It has been hard for my three-year-old son to get dressed in the morning lately. Like me, it’s hard for him to hop right out of bed and be ready to face the world. We tried letting him take some time in his jammies and pull-up after getting out of bed, but we didn’t like the idea of him staying in the wet pull-up. In addition, sometimes he would…well…leak. If we tried to force the issue and physically wrestle him out of his pajamas and into his daytime outfit, it resulted in a lot of crying, which is no way to start the morning. Besides that, I know that the conflict reinforces a brain pathway of resistance, negativity, and uncooperativeness. That’s not the kind of emotion I want to download.
My son really likes stories, especially if I make them up. I decided one morning that I didn’t want to fight. I lay down beside him in the bed and started a story about a bear cub who went salmon fishing in the morning but forgot to take off his jammies. The cub couldn’t figure out why all the fish were swimming away from him, and then he realized his jammies were too bright. He needed to change so he could catch some fish, and he was sooooo hungry. Then I asked my son if he could help the cub. I told him that if he got dressed, then the cub would be dressed and he could get some fish. At first my son said, “No. I want you to finish the story.” I told him I couldn’t, because the cub was stuck with his jammies on. My son had to help him!!
In the end, he got dressed to help the cub, and I finished the story. The whole ordeal probably wasn’t any slower than the wrestling-match approach, and I was able to follow it up by downloading a lot of positives emotions into his heart by telling him how helpful it was to me when he cooperated. I pointed out how much faster and more fun it was too. This doesn’t just reinforce cooperation with getting dressed. It reinforces confidence, competence, and social interest. Social interest is an Adlerian term referring to our desire to connect with and help others. For more about parent coaching visit http://www.fiddlehouse.com.