Nayana Chakrabarti, Parenting and Education Editor
Ok, so I have a confession. I love Reels. I don’t get them. I can’t make them but I can waste hours on them. It saves me from doom scrolling and I can just pretend that my life, just like everyone else’s will one day make for a great #bongolabongochachacha challenge.
Now, amidst all the transitions, the outfit changes and Justin Bieber singing ‘Peaches’ in an incessant loop, I found something that really resonated. The Reel consisted of a creator pretending to be a mother waking up her children. As she leaves, she calls out ‘Oh yeah and dinner is in 12 hours”. I laughed out loud. As they say on the screens, I felt seen. This woman could have been me and those kids could have been mine.
For awhile now, I’ve noticed that my children – unlike me – are creatures of habit, they like and crave routine. Routine bores me and yet I am most productive when I have one. Like most people around the world, I’ve had a lot on my plate recently and I’ve been researching some strategies to help us – the kids, the husband, and me – to self-regulate so that we become better at managing transitions, switching from one activity to another.
As a teacher, I do have some tricks up my sleeve. When I work with kindergarteners, I like to do a countdown, a silent countdown (to kick things up), clapping and rhymes. But as every teacher knows, we are far, far more patient with other people’s children then we are with our own. I also don’t really fancy my children chanting and clapping back at me when I am home. It’s nice to have a work-life balance and also, having a 10-year old chant ‘Hocus Pocus Everybody Focus’ isn’t really going to fly…I felt like I needed to learn ways to get everyone to self-regulate, manage transitions and behaviour at home. These are, as ever, field notes from #amuminprogress.
So, at home, what can we do? Here are the three things I am doing at the moment and some of the things I’d like to do in the near future.
1. Timing. Is. Everything
While transitioning from one activity to another, give apt time, space and warning. If your children are watching TV but you need them to switch it off and do something else, don’t just switch it off. Imagine how you would feel if someone did that to you. It would be irritating right? Give your child some time to process. “In 15 minutes, I’m going to ask you to…In 5 minutes…Okay, this is your 2 minute warning…” Believe me, it works. The other trick I like to use is have them switch it off themselves. The same is true for waking up, bedtimes and even getting ready for school.
2. Creatures of Habit
Children are creatures of habit and nothing quite works like a routine. Recently, I put together a visual routine for the four-nado and it’s been a revelation. She loves to fold up each tab on her routine card and derives a lot of pleasure from having ‘finished’ something. She’s begun to arrange her clothes for kindergarten the night before, by herself. The sense of controlled independence – as oxymoronic as that phrasing may be – allows children to feel like they have control over their own lives and that their choices matter. Learning how to look after yourself, listening to your body’s needs and responding to them appropriately is, after all, self-care.
3. Motivation and Positive Reinforcement
The jury is out on sticker charts. There’s been a lot of research to suggest that stickers are external forms of motivation and as such, not sustainable or motivating in the long run. We need to be working towards intrinsic motivation, when our children are motivated to do something in and for themselves rather than for external benefits and rewards.
However, positive reinforcement can help with this. Sometimes, the negative behaviors that we see are due to children simply wanting attention. They figure out that the best way to get attention is to act up; negative attention is better than no attention. Thus, if we can praise the effort and offer positive reinforcement, we can encourage the behaviour without emphasising the activity. For example, offer positive reinforcement for effort: “I’m so proud of you for trying so hard” rather than “Brilliant colouring”; “Your effort is really paying off” rather than “Good boy/girl”.
I hope you find these field notes helpful. How do you encourage positive transitions and self-regulating behaviour? Do share with us because we would love to know. Your tips and tricks might just help someone navigate a sticky phase!
Are you enjoying our content? We would love to hear your opinions in the comments sections. Stay tuned for our April posts, cuz spring is finally here. We will continue to talk about body positivity, health, home and lifestyle, happiness, ex-pat, and travel tips.
To read posts from March, click here