My darling nearly 4 year old (going onto 16) tested all my behaviour management strategies and theories I have learned over the years. With 12 years of behaviour management workshops and having read endless amounts of literature on the issue, I believe I can handle most any situation, especially in a classroom. However, my 4 year old has an inept ability to manage me and sees through most of my ‘strategies’. She finds loop holes or worse uses the strategies back on me.
This is how the incident occurred…
Miss nearly 4 wanted to ride her bike to the shops. This is a huge task as her sister Miss 2 will have to ride if big sister is riding. I automatically see all the risks associated with the ‘ride’ and say ‘No, it’s too hard for Mummy to do this, with just me. We will wait till Daddy is home and we can all go.*
* The ‘when, then’ statements. For example “when you put your shoes on, then we can go outside”. This strategy works well for a quick fix. It teaches your child that they need to do ‘A’ before ‘B’ can happen. It briefly states what is going to happen next. It should also be followed quickly with encouragement “Wow, you have really done a great job pulling on your shoes, now lets go outside”. However what the ‘when, then’ also teaches your child is how to bargain.
As you will soon hear how my Miss 4 uses it so well. “But Mummy we have gone for one ride, we can then take Daddy for a ride later.” After realising this strategy wasn’t having much success I went to offering choices.*
*The choice strategy gives the child the power to choose their path. For example, Which pair of shoes do you want to wear outside? (Only offer two choices). On a good day this could happen, “These ones mum” and they put them on.
“Miss nearly 4, we can take your scooters across the road or just go for a walk, because this is a safer way of us all going across the road to the park”.
“But Mummy riding my bike can be safe too, I can wear my helmet”.
This is where the next strategy comes in, Consequences*.
*There are consequences in everything we do. They can be broken down into natural, what will happen that is out of my control. For example we went outside with no shoes and it rained which then caused you to slip over or catch a cold. Or logical you went outside with no shoes on and stepped on some glass. As a way of children realising that all their choices or actions have consequences it is important to explain your decisions and what the consequences could be.
“I am worried that If I take you and your sister on the bikes that we would not be able to cross the road safely, which could mean that you could get hit by a car or that you will want to ride faster than your sister and I want be able to keep you safe and remind you when there is a road coming.”
“But Mummy I can hold onto the bikes and you can hold Miss 2’s hand and we can cross safely and I promise I will ride slowly.”
* She had answered all of my concerns with a logical thought process. She had risk assessed the situation and made me feel like I was over reacting.
So off we went on our bike ride. All was going very well until the natural consequences started to ‘kick’ in. Of course Miss 4 was started to get bored riding at her sister’s pace. We were on a nice flat stretch of path and the overwhelming sense of needing to feel the wind in her face took over her need to ‘listen’. So she took off as fast as her little legs and wheels would take her.
“Come back, you’re going too far away” But she was off! She had gone so far that I couldn’t see her. I panicked and ran with Miss 2 and her bike. Miss 2 caught onto my panic and started crying and needing to be picked up. I then was running with a screaming (16kg, 2 year old) and a radio flyer bike (sooo heavy). We ran until I could see the path end and the busy highway. I was so happy to see Miss 4’s bike thrown on the path and see her running, screaming and crying.
Yes, there had been a snake. She had ridden over it and it had reared up at her!!! We all learnt a lesson that day! What a great natural consequence. We are all thankful to be safe and sound and WISER.
MORAL OF THE STORY: EVEN WITH ALL THE TRAINING IN THE WORLD, LIFE STILL HAPPENS!!!!