Personal Responsibility, Preschool-Style

I wonder how long it will take Kiddo to get dressed this morning. Five minutes ago, I pulled out his day clothes, put them on the bed in his room, and told him "don't come out of this room until you are dressed".

"But Mama, I want to watch the barn video." He snuggles his way onto my lap.

"Yes, you may" I tell him. "You can watch it just as soon as you are dressed. You can do it as fast or as slow as you like." I give him a squeeze. "Come on out when you're done."

And I walk out the door.

Three minutes later, he is calling for me. I ignore this ploy for attention. He knows how to dress himself and I'm not getting sucked in. Then he screams for me. I go near his room, and stand in the hall. I'm not going in.

"Maamaaa! Come in here!" he yells at me. I am not going to address the screaming, and why we don't scream at other people, because that's just giving him more attention. Instead, I ask for correction.

"Try that in a friendly way now, please."

"Mama. I want you to come in with me. I want to get my feet into this sock." He is cramming two feet into one sock, and this is so ridiculous I want to smile but don't. He knows this isn't doable. Perhaps he's thinking 'If I do something really boneheaded, Mama will think I'm incapable and dress me'. Who knows what he's thinking?
No dice today though.

"I think you know that isn't going to work. Come on out when you are dressed."

"But I want some company!" He says this as though he's otherwise unable to dress without an audience. As though as it's as elemental to the process as underwear.

"Yep. Get dressed and come on out for some company." I walk away.

He's quiet, then two minutes later, he comes out, struggling with three layers on his legs-- he wants to wear his pajama pants, and has even changed his underwear and put his pjs back on, with the jeans I asked him to wear over those. "I want you to fix this." he whines at me. I tell him that he knows he has too many pants on for right now, and that he needs to go to his room and fix it. Suddenly, as if by magic, his pants are pulled up and are fine. I send him to his room to finish dressing. He comes back with a shirt on and one sock on, one sock off. "Go back and finish getting dressed." I don't even look at him for more than a second.

And now he's done, happily watching a video about tractors and combines. It was a lot of work, in some ways, but it wasn't in others. We're keeping on our path of having him dress himself (parental involvement somehow turns it into a "look-at-me" circus), and I kept putting the responsibility on him. He was in charge of when he could watch the video--sooner or later-- and when he could have company. He could correct what he was doing to facilitate the process by deciding on two socks for two feet and to pull up his own pants instead of feeding into self-made problems. He corrected the tone of his voice because he wanted to communicate more than he wanted to scream. If I'd addressed each of these issues separately, he would have received a lot of negative attention, and I would be feeling a bit less relaxed than I am now.

It's never too young to teach a little personal responsibility!


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