The other day I received and email from one of the parents I work with who wanted to share the details of a recent incident. I was so happy that he did because I think the story exemplifies many things. First, it is a testament to how hard parents work to keep their children moving forward despite the many bumps in the road and often daily struggles. Second, it is a wonderful example of the effectiveness of deftly combining love, empathy and patience without abandoning high expectations. Finally, it is a reminder that sometimes slow and steady does indeed with the race. Bravo to this father and all the other parents out there who strive to do this every day! With his permission, here is his story:
Last night Allison slept well and woke up without any issues. When I asked her to get ready for camp, she was pleasant and started getting herself dressed. But as the time came for us to move from our rooms towards the downstairs, I noticed that she had stopped dressing. Allison then told me that she “wasn’t going to camp today”. So I said, “You like camp” but she said, “No, I don’t, we have to do too many crafts”. I let her take some time to do one of her favorite activities, playing with the dog, and then simply asked if we could move downstairs. I just wanted to get her closer to the front door and into her normal routine hoping that things would just fall in place.
Next she tried to turn on the laptop but I told her there wasn’t time and she was OK with that. When I asked her to grab her lunch again she said she wasn’t leaving and said it was better for her to stick to her plan and just stay home.
I asked Allison if it was about the bus, or anything with the other kids, and she said “No”. I gave her a hug and said “I love you” to which she responded, “Thank you but that won’t make me want to go to camp”. I told her that I love her no matter what and reminded her about some of the things she does like about camp. She again said, “I don’t like all of the crafts we do. It’s too messy and I need to keep clean”. I tried to tell her she could wash her hands there and change as soon as she gets home but she still said “No”.
That’s when I came up with the idea of telling her we still needed to go to the bus stop to tell the driver she wasn’t going so that he wouldn’t have to wait, which wasn’t fair to the other kids. Allison tried to interrupt me as I was saying that, but when I said that if she didn’t want to go to camp she needed to do this she listened and went to get her lunch. We went to the car without any further resistance.
The drive to the bus stop is less than 5 minutes, but I wanted to use it to try convince Allison to go to camp. So I didn’t say anything more about camp itself, but asked her if she wanted mints and she said, "No"
. I took out a pack of mints anyway and handed one to her. She took it.
When we arrived at the bus stop I pulled beside the bus as I normally do, hoping she would just go, but she sat. So I asked if she wanted to go and have me pick her up instead of taking the bus. She said “No”, so then I asked if she wanted to go just for free swim, which is her favorite activity of the day. She said that she didn’t think the camp would allow me to pick her up early, and I told her I could call and get permission. She then said “OK”. I suggested she stay for lunch too and she agreed then got out and went to the bus without issue!
I should note that with everything above, Allison did not cry, become physical, threaten or name call at any point. She was actually pretty calm, but just insistent that she didn’t want to go, and a little bit whiny. I was actually pretty proud of how she handled it and adjusted to my suggestions. This was a big success for her!