My Kid Won't. Now What?

My kid won’t put on sunscreen.  It’s a battle. 

My kids won’t pick up their room.  It’s a battle.  My kid won’t sit still in a restaurant.  It’s a battle.  You get it.  You’ve got your own “My Kid Won’t.”  Everyone does.  If you don’t have one now, you will have one later.  Do I have any advice?  Yes, I do.


While raising my girls, one of my favorite parenting books was Children: The Challenge by Rudolf Dreikurs.  This book was originally published in 1964, so we are getting further and further away from this style of child raising, but the one thing that stuck out in this book was what he termed, “The Use of Natural and Logical Consequences.”  One way I might say it is-


Step aside and let the chips fall. 


You might just be amazed what will happen if children “suffer” the effects of their own decisions, even at a very early age. 


I must say that I also got this advice from my child’s Montessori teacher.  (Note my blog titled, Terrible Twos Just Hit. Now What?)  You see, my Caroline was the fit thrower of all fit throwers.  And she had some pretty weird ideas, yet not actually so weird in the world of kids.  For example, she didn’t want to get dressed in the morning to go to school.  Her teacher advised us to let her decide.  She could come to school in her school clothes or her nightgown.  He said, “believe me, she will not get out of that minivan in her nightgown.”  So, we did.  And she didn’t.  Her dad dressed her in the minivan.  Would you believe that she still remembers this and the nightgown she was wearing – it was Ariel from The Little Mermaid; quite a cute memory now.  Likewise, she only wanted to wear her Sunday School patent leather shoes to school.  Again, he told us, “let her.”  “She’ll figure out that she’s going to slip in those when she goes out to play.”  Admittedly, she wore them for a while, but we no longer battled.  Who cares, anyway?  The hardest one, however, was that she wouldn’t use the bathroom before leaving home, and then as we got down the road in the car, she would say that she had to go.  Ugh.  That was tiring.  He advised us, “Tell her ahead of time that you are not going to stop and at home is her chance to use the bathroom.”  What? And wet in my brand new minivan?  Yep.  That’s what he said.  And that’s what we did.  And that’s what she did.  Not only in my van, but also in my best friends!!  Yikes.  But, she figured it out, and we learned to put towels under the car seat.  She was still 3 at the time.  He was right.  It took a lot of work on her part and I give her all the credit.  She learned the natural consequences of her actions.


What about the logical consequences?


That involves knowing what to expect.  The punishment fits the crime.  This one is on the parents.  Living at the beach, we have visitors, and we see many parents struggle with kids on the health issue of putting on sunscreen.  I don’t know what it is with kids that they resist this.  Must be in the DNA. Regardless, kids (and adults) need the protection.  But, there is no reason for a kid to be screaming and hollering about something as painless as putting on a little lotion.  As my daughter would say, “easy peasy.”  This one is up to the parents!  “No sunscreen, no going to the beach, pool, lake, etc.”  Simple.  But, the parents must have


Patience and the ability to do what you say you’re going to do.


Parents are the ones that are going to sit in the house with this kid that won’t put on the sunscreen.  I’m sorry, but yes, you might have to suffer a little, too.  Trust me, it is only going to take one or two times before your child realizes that you have your limits and some things are just deal breakers.  He is going to want to go have fun with his friends.  This applies to sunscreen, life jackets, swimmies, etc. 


It’s a logical consequence. 


Some consequences they have to be prepared for.  This is the case in teaching appropriate behavior in public places, such as restaurants.  From the time my children were very little, I would take time in the car to explain what we were going to do and what I expected from them. 


For example, “we are meeting Aunt Linda is the restaurant.  We are going to sit in our seat while we order and then we have to wait for our food.  While we are waiting, we will color in our book.  After the food comes, we will sit in our seat and eat our food.  Then, we will leave.  We will talk in a soft voice.  If you cannot do these things while we are in the restaurant, Mommy will bring you back to the car and wait with you until the others are finished.” 


Now, I’m sure you are saying, “Right!”  But seriously, it would work.  They might not have understood every word that I said, but they got the gist of it.  They would hear this over and over, for each outing-what we were going to do, what behavior was expected of them, what we would be doing after and what would happen if they misbehaved. 


We Meant It.  We followed through.  Even when inconvenient for us!


The next time your child won’t do something, think if it really matters if they don’t.  Take yourself out of the picture and let them find out for themselves.  Or plan ahead.  Let them know your expectations, and if they won’t, follow through with what you told them would happen. That puts more responsibility on them for their actions and results. 


Empower them.  Free yourself.  It’s worth a try.