5 minute warning

Picture it: You are sailing in the ocean on your pirate ship, catching huge child-sized marlin as you go, just about to reach the treasure chest that is buried on the abandoned island and…Mum calls out “Bath time, come inside please.” Imagine the battle raging in a child’s heart between the desire to continue on with the game, to just find that treasure first, to whine, complain, tantrum and otherwise fail to display obedience in this situation and the moral requirement to obey.  When we put our children into this kind of siuation we set them up for failure.

Think about what it’s like as an adult to be in the middle of a project, or just about finished with something you are working on and to be called away. Frustrating!!

There are times when a child just needs to obey without a warning; first time, straight away, when Mum gives the instruction. Much of the time however, we can prepare their hearts to obey with a simple warning of the instruction about to come. Once the instruction is given, obedience is expected: immediately, first time, without complaining.

It may sound something like this:

Mum: “Pirates.”

Pirates: “Yes Mum?”

Mum: “In 5 minutes I’ll be asking you to put your ship away and come inside for a shower.”

Pirates: “Yes Mum.”

Mum (5 minutes later): “Pirates, put your ship away now and come inside please.”

Pirates: “Yes Mum”

The pirates have had time to find their treasure and prepare themselves to obey and the struggle that may otherwise have taken place inside the children has been much reduced. When a child hears themselves agree to obey, they are much more likely to follow through and actually obey.

Counting after an instruction has been given and ignored simply trains your child that obedience is not expected until the third or fourth repeat of the instruction or at “3” which is when Mum or Dad now actually require obedience. If your child can obey at “3” why not train them to obey when the instruction is given for the first time. It may even save their life one day.

The idea of giving a 5 minute warning comes from the book “On becoming Childwise”, available here.

On Becoming Childwise: Parenting Your Child from 3 to 7 Years

Advertisements

Routines: Highchair time

Do you want your baby or toddler to be able to sit and focus for an extended length of time? Do you want them to be able to sit and wait patiently during an unexpected delay in a public situation? Do you want time to tidy up the kitchen after meals, clear and wipe down the table and move to the next activity of the day without leaving a trail of devastation that needs to be cleaned up later?

Like all behaviours and character traits, we must actively work to build patience and concentration in our children. Highchair time is a practical way to achieve this goal with our little ones. It is easy to consistently implement and work into the daily routine without having to change much at all.

After each meal is finished, simply wipe up your child and hand them a book to read or small toy to play with. Around 20 minutes is a good time to aim for and if put into place after breakfast, lunch and dinner, gives you three daily training periods to work on these skills.

Initially, your little one may not be thrilled with Mum’s new plan and a common response will be to cry, complain, whine, throw the books and toys down and other such behaviours. If you ignore this kind of behaviour and simply go about cleaning up the kitchen, you will find that over the next few days, your child will be showing great strides towards happily sitting and concentrating on whatever it is you have chosen to give them.

If you pick up toys that are thrown down, then a very amusing game of fetch will be instigated. You may leave a child for 5 minutes and then return a dropped toy, instructing them that they need to stay in the highchair until Mummy is ready to get them down. If it is dropped again, leave it there. They will soon come to the conclusion that it is better to have something to do than nothing at all and keep what they have been given.

You may need 3 or 4 little toys or books and change them over every 5 minutes or so to keep their interest,  however this should be in Mum’s timing, not the child’s.

If you have heard about the 4 personality types, you will know that a choleric child loves to be in charge. A lot of the battles you have throughout the day and at bedtime with any child, particularly the choleric child, will be eliminated by instigating a parent led routine throughout the day, rather than allowing your young child to plan their own day or giving them large blocks of free time to fill.

An excellent resource for routine planning is Terrific Toddlers by Mel Hayde. It is my “must have” toddler and young child training book and I have gone back to it over and over. It is an easy read but is full of wisdom and excellent advice that will enable you to love the toddler years and eliminate the “terrible two” syndrome that everyone talks about. I will be posting ideas of activities to give your little one during highchair time over the next couple of days.

Moving to a big bed – managing your morning routine

The age at which children transition from a cot to their big bed is up to the parents. Some start as early as 12 months, others wait until much later. I found around 2 years of age to be a good time, mostly as there were other babies on the way who would be requiring the cot! Don’t wait until a new baby has been born to suddenly make this big transition – have it all organised and any kinks worked through well and truly before bub arrives. This also prevents any resentment associated with the baby taking MY cot.

