To get to self-direction, there are a few universal caveats that apply to the described behavior. First, our children need to understand and agree with both the need for the rule and the consequence for breaking it. Only when they come to agree with our rules, through their own internal dialogue, will they become self-directed. Second, look to your own parenting strategy as the possible source of some of the problem. Are you over-controlling or over-protective? Either trait can elicit an externally directed response, as your children react to an unhealthy situation. Third, remember for all these parenting challenges how important it is for you as parents, to model the right behavior. If you're expecting your children to act one way and you act another, the double standard will throw a monkey wrench into their whole internal dialogue machinery.
And lastly, don't forget to laugh.
Bathing Hassles in Younger children
Why They Do It
Let's face it. Our younger kids can always find something more important to do than bathing, at least from their perspective.
Let your children know that bathing is not a choice. But deciding if Daddy or Mommy shampoos their hair, choosing whether story time or bath time comes first and so on are choices they can make. If they still pitch a fit when bath time comes around, they should lose their right to make those small but important choices. Furthermore, they'll lose their bedtime story since they decided to fill that time with their whining, begging, and other measures of resistance.
If they refuse to take a bath, they won't be allowed to subject the public to their negligent hygiene practices. This means not going over to Trent's house to play, not going to the movies, not joining you on your errands, and so on.
Solutions Toward Self-Direction
Give choices: "Do you want to brush your teeth or bathe first?" "When you've cleaned up, then you can go with me to the grocery store."
Use impartial descriptions and information: "Dirty children aren't allowed in the grocery store." "We believe in cleanliness in our family."
Use questioning: "What are our rules about bathing?" "What would be the consequences if you never took a bath?"
Use the minimalist parent approach: "Howie...bath time now!"
Use humor: Pretend you don't see your child and say to your parenting cohort in crime: "Have you seen Larry? I can't find him. All I see is a wiggling lump of coal in the middle of his room."
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