Do your children complain when you say, “Let’s go?” There are a variety of reasons why young children may complain about different things, and getting to the root of this “why” may help to define what the correct parental response should be. Oftentimes, parents simply ignore their children and drag them along to complete tasks and other errands. Ironically, most of the time, the same child who was unhappy about their tagging along ends up enjoying themselves once the destination is reached. It also helps if you, as the parent, take a little time to warm up the child to the task at hand before embarking on the journey.
When parents simply drag kids along, it is a way of “dealing” with the problem, but if we can get ahead of it and find the cause (antecedent) of the resistance, it may be a way of teaching a skill that a child can use to work through new situations on their own. And, overall, the initial resistance may simply stem from a case of the complainers, something our society is getting really good at and our children are beginning to pick up.
For the child who is truly nervous with new experiences:
Give your child lots of information regarding what time you are going, how long you will be gone, what it may look like, who is going to be there, etc. This allows them to get a picture of what it will look like and alleviate some of the unknowns through this question and answer session. Some children may need to read a book about it, watch a video and other modes of gathering information. This is a way to gain control over a situation where they may feel it is not under their control. Remember, adults have a lot of life experience under their belt. This means that, for most adults, new situations have context derived from previous experiences or similar situations. It’s important to remember that, for children, many experiences are totally new.
Children can become creatures of habit and may complain when their routines are interrupted. If a child watches cartoons ever morning, or get that time to play with a special toy or electronic device, losing that time for something else may cause for some complaining and disorder, especially when the task at hand is a new experience. For example, if you say to a child who is busy playing duplos, “Let’s go to the museum,” a child may just say no or complain due to not having experience of what that place may be like or what they may be doing with their time there. Instead, it is often best to give children a warning such as: “You will have 30 more minutes to play and then we will go to a big place with a sand box, dinosaurs and water to play in.” Like adults, children want to have a little control over their timelines and activities. However, it is important to remember that it is the parent’s role to expose their children to new things, even if the child may say they don’t want to. These experiences allow children to really develop their likes and dislikes as well as have experiences that essentially open their world.