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Ask Babs: Cooperation during the ''Morning Rush''

by Babs Hadjusiewicz August 06, 2015

Q: How can I help my toddlers cooperate when getting dressed in the mornings?

A: Cooperation from a toddler? ‘Tis a tall order. Fact is, this getting-dressed stuff is all about a parent’s need for task completion on a timetable. Unlike a parent, a toddler has zero respect for time and even less for any time-driven task that’s chosen by another.

Each new morning to a well-rested toddler represents an all-new opportunity to meet a developmental need for adventure! No patience for standing still for such silliness, like dressing. Toddler is all about the busy-busy business of exploring the environment, the busy-busy business of learning language and knowledge. You have interrupted Toddler’s busy-busy business!

But, you say, you need to stay on task, on schedule. What we have here is opposing needs and opposing feelings––elements for a perfect storm. So, how can you avoid that needs-and-feelings clash? How can you gain a little or a lot of cooperation?

This is the time––no pun intended––for you, the parent, to behave. Yes, behave. Behave because you have advance notice that there’s a riot in the making. How will you behave? Let’s see. There are several scenarios, all of which tend to take on one or the other of these looks:

• Riotous Ruckus™
You can use your increasingly-louder voice to present impatience, insistence, demands, anger, bribery, threats, or all of the above. As your needy behavior escalates, your needy toddler’s behavior is likely to follow suit. Each of you has feelings of disappointment and anxiety as your need gets disrupted. Yes. You, your child’s adult model, have invited a Riotous Ruckus.

• Cooperative Calm™
You use your quietly-calm-and-teasingly-teaching voice to play right into your toddler’s hand, to solicit cooperation. Ever-mindful of your toddler’s feelings and needs (age-developmental needs), you tease your child into this getting-dressed routine, turning the task itself into a teachable moment, one that meets your toddler’s need for adventure into “the land of” oral language development and knowledge of the world. And all the while, your child-centered strategies aim to meet your own need to move toward task completion. Here then, you, your child’s adult model, have invited a Cooperative Calm.

We know all-too-well how we can behave to bring on that riotous ruckus. So let’s just move right on to visit some ideas for how you might avoid a clash of feelings and needs. First, you’ll want to arm yourself with these five “Babs Says So” rules:
1) Your child wants to hear all that you say.
2) Your child cannot cry and listen at the same time.
3) Fun language grabs your child’s ears.
4) Repetition is the key to your child’s learning of language and knowledge.
5) Repetition is the key to transforming a crying child into a listening child.

Got those in mind? Okay, let’s explore ways to invite your toddler’s cooperation. These ideas will get you started, and you’ll want to adapt them to fit the situation and to fit your toddler’s and your styles:

• Recite any familiar nursery rhyme. Maintain your fun and calm voice as you repeat the recitation all the way through to task completion. Your child will listen and will join in.

•Sing any familiar nursery song. Maintain your fun and calm singing as you repeat the song all the way through to task completion. Your child will listen and will join in.

• Sing “This is the way we pull up your pants …” or sing to “Hokey-Pokey Song, sing “We put your right arm in; we put your left arm in….” Maintain your fun and calm singing as you repeat the song or change up the lyrics, as appropriate, all the way through to task completion. Your child will listen and join in.

• Set a loud-ticking-type timer for however many minutes you think the task will take. Say to your child, “I wonder if we can get you all dressed before the timer dings.” Maintain your fun and calm voice as you repeat the sentence or change up the words, as appropriate, all the way through to task completion. Your child will listen and join in.

• Recite a familiar poem, such as “Dressing Up” by Ann Teplick (from Poetry Works! The First Verse by Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz):
I like wearing
High-heeled shoes!
I stand tall in long canoes.
But when I walk,
I wobble!
I tip!
Oh, gosh! I hope
That I don’t trip!

• Recite from any familiar book’s text. Maintain your fun and calm voice as you repeat the recitation all the way through to task completion. Your child will listen and join in. To build yours and your toddler’s familiarity with books, include in your read-alouds some fun books about clothing and getting dressed. Here are a few titles for starters: Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy White Carlstrom; Purple Coat by Amy Hest; Old Hat, New Hat by Stan and Janice Berenstain; Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothes by Judith Barrett; Marianna May and Nursey by Tomie de Paola.

• Ask, “Do you think we can get your right leg into these jeans before you can say hippopotamus? Oh, let’s see!” Maintain your fun and calm voice as you repeat the instructions, changing the fun word you’ll both say, all the way through to task completion. Your child will listen and want to be the leader in this game.

• Ask, “Think we can get this shirt, pants, shoes, and socks on you while we sing the ABC Song?” Maintain your fun and calm voice as you repeat the song all the way through to task completion. Your child will listen and join in.

• Take turns in this game. Say, “I will whisper lots of words while we get you all dressed. If you hear me whisper your name, you get to say your name in your outside voice. Ready?” Maintain your fun and calm voice as you repeat the game’s instructions and any words you think up all the way through to task completion. Your child will listen and want to be the leader in this game.

• Take turns in this game. Say, “Let’s play ‘I Spy’ while we get you dressed.” Maintain your fun and calm voice as you repeat the game all the way through to task completion. Your child will listen and want to be the leader in this game.

• Take turns in this game. Say, “While we are getting you dressed, let’s play a game. I’m thinking of something we will do today after we get you dressed. Ready to play?” Maintain your fun and calm voice as you repeat the game’s instructions and any ideas you think up all the way through to task completion. Your child will listen and want to be the leader in this game.

• Oh, and yet another way to avoid a Riotous Ruckus is to assess the need for clothes on a morning when, in fact, the two of you are not going anywhere!

Each of the above activities and games not only works to build your child’s oral language and knowledge as it helps you create Cooperative Calms; it also helps you learn which language and knowledge your child already knows . . . and which language and knowledge your child is eager to hear you model some more.

Many happy Cooperative Calms to you while expeditiously dressing!

Riotous Ruckus is a trademark of Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz.
Cooperative Calm is a trademark of Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz.

Copyright © 2015 Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz




Babs Hadjusiewicz
Babs Hadjusiewicz

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