t forget, you’re talking about a child that you have a relationship with, and who has learnt to trust you. So long as you’re not over-exaggerating on a regular basis, they will know that when you say it’s ok, it actually is.
5. Reward attitude. It can be easy to think ‘yay you do it’ and reward that, which can, in some cases be a good and necessary thing, but in the long run, attitude is your main concern. I can tell a five year to ‘chin up’ and make him go, but if I don’t help him decide to change his attitude, in ten years I have no hope. The challenge here is not the actual ‘going’ to school. It is making the decision to believe that when he gets there, it’s actually going to be ok.
It’s always the attitude that counts.
6. Expect the best. Kids really do rise to our expectations, and if we are fearful and concerned about their coping ability, they pick up on it. Instead choose to believe that you are doing the best for your child, and that they can and will thrive, and even better, can do it with great joy.
What tips do you have for helping them achieve things they don’t think that they can?