Practical Dad

PracticalDad:  How Do I Avoid New Experience Meltdowns?

Involved parenting means that there are certain things with which you have to become accustomed.  And mothers, who are well aware of the true nature of kids, have learned that you have to look ahead to see what new situations are coming and how the child can be prepared for them.  In this instance, knowing that the child's going to an activity that requires wearing a new form of clothing that they haven't worn before.

Kids are creatures of habit and while some don't care about what they wear, others will roar their terrible roar over having to wear something that's beyond their experience.  Kids want to try sports but it doesn't occur to them, especially with sports that don't require football pads, that there are necessary protective items that aren't seen.  More than one child has fretted and whined about having to wear shinguards for soccer.  They aren't visible under the long socks - which are also outside the norm - and trying to get a whiny, recalcitrant child moving for the first practice is setting things up for failure.  The socks are too long.  They itch.  This plastic guard thingy on my leg doesn't feel good.  Why do I hafta wear it?  The coach won't see it, so she won't know!  Why?  It's fruitless to blame the child, who in most instances is behaving like most normal kids.  They don't have the experience base with which to make comparisons - hey, it's not as bad as this or that event - nor do they possess the patience.  And they don't have the attention span and ability to focus so that they can concentrate on the coach and learning.  Instead, they put on a show for the crowd by doing some snazzy Bossa Nova moves trying to relieve the itch from the sock.

The frustration level ratchets upwards until the stage is set for a repeat performance of PsychoDad.  And yes, I've been PsychoDad.

So what do I do differently to avoid this and set up the child for success?  This season, youngest will be playing soccer like his elder siblings and have to wear shin guards.  But several days before the first practice, I'll have him running around outside with the shinguards on for the first time in order to get used to the sensation of the device.  He'll also wear the long socks and we'll play so that he's used to the feeling come that first practice next week.  It will be, in a sense, like taming a wild colt until it's broken and ready to accept the bridle or saddle.  Except that through this period, if the whining continues, I'll keep talking with the child and emphasizing the need for the guards.  And while I don't think that it's going to be an issue in this case, I'd rather take the time now than lose it a half-hour before the practice starts.

So think ahead to what new experiences face your child and what you can do to set things up for success.

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