Posted by Katie Robinson in Articles on Tue, Feb 7, 2012
Mom: Sweetheart it’s time to go to the grocery store. We’ve got to pick up some things for dinner.
Daughter: I can’t find my new book!
Mom: Where did you have it last?
Daughter: Upstairs, or in the den? I can’t remember.
Mom: Well let’s take a look.
30 minutes later the book has been found, but Mom realizes that now she doesn’t have time to go to the store before dinner and she’s missing some key ingredients…
Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this? You’ve asked your child to do something or told them that it’s time to move on to another activity and they do not respond directly, but instead seem to change the subject. This is the time when kids ask questions or try to have conversations with you about anything other than what they are supposed to be doing.
Changing the subject when trying to avoid a task is a very natural reaction for children to have when faced with a possibly unpleasant situation. We’ve all done this before. It’s called procrastination. But unlike children, adults don’t have other adults telling them what to do most of the time. So we can procrastinate without anyone knowing it. Kids on the other hand almost have to be “disobedient” in order to get away with procrastination or avoidance. It can be much more obvious when kids are trying to avoid something, if adults can recognize it. I’d wager that the daughter who is looking for her book is also looking for a way to avoid going to the grocery store with her mom.
So, what can parents do?
1. Recognize that you are being blown off course
If you easily get distracted from your own responsibilities by other people (including your children), then you should first work on realizing when you’re being lead astray. This is true even when you yourself are doing it or if the other person doesn’t mean to do it. If you have a goal to meet and have trouble meeting it, then take a look at your “distractability factor.”
2. Decide if it’s all right to be blown off course or not
For lots of small situations, it’s wonderful to get pulled into something else. If you were going to sew a button onto a shirt and your child comes in looking for help or some company, it’s no problem to put that chore aside and hang out. You need to ascertain if the task you’re looking to accomplish is able to be given up or put off.
3. Be stubborn if you need to get something done
If your child is getting to sleep later than you’d like because they’re effectively pulling you off course every night, then set a time that you’d like them to be in bed and for a couple of nights, do everything with that goal in mind. When they say, “Look over there!”, you can say, “Are your teeth brushed?” It takes some stubbornness, but if you help to remind them of the task at hand, then they’ll have a harder time forgetting about it (or working around it) themselves.
4. Don’t forget to encourage and praise when your child keeps themselves on track
Once they realize that you’re not going to let something slip through the cracks and they start performing tasks or going to the store with you with less attempts at distraction, reward them with your praise! Or you could even reward them with extra time at doing something that they like to do since time won’t be as wasted avoiding things! Helping your kids get the less fun stuff out of the way so that they’ll have time for more fun stuff is an awesome way to teach responsibility.
So while I don’t always think that a “stay the course” mentality is the best way to achieve things, in some cases, it is. Don’t get blown off track!
About Katie Robinson
Katie Robinson began her foray into behavior management long before she knew what it was called. Growing up with a younger brother with special behavioral and emotional needs was her first taste of the hard work that it takes to be successful at managing behaviors. With a career that spans teaching middle school special needs students and behavioral one-on-one support, Katie's diverse experiences have led her to her newest venture: BW Kids Consulting.BW Kids Consulting is a ‘Supernanny’ style adventure where Katie works with parents to enable them to help their kids be their best selves. Check out her blog, Kid Whisperer!