I like to know my schedule ahead of time so I can prepare myself physically and mentally for the day ahead. Children need the same thing. This applies to the schedule of the day or the schedule of the next five minutes. Have you ever tried to take your child away from an activity he’s doing because you want him to eat dinner or take a bath? Sometimes he’s fine; other times, it turns into a screaming tantrum.
Yesterday, M was working with her farm animals. It was time for dinner, so I took the cow out of her hands without thinking and she started screaming. I should’ve known better! So I gave the cow back to her and said, “Okay, you can play with it for a little longer and then we are going to eat dinner.” She repeats, “A little longer.” Two minutes later, I gave her a second reminder, “Okay, we are going to eat dinner in two more minutes. In two minutes, you can put away the farm animals or I will put it away for you. You can choose which one.” After two minutes go by, I said, “It’s time to put the farm animals away.” She didn’t respond, so I stuck out my hand (rather than grab it) and asked her, “Do you want to put it away yourself or do you want me to help you put it away?“ She said, “By myself.” And then she puts it away and joins everyone for dinner.
When you give this level of preparation, and follow through consistently on your word, then your children know that they have some control over the situation (because you gave them choices) but Mom means what she says. On days they still resist, it will be a whiny resistance that lasts for a short period of time, as opposed to the high-pitched screaming you might have to endure for a long time if you force the change on them. When children feel like they have REAL CHOICES, they are much more likely to work WITH you, rather than against you.
Happy New Year!