I watched her seamlessly round up her four children as they splashed, swam, and dove in the pool.
She called out their last name to summon the two oldest boys, who were 50 yards away and in line for the slides. She motioned with her pointer finger to the middle daughter, who was paddling away and whispered something to her youngest daughter, who was romping in the jumping fountains at her feet.
Within minutes, they huddled around her. She said a few words and off they went.
No meltdowns. No tantrums. No, “Mommy, can we stay five more minutes” coupled with a stomp and “just five more minutes.”
As my own two girls splashed at my feet – “Mommy, mommy, watch me!” – I marveled.
It was impressive how she corralled her kids with not even a hand up signaling five more minutes.
The Five Minute Signal. That’s how I roll.
It’s often: Girls, five minutes and we’re leaving … Ladies, one more minute … Okay, last time down the slide … Mommy’s walking out. You coming?
Maybe I missed her predeparture call out.
Either way, I took note because transitions are tough. They can be even more challenging if …
- The norms for moving one particular setting/activity to the next are not understood.
- It is a new situation.
- It’s done without warning.
- They do not want to stop what they’re doing.
- They are hungry or tired.
I wanted to know what she knew.
The next time I saw my friend, I asked: “How did you get your kids out of the pool like that? With no complaints? No, mmoooooooommm, just five more minutes?”
She lifted her shoulders: “Before we leave home, I just tell them how it’s going to be.”
She continued, “I let them know that we’ll swim until the break. Then we’ll get a snack and and we can stay a little longer, but when I say it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”
Just like that.
Like she’s the boss.
Her method reminded me of the importance previewing situations and transitions, such as leaving the swimming pool, prior to the happenings (or potential SNAFUs).
It’s as simple as stopping the movement before the transition/event/day/activity …
- We are going to (insert restaurant). While we’re there x, y, z …
- We’re going to play at (insert park, friend’s house) for an hour and then we have to head home for dinner …
- When we walk in the door, remember to follow your chart. (It’s our Nightly To Do, which I use as a visual reminder and to instill routines.)
Prepping your lovelies to your expectations and their appropriate behavior helps you get in front of any pitfalls, such as the candy aisle at Target or departure from the park.
Whenever I talk to my girls in advance of how I want things to go and derail off-putting behaviors, it’s smoother sailing. When I forget or get sidetracked, I often pay the price with attitudes and adverse reactions.
This is why I try to take the five minutes whenever a new situation pops up or when a reminder is needed. These conversations work. Explaining what is going to happen and how you want it to happen is big.
We have an expectation check most days before leaving the car. I remind them: “Stella goes first and then Veronica.” This is so that Veronica doesn’t jump over Stella due to perceived slowness. All hell has broken loose and there’s been yelling and hitting because Stella isn’t moving as fast as her sister wants.
It’s reminder after reminder until you feel like a broken record. But once you’ve calmly repeated it to the point of their boredom, they know the norms.
That’s when you hear, “I know, mom, I know.”
And then, that’s when they start to just do it (which is incredible!).
After that just a little tune up is needed every now and again – especially in novel or trigger situations.
Bottom line: Being clear is essential. Your kids should know exactly what is expected of them.
They should also know what happens if they go off rails.
“What happens if they whine or throw a tantrum?” I asked my friend.
She simply said, “I tell them, next time we’re leaving at the break and there’s no treat, no more swimming.”
“Has that ever happened?”
“Yes,” she replied. “Once.”
Once is enough.