The following came during a question-and-answer session with Child Caring's Barbara Meltz, who will be answering your queries at 1 p.m. Monday on Boston.com:
Question. Hi Barbara, any advice for how to get an almost 10-year-old to get herself ready (for whatever) without constant reminders for, 'get dressed!', 'brush your teeth!', 'brush your hair!'? You get the picture.
LONGING FOR QUIET
Barbara Meltz: Dear longing for quiet, I guess it's safe to assume that these reminders sometimes become unpleasant? First, I would rule out any behavioral issue that might be making this hard for her; for instance, difficulty organizing herself. A tip-off would be if she has difficulty with these kinds of tasks at school. Assuming that isn't the case and that your expectations are within her reach, it's also reasonable to assume that she engages in this behavior because it gets her attention from you, even though its negative.
It's time to put the responsibility for getting ready squarely on her shoulders. She's old enough to assume it. Have a family meeting or a conversation where you lay it on the table. Be careful to make only "I" statements ("I get frustrated when you \ dawdle...") rather than "You" statements like, "Why can't you ....." Tell her you'd like her to assume full responsibility for getting ready ; does she think she can handle that?
If she can't, in what ways would she like you to help? In essence, draw up a contract that clearly outlines each person's responsibility. Perhaps she sets an alarm clock and wants you to look in on her one time to make sure she heard it, NOT to remind her to get up.
This should all be spelled out in the contract. The contract must also stipulate what happens if she is late: does it mean she misses the school bus? Then what happens? She has to walk to school? Does she know the way? Does she want to practice walking in once herself, just in case. These are details you need to work out with great seriousness.
Once she sees you are serious and especially if she once suffers a consequence, she'll be more likely to get with the program. The bottom line, of cousre, is that you must be willing to tolerate the consequences if she is late and not capitulate once you have agreed to consequences.
A few keys to making this work: that you lay it all out in matter-of-fact terms, without judgment; that you anticipate and make contingenices for any possible consequences good or bad you can both think of; that you do all this together so that she has input and doesn't feel as if you are, yet again, ruling over her. It's a process, to make this work, and it will take comittment. Be sure, of course, to heap praise along the way wherever appropriate.
Do you agree with Barbara's take? Have a thought of your own? Have your say in our comments section.
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