Shift & Flexibility

Oh, shifting tasks can be so hard for adults and kids!! “Time for dinner,” shouts Mom. “I need 5 more minutes,” says Tamara. “This picture is almost perfect!” 10 minutes later, Mom is still the only family member in the kitchen. 

If your child’s problems with shifting are more minor, it may be possible to help him or her through education and parental modeling. Often, when adults are chronically inflexible or nervous, their kids tend to be also. In that case, downshifting and modeling positive coping skills can help. Downshifting is the parenting skill of helping your child calm down while also allowing him or her to negotiate a solution to the problem. 

A great example of “downshifting” is offered in Llama Llama Mad at Mama [1]. In this children’s book, the little llama throws a tantrum because he wants to leave the shopping mall. The mama shows empathy for her little llama, indicating that they are on the same team. She requires that they clean up his mess together. She promises that they will go for a treat afterwards if he can hold it together until they finish shopping.

Then, she follows through on that promise and takes him out for ice cream.

This example illustrates how a parent’s calm and kind reaction can lead to a better outcome. Even though the child is still required to calm down and clean his mess, the parent did not resort to threats, yelling, and an unyielding, inflexible demeanor. Rather, she partnered with the child, and they solved the problem together.

Parental modeling involves showing your child how to handle situations more flexibly.

For example, “Oops, I made a mistake. I thought we had to drive that way, but it’s this way. That’s okay. We will find it.” 

Another parenting strategy that can encourage your child’s flexibility is giving preparation for transitions. Provide the “5 more minutes” reminder kindly, and be sure your child hears you. Many meltdowns can be prevented by building in more time for transitions.

[1] Dewdney, Anna (2007). Llama Llama Mad at MamaAmazon: https://www.amazon.com/Llama-Mad-at-Mama/dp/0670062405/

Visit the CLEAR Reading Room to learn more.