To Get the Kid to Move, Walk Out the Door
There is an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond in which Ray recalls the effective parenting method he learned from his father: AIS. Ass in the seat. He said: “We are leaving. 9 o’clock, AIS! ”And the one who was not in his place at the appointed time will be left behind. Kicker? Ray tries it on on Debra, his wife. Moral: don’t try to do it on your wife. (Also, yes, I’ve watched Everybody Loves Raymond a lot before – don’t hate.)
I’m not saying that my parent hero is Frank Baron, but there is something inspiring about this classic but seemingly lost practice of simple movement and expecting your kids to do the same. In the mornings, when I tell my 5-year-old daughter to change for school, she does what she pretends to have broken arms and legs. It’s not cute.
“ Do it,” I commanded my mother’s stern voice (which is almost as dangerous as a fawn with a sprained ankle).
“Can you do me ?” she will ask.
I needed to be in some place five minutes ago, and I resorted to different tactics. I made tables with stickers. I tried to give her some energy with the songs “get ready” on my phone. I put imitation coins into her “robot” body to activate it. (I’m kind of proud of this one, TBH.) And in desperate times, I dressed it up as fucking myself and later felt annoyed about it.
I recently came across some advice from Katherine Reynolds Lewis, author of a new book for parents , Good News About Bad Behavior: Why Children Are Less Disciplined Than Ever – And What To Do About It . She says that if your young child resists the morning routine (or in some other way), go out the door. Don’t shout, don’t grumble, don’t threaten. Just walk out the door, stand outside and wait. Stand there for five or 10 minutes, or as long as it takes your child to start moving. And if they are older and you have lived up to your expectations, you can leave.
It reminded me of a crappy sitcom and then made me think, I can just do this, huh? Come out the door. Then I wondered if everyone does this ? Based on how much space in the parenting realm was reserved for the Morning Struggle, I would venture to say no. But maybe we should. I decided to give it a try.
When my daughter found herself helpless again in the face of everyday clothes, I calmly told her that I would wait outside. And then I went out through her bedroom door and then through the front door. She lamented. I was waiting.
“ Moooooooooom, I need heeeeeeeelp ,” she exclaimed.
I waited a little longer. A couple of minutes later, when she realized that no one was following her, she grabbed her clothes and socks, moved like a worm along the corridor, and then finally dressed in the entrance, whining all the time. The next day she did the same, but complained a little less. And the next day after that, I told her to get dressed, and when I walked to the front door, she did it. It was a morning miracle.
When I spoke to Lewis about why this method works, she told me that it removes you, the parent, from the problem – and in this case, it’s the fact that your child has to follow a timeline. “The child just needs to solve the problem,” says Lewis. “They want to drag you into their drama, but you get rid of this confusion.”
By giving your child some control (he loves control), he can focus on the natural consequences of his behavior – for example, if he is late for school, he may interrupt the lesson and feel a little embarrassed, or maybe miss something important. This teaches a stronger lesson than unrelated punishment from a frustrated parent. “Now they don’t get mad at you and can learn,” says Lewis.
Ever since two of her own children were in second and fourth grades, Lewis has been using the Ass in the Seat Rule – although she doesn’t name it – telling them they have until X to be ready in the morning or the car will leave. … … If one child is willing to leave and the other is not, she says it is unfair to a child who is willing to wait and be late. “The key is planning,” she says. “We discussed what to do if the car left – take the city bus or walk to school.” This is what they have done together as a family many times, so she knows they can handle it.
“When you do this, you have to have some kind of fake until you get your mentality,” says Lewis. Inside, you may not know if it will work, if your kids are about to pull up and take on the challenge. I didn’t know if my child was going to follow me out the door or say, “No, I’m cool here in my room,” and start painting his nails while I stood outside and waited like a fool all day. Maybe one day it will happen. But the confidence you present matters.
Lewis says, “You act like you’re acting like your child is going to follow the program, even if he’s never done it. When you live with the belief that this will happen, your attitude can truly change the dynamics. ”
It takes faith, Lewis said, just like any decision you make as a parent. Here, the jump starts with confidence and the twist of the doorknob.