Ask Dr Ken Resnick

The key to dealing with all these issues is what I call “pre-empting”

Pre-empting is explaining to your child in very simple and calm way what the options are, along with the consequences of each and getting them to agree to these consequences. Pre-empting is followed by giving them the opportunity to make the choice (good or bad) without judgment, staying calm, merely acting surprised if they make  “bad” choices. After this you follow through on the consequences you explained upfront to ensure your crediblity remains intact. Kids are like snifferdogs when it comes to capitulation.

Firstly, stay cool and calm. Then act surprised. Explain that he’s making a strange choice, but that he doesn’t have to eat his dinner if he doesn’t want to. Explain this means that he’s choosing to play in his room until it’s time to go to bed. That means no TV or devices or family time. If he later complains that he’s hungry, let him know that unfortunately the kitchen has closed, and for some strange reason he didn’t want to earlier. Don’t bang heads with him. Stay calm and make him aware that not eating was his choice.

I assure you that even if he goes to bed hungry he definitely won’t starve The next morning calmly ask him if he’s going to eat his supper or if he would rather play in his room and go to bed hungry again?

I can almost guarantee that he will eat supper that night. But, if for some reason he refuses, follow the same process. He’ll definitely eat the next night! Remember, the key is to stay calm and act surprised. No lengthy explanations are necessary. Keep the discussion short and sweet.

Often when I call my son to eat supper he refuses to eat, how do I deal with this?

Lecturing kids and trying to appeal to their moral sense doesn’t work. Make it clear not brushing teeth is his choice, and that every choice has a consequence. Without nagging, lecturing or veering off into a long discussion, calmly let him know that you can’t understand why he doesn’t want to brush his teeth. Then explain to him what this means in a relaxed manner.

Explain that babies don’t brush their teeth and that by not choosing to brush his teeth, it means he’d like to be a baby again, which is great because he’ll never have to brush his teeth ever again. However, he needs to understand that because babies eat baby food, play with rattles, go to bed after supper and don’t watch TV, if he chooses to be a baby, he is telling you that he doesn’t want to play with toys for a 4 year old, wants to eat baby food and doesn’t want to watch TV and wants go to bed straight after supper.

After you’ve explained ask him if he’d like to be a baby or if he’d like to be 4 years old? Give him a few minutes to decide, and then ask what his decision is. If he chooses to be a baby you must follow through with the consequences to ensure you remain credible. Offer him the baby food etc.

NB: The idea is never to  tease or humiliate your child i.e.. don’t call him a baby or any other names, always say he is choosing to be a baby.

The odds are that he’ll want to be 4 and brush his teeth with no fuss. Praise him for making a great choice.

My 4 year old never wants to brush his teeth and I tend to give him a lecture and try and reason with him but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Help!!!

If your child does this, pre-empt the situation the night before.

Let her know that if she doesn’t want to get dressed by herself in the morning, she doesn’t have to. Tell her that you know that her teacher would love to dress her, and that she can take her clothes in a bag to school, and that her teacher will dress her at school. Then ask her what she’s going to do. If she says that she’d like her teacher to dress her, accept that. She’s probably testing you. Stay calm and prepare the teacher for what might happen.

Chances are she will dress herself before school, thereby ending the stalemate. Remember your credibility is at stake. You must follow through with the pre-empted consequences.

My 5 year old daughter often does not want to get dressed for school and insists that I dress her. What do I do to stop this?

Ask Dr Ken

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