Peacefully Handling a Child Being Uncooperative


Is it obvious that I totally tried to make a P.C. title to this post?

Parenting is the hardest job I’ve ever had.  Sure, that might not be the case for every single mother on this earth.  But for those mothers who try hard every single day to raise a decent, loving, intelligent, open-minded human being, it is the hardest job ever!

It’s also the most wonderful job I have, truly.

However, I’d be embarrassed and ashamed if people knew how many times I’ve stumbled as a mother.  I try to do the best I can, but the thing is, I’m human, too, and therefore fallible and imperfect.

My daughter is what many refer to as “spirited” – a term used in the book “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka – a child who is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and energetic than an average child.  It can be a challenge to raise such a child with your wits intact.

An issue I want to discuss is dealing with an uncooperative child.  A more specific example of this issue is getting ready on school mornings.  On a typical morning, I do my makeup, get dressed, feed the dogs, pack my breakfast and lunch, pack my daughter’s breakfast and lunch, and pack my bags for the day.  We have to leave home around 7:30 a.m. so I can get my daughter to school on time (and no, her riding the bus to save time isn’t an option).

In the morning, my daughter is responsible for dressing in her school uniform and shoes, and brushing her teeth and hair.  For years, I’ve had issues with it taking 45 minutes or more for her to accomplish these things, usually with my constant reminders to put on a shirt, or put on shoes, etc. Mornings were frequently stressed because we are always running late for school.  It is an absolute heartbreak for she and I to start our day stressed and mad at each other.

I’ve tried arguing.  I’ve tried yelling.  I’ve tried being calm and sweet.  I’ve tried rationally explaining my cause. I’ve tried emotional teary appeals. I’ve tried rewards.  I’ve tried a fun chore chart.  I’ve even tried explaining truancy. Nothing worked.

At my wits end, I really snapped one day when my mother happened to be babysitting (my daughter’s school was out for the day).  I had said I was tired of my daughter not listening in the mornings.  My mom talked to me and ultimately, gave me a solution:

No arguing, no yelling, consequence based cause-and-effect.  And absolute follow-through.  I took this approach over a month ago, and only had to warn of it twice – and it has worked better than anything else so far.

The first morning I employed this tactic, she was being slow as usual.  She sings, plays with the dogs, or just goofs off.  In a nutshell, I said, “We need to leave in 20 minutes.  If you aren’t ready to leave the house, you will go as you are, even if you aren’t wearing your shoes.  You’ll have to go like that.”

Her response?  Tears, telling me I was mean…you get the idea.  I looked firm on the outside, but on the inside, I felt horrible.  I didn’t let her know that.  All that morning, she sulked and acted as though something really terrible had happened, but she got ready on time without much incident.

Later that day I told my mom how she reacted, and thankfully my mom told me I had done right.  She said most likely my daughter had gotten upset because up until that morning, she knew how things worked.  She could be slow and not get ready on time, and mom would get upset or yell to hurry up.  That’s it.  No big surprise.

When I “changed the game’, there was no yelling or anything – just “get ready or go as you are, no exceptions”.  That was new and she didn’t know how to “play” that call.

A morning or two later, I had to use this warning again.  Get ready on time or you will have to leave the house unprepared and/or undressed.  She got pretty upset again and even said grandma was mean for being on my side, but she got ready.

So far, a few weeks later, I have had far less issues with her getting ready in the morning.  Typically, it’s as easy as firmly but gently reminding her, “get ready” or “we have to leave in 15 minutes” or some variation of that, and she is on task again.

Would I follow through if she didn’t get ready?  Yes.  Because if it happened once and she had to go to school without socks or her backpack, I think it would be the only hard lesson she would need.  I’d be willing to follow through and explain to her teacher so that she understood what happened.

As of yet, I haven’t had to follow-through, except one day when she couldn’t find her sneakers and I made her walk outside onto the porch in just her socks.  She was very upset with herself but didn’t act upset with me.  Unfortunately it was pouring rain and luckily the sneakers were in the car, so I was able to grab them and tell her to put them on while sitting on the porch.  That was a close call for her and she saw that I was willing to let her suffer the consequences.

I think this exercise has taught her self-accountability and responsibility.  It has helped so much but I’ve had to be willing to follow-through.  In the end, it has made our mornings SO much nicer and easier.

How do you peacefully handle tough parenting situations?

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