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August 28, 2012

Back to School Blues-Part 2

Image: Flickr/John Watson

Image: Flickr/John Watson

In honor of the most wonderful time of the year – back to school, we are continuing our series entitled “Back to School Blues.”  In this series, Kelvin Teamer, ScreamFree Institute Fellow teams up with one of our ScreamFree Certified Leaders, Jessica McKeown to help parents learn how to navigate their way through the minefield of emotions that typically come with this annual rite of passage.  Jessica and her husband live in Fairbanks, Alaska where she works as a Parent Educator.

The “Throw Down”
Has anyone out there ever had a “throw down” with his/her child? Those are the gauntlet tossing invitations for battle that our kids periodically place at our feet. When these invitations are accepted by parents, particularly at the beginning of the school year, it results in a battle of that may sound something like this:
Child: Mom! I don’t want to eat in the cafeteria. That food is gross! I hate my Barbie lunch box. I’m in third grade now! That’s for babies!
Mom: Well, what do you want me to do about it? School starts tomorrow and I have to pack your lunch because you refuse to eat in the cafeteria. I can’t believe you are waiting until the last minute to tell me you need a new lunch box! We’ll go to Target after school to get you a new one.
Did you notice the gauntlets that were thrown down by the child? First, she suggests to mom that she doesn’t want to eat in the cafeteria (gauntlet #1). This prompts mom to jump in and solve that particular problem by fixing her lunch (picking up gauntlet #1).  Notice that mom says that,“I have to pack your lunch.”  This statement is then followed up with the throwing down of another gauntlet – that of her desire not to carry the Barbie lunchbox (gauntlet #2). How does mom respond? By picking up the gauntlet, yet again. 
By not picking up those gauntlets, the conversation could have gone a lot like this:
Child:  Mom! I hate my Barbie lunch box. I’m in third grade now! That’s for babies!
Mom:  Bummer! Since tomorrow is the first day of school, it looks like you’ll either have to pack your own lunch in your Barbie lunch box or eat cafeteria food for lunch. What are you going to do?
Mom put the problem back on to her child, enabling the child to make a decision. The child was presented with a choice, carry the lunch box or eat in the cafeteria. Both are reasonable options, the child just has to choose. Neither option is going to make a lasting, negative impression on the child; to her ego or to her digestive system. What is going to make a lasting impression is giving her choices, which will build independent thinking. Mom’s calmness about the situation will also make a lasting impression.  With a calm approach, Mom communicates to the child that she will not take the bait thereby throwing the gauntlet(s) away.
What gauntlets have already been thrown down by your child(ren)? How did you respond? Did you pick it up or leave it on the ground? We want to know!

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