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3 Secrets to Getting Your Child to Transition From One Activity to Another

3 Secrets to Getting Your Child to Transition From One Activity to Another

    Have you ever told your child that it’s time to go somewhere or do something else and their response was either to ignore you or yell at you? There are ways to avoid this and make the transition from activity to activity easy and smooth.

    In order for your children to feel comfortable and cooperative moving from one activity to the next there are a few things you will need to do.

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    First, children need and love routine – no matter how old they are. If they experience the same basic sequence each and every day, they will simply expect and anticipate a change in activity. For example, if your basic routine with your toddler is to wake up, play, eat, watch TV, get dressed, go out somewhere, come home and eat lunch, go to sleep, wake up after 2 hours, have a snack, do a one-on-one activity with you, play alone for an hour, watch TV, eat dinner, brush teeth, then go to sleep, they will naturally move through their day with ease. They often will remind you when it’s time to go out if you are running a bit late.

    When I was a teacher I used to write our schedule for the day on the whiteboard and added short bits of information describing exactly what they needed to have ready. Our day always flowed smoothly and the children were calm knowing what to expect. If you have a child three years or older who tends to be a bit anxious or may have autistic tendencies this is a terrific way to help them feel calm and competent that they are able to handle their day. (For younger children, you could use pictures posted on poster board or the fridge instead)

    The second area to look at is the way in which you tell your child it’s time to move on to the next activity. Yelling from the other room is not a positive or effective way to handle this. A better way is to go to your child a little before you want to move on, sit with them, enter their world, and make a comment such as:

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    • “You sure like your trains, don’t you?” or
    • “What a neat idea you had to build a LEGO house like this” or
    • “I loved that book when I was young”

    Then say, in a very excited tone of voice:

    • “It’s time to get our shoes on to go to the __________(park,store,friend’s house,playgroup) Let’s go!”

    Extend your hand towards them or pick them up and give them a big hug then begin talking about where you’re going, who you’ll see, etcetera. This will keep them focused and will build excitement and cooperation.

    If your child whines, there are other issues going on like hunger, tiredness level, not being used to a routine or not being used to having limits set for them.

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    The technique I suggest for bedtime or leaving a playground is to use the countdown method. Go to your child and say, “Anna, you have 5 minutes and then it’s time for sleepy, sleepy, (or whatever words you want to use)” OR “Sam, you have 5 minutes and then it’s time to go home for lunch”.

    After this, go to them at 4 mins, 3 mins, 2 mins, 1 min, and then say, “Okay, time to go now.” or “Okay, time for sleepy, sleepy”.

    The last point I want to make about transitions is this: you must speak in a happy tone, yet a matter-of-fact tone as well. There is no room for soft voices here, no room for reminding and no room for explaining or coercing. You are just stating a fact in a happy voice about what it is that you ARE going to be doing.

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    Do your part by stating excitedly what you will be doing and then carry on. The only thing left to do is to enjoy the time you will be spending with your happy child.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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