What Is Grandma’s Rule? Excerpt
In my grandma’s day, it was understood that children had certain responsibilities as members of the family. They “earned” their privileges by fulfilling their responsibilities first. The idea behind this rule is that you acknowledge something the child would like to do as the second step in a process. You define the first step as a chore, action or activity that must be done before the privilege is granted.
The benefits to this approach are threefold.
First: Your request is very specific, and thus can be understood by your child.
Second: You are acknowledging your child’s wants and needs at the same time that you are stating you wants and needs.
Third: You are approaching the issue in a way the invites your child to cooperate. Here’s how it works:
You may ________ after you __________.
You may play outside after you do the dishes.
You may watch a movie after you do your homework.
We will read a story after you put your pajamas on.
As soon as you scoop the cat litter you can play your new computer game.
An added benefit to using Grandma’s Rule is that it eliminates the need to use “fighting words.” Fighting words are those that start a battle even before the rest of the sentence is heard—words such as, You can’t, Don’t, No, and Stop!
Notice how the choice of words affects the feeling conveyed by these requests:
You can’t go outside until you finish your homework.
Yes, you can go outside just as soon as you finish your homework.
Don’t eat that cookie until after your dinner.
Yes, you can have a cookie right after dinner.
No, you can’t go to Jimmy’s house.
You can go to Jimmy’s house on Saturday, after soccer practice.
As you can see, Grandma’s rule allows you to use positive communication while being very specific about what you want. And the best thing is—it works!
When my second daughter, Vanessa was three years old we signed her up for preschool. She did not want to go and made her opinion very clear. We had a routine: every single morning, after I dressed her for school she would hide behind the sofa and get undressed, all the while crying that she wanted to stay home. In the car, she’d take off her shoes and socks, her way of telling me she wasn’t getting out of the car at preschool! When I’d finally redress her and get her into the classroom she would cling to me and cry, begging me not to leave her. It will get better, the teacher said. It didn’t. A month later we unenrolled her from preschool and waited six more months before trying again.
Matthew, my friend’s son, was so averse to attending daycare that he panicked every morning as she was leaving for work. He cried nonstop and clung tightly to her when she tried to go out the door. The nanny had to literally pry his little hands off and then hold him tightly so he wouldn’t follow his mother out the door. It became an unbearable situation for my friend, so she rearranged her entire life to avoid leaving him. She quit her office job and opened an in-home daycare so that he wouldn’t have to leave her side. He was happy. She was frazzled.
I received a letter from Cynthia, a No-Cry book reader who desperately needed help with her daughter Anna’s separation anxiety, and with her own. Cynthia had never left her child with a baby-sitter, the gym nursery, a friend, or even with her parents. When she left her daughter with her husband (a fabulous and competent Daddy) she admitted to feeling sick to her stomach with worry and always rushed home. Even though nothing bad had ever happened, Anna and Cynthia both suffered severe separation anxiety. Anna was soon to celebrate her third birthday. Cynthia was concerned and feeling suffocated by their inability to separate.
My youngest son Coleton’s kindergarten year was a challenging time. Every morning for the entire first half of kindergarten he complained of a stomach ache. I had to coax him out of the car at the curb each morning and stuff tissues in his pockets so he could wipe away his tears. I had to walk him to the building . . . to the room . . . to his desk, and then quietly and desperately whisper comforting words and promises before I left the room. No matter, when I glanced back I would catch a glimpse of his tear-filled eyes and grief-stricken face as I walked out of the room. His teacher assured me that he did well once I left, but the knot in my stomach still appeared during this ritualistic morning debacle.
After reflection on these personal challenges with my own children’s separation anxiety and thinking back to my friend’s and readers’ experiences, I felt I needed to write this book for you. Because, my reader and friend, I know what you are thinking if your child is suffering from separation anxiety, because I have been there, too. In the words of Test Mommy Jennifer:
“Help me. I love my child, with all my heart, but we cannot be together 24/7. There are times we must be apart, sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for a few hours. Every single time I leave, it breaks my heart to see the tears and distress on that little face when I walk away. I desperately need solutions. Tell me what to do, please. And tell me exactly how to do it, because I am at a complete loss here.”
Take a deep breath. This book will provide you with answers and with exact solutions for your separation issues. You and your child will get through this phase, and you will end up on the other end of it, healthy, connected and free of the anxiety you both now feel when you must be apart.
Let me update you on my stories. Angela eventually did accept a babysitter’s visits. She now lives on campus at school and babysits for her university professor’s young daughters. Vanessa did finally make it to preschool and she loved it. She now attends college and has a job as the legislative affairs director for her school, traveling away from home for days at a time. Matthew’s mother eventually went back to work in an office, and he handled the change admirably. Anna is now three-and-a-half and she enjoys a weekly night with a babysitter while Cynthia and her husband have a night out, plus she happily joins the gym nursery twice a week, and has outings with her Grandparents regularly.
And by the time my Coleton was struggling with kindergarten I had already written eight parenting books and built an army of test parents all over the world. I put my contacts and research skills to work on his problem and developed the list of solutions provided here, including The Magic Bracelet, which you will learn about in Part Three. His bracelet was the golden ticket for us – it worked like a charm! The second half of Coleton’s kindergarten year was a joyous success, thanks to his bracelet, and supported by the other ideas I will offer to you here. He’s now a happy, well-adjusted third grader who loves school and is enjoying a weekend sleep-over with a friend as I write this.
After our wonderful personal success I offered these new ideas to parents who wrote to me for advice about separation anxiety. The collection of solutions grew and matured, and with the help of my army of Test Parents I was able to create this guide filled with many ideas for dealing with the separation anxiety that occurs from babyhood through early elementary school.
Separation anxiety is a titanic ordeal for many families and can create a cloud of stress over an otherwise happy family life. I have learned that information, knowledge, and a few new ideas can be a lifesaver for parents and children suffering separation anxiety. These tips can allow you to stay connected, and at the same time support your child’s growing independence.
Separation anxiety seeps into children’s lives for many reasons, and for separations both brief and extended. Infants cry when a parent hands them over to a loving relative. Many babies sit on the floor outside a bathroom door while a desperate Mommy tries to take a very quick shower. Toddlers weep at the daycare center every morning while loving parents attempt to pry them off, while desperately promoting the many wonders that await the reluctant child. There are children crying beside a babysitter as Mommy or Daddy goes off to work, and children adjusting to their parents’ divorce – which means they must always leave someone behind. There are many children suffering through the feelings of missing a parent who is deployed, in the hospital, or away on a business trip. In addition, children must often leave their parent’s behind as they go off, which causes a different kind of separation anxiety: children who must stay alone at the hospital, go away to camp, or stay behind when Mommy goes off to have a new baby. And then there are those nightly battles that occur the world over as parents try to convince anxious children to sleep alone all night, in their very own beds in their very own bedrooms.
This is the book I wish I had from the beginning of my parenting career to use for all the times my four children suffered from separation anxiety, and to help me with my separation anxiety as I dealt with my own feelings of separation with each of my children’s milestones. I am very happy to be able to present many gentle, effective No-Cry separation anxiety solutions to you.
Separation anxiety is normal and unavoidable. Yet, it’s hard to find comfort in that fact when you are faced with the frustration, sadness and helplessness that it creates. This book will provide you with many specific solutions and instructions for helping your child overcome separation anxiety, so that you both can part ways with a good-bye, a happy wave, and a smile.
Excerpted with permission by Elizabeth Pantley from Kid Cooperation (New Harbinger, 1996).
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