How can I get my child to ‘Go with the flow’?”
When your child’s routine is interrupted and/or when transitions are imposed, he may become frustrated, resist, and/or demonstrate other challenging behavior (e.g., tantrums). Here are some suggestions to help your child make transitions and accept changes of routine:
- Your child’s reaction may be due to uncertainty or fear in response to a proposed new activity (e.g., going to a new house, a new school, a party where there are no familiar kids). Assure him that you will be there also, and talk about what to expect so the situation is not so “new” for him (e.g., discuss who will be there, what you will do, how long you will stay).
- Your child’s resistance may simply occur because he does not want to change the enjoyable or familiar routine, so make sure that he knows that this new situation is not something there is a choice about. If he knows that his negative behavior is not going to change the fact that the new activity is inevitable, hopefully, he will eventually begin to accept the transition.
- Give reminders that pleasantly “warn” your child about the upcoming transitions (e.g., “We will need to leave the park in 5 minutes/2 minnutes/1 minute”).
- Let your child help in some of the planning about the change or transition. If your child feels some control, there may be improved adjustment and acceptance (e.g., Let him choose clothes for a party, a gift for a child’s birthday party, games/coloring books for the ride to the new situation).
- Remember that when you “give in” to your child’s resistance by deciding not to follow through with the transition that you initially proposed, you undermine your own credibility/authority, and your child now has a great reason to resist your instructions next time. Of course, in the moment it is difficult to work through your child’s negative behavior and resistance of transitions, but in the long run, it is more difficult to “give in”.
- Whatever Supreme Being you happen to believe in, one thing is clear among all animals (including human animals). Parents are bigger and stronger than their offspring because sometimes we need to physically impose our will to get to a goal that the offspring may not fully appreciate or understand. For example, when it is time to go to the appointment with the pediatrician, it is time to shut off the television and go.