Many a child has discovered that hanging on to a parent and crying means that Mom or Dad stays longer in the morning. If this is how you leave your child each morning, the following suggestion will be of help to you.
Your child has discovered that if he cries and hangs onto your leg, he is rewarded by a longer goodbye in the morning. It is not pleasant for either one of you, but it has succeeded in getting you to play into your child’s behavior goal. Rather than spend any more time trying to soothe your child or ease him into his day, focus your energies on teaching him self reliance. When you take your child into his room, give him a hug and a kiss. Tell him, “I’ll see you tonight honey and you can tell me who you played with today.” Then walk out the door. If your child has a tendency to cling to you, put him into the arms of his teacher to prevent him from stopping you.
Stand outside of the closed classroom door if you like. Typically, children stop crying 5 to 10 minutes after their parents leave. In many cases, it stops almost immediately. The reason for this is that the tears and clinging were meant for the parent. Once the usefulness of the misbehavior has been removed, the child finds other more productive things to do. On the other hand, if a child discovers that 5 minutes of tears gets Mom or Dad to stay longer in the morning, he will be prepared to go 10 minutes the next day. It takes love and firm resolve for parents to let their child discover that he cannot use “water power” with his parents. Parents who avoid the pitfalls of separation anxiety are encouraging independence and self reliance on the part of their child. Their child learns to solve problems on his own rather than expecting Mom or Dad to solve them for him.
©Cindy Walton-McCawley, M.Ed & Kathleen A. Walton. The Courageous Parent. Columbia, SC: Adlerian Child Care Books, 2009.
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