If your child is already trained to obedience during the day and will stay to play where you tell them, then you shouldn’t have too many hassles with them getting out of bed when they shouldn’t. If your child will not obey you during the day and stay where they are told, then it’s very likely that they will not obey you at night or in the morning either. Do this training first by implementing mat times, highchair times, playpen times and other obedience training during the day while everyone is much more able to deal with it in a calm and consistent manner. Be aware that almost all children will test your resolve a couple of times just to see what happens so be prepared and have appropriate strategies for dealing with children out of bed when they shouldn’t be – the FIRST time it happens.

Think about what you want the morning to look like. Will he be able to get out? Can she independently turn on a light and read books or access a few toys from a basket next to the bed? What is your goal for a morning routine that suits you now and in the long run?

While our children are still in a cot, we put books, teddy and a few small toys at the end after they have gone to sleep. To begin with, at the first peep in the morning we dash in, saying “Well done for staying quiet, now read and play quietly until we come and get you.” Initially they are left for very short times so that they can be successful and praised for their quiet time. This time is increased as they became used to the routine.

We wanted this time to be quiet as there were other siblings who we didn’t want woken up and in the long term, siblings may be sharing bedrooms. I also personally don’t like the idea of children being up and about without supervision. I trusted them not to do anything deliberately dangerous or destructive, but what if they wanted to be helpful and tried to make Mum a cup of tea with boiling water? Not much can go wrong if you are reading in bed! After this training is in place we stop going in to remind them and let them start reading and playing quietly themselves.

As children became older and closer to the move to their big beds, we transition to books only in the cot, rather than toys. This also leads to a long term love of books which is something we want to cultivate in our family. Once the change to a big bed is made, the exact same morning routine is used and we found that they never really thought of getting up and wandering about in the morning as they already knew what they were expected to do.

Parents will often ask how the child knows it’s time to start reading, particularly those whose children’s bedrooms are completely dark in the morning. Some strategies are:

Child turns light on and helps themselves to books next to their bed whenever they wake (I don’t like this as most children go through phases where they wake WAY TOO EARLY and if left laying down in the dark would quite possibly fall back to sleep.)

  • Soft music alarm, bunny clock or colour change clock that signals when it is time for lights on
  • Mum or dad comes in every morning to say it’s time to get up
  • Pin a paper clock next to their own analogue clock with the hands at the time they are allowed to rise.
  • Tape over the minute numbers on a digital clock and write the number the hour must match before they may turn on the light (or teach them to read it properly if you want wake up times to be half past the hour.)

It’s nice to build some excitement around the big move and get children really wanting to do it. Maybe they can come shopping for their new big boy/girl sheets, pillow, doona etc and help choose (Between an appropriate selection you pick out!) We were able to have the bed all set up in their new rooms (as each time has involved a room change as well as a bed change) a couple of weeks before they were “allowed” to sleep in it – you could do it in the same room if you have enough space. By the time we were ready for them to move, they were practically begging to be able to go in it. Each time they asked we’d recite all the rules and say they had to wait until they were responsible enough, big enough etc. to which they would be eagerly saying I will, I can, I won’t get out of bed and on and on until we finally said the grand day had arrived.

They also showed every family member and visitor the bed and we primed them to be really excited and talk about what a big boy/girl they are to be able to sleep in a big bed, ask when they were going to move to their new big girl room, what are the rules? etc.

If your child is a very mobile sleeper a bed rail may be a good idea or at least a mattress on the floor. We have borrowed rails but they make it difficult to sit and read to children on the bed so we get rid of them as soon as possible. Most of our children move around a lot in the cot but in a bed press themselves up against the wall and stay there – security maybe? One of our daughters on the other hand fell off repeatedly which we put down to the fact that it was summer and she wasn’t able to be tucked in under tight bedclothes – she kept getting out and laying on top them, rolling about and dropping off night after night. We had to go and borrow a rail again and needed it for about 6 months before we took it off and she was fine.

Another trick to stop falling out is to tuck a large towel or similar in a roll along the outside edge of the bed to tilt the mattress back with the slope down towards the wall side. Also, putting the top sheet on sideways so children are securely tucked in seems to stop them rolling towards the outer edge. (Children’s feet don’t go anywhere near the bottom of the bed anyway.)

All in all, the key is in the daytime training and consistent parenting throughout the entire day, not just at bedtime. Usually children love the idea of a big bed and with a little training and preparation, so will you!