I’ve been meaning to blog for the last few months, but truthfully I couldn’t. I am in the midst of a difficult time with my daughter. There’s been a bump in the road. Things looks like they are getting better, but we are not there yet.
My determined, strong willed daughter decided four months ago that she would only go to the bathroom with me.
Keep in mind the irony of this.
My most recent book is how to create self-directed learners: learners who are comfortable doing things independently!
Her decision has turned both of our lives upside down. She is a mess at school because she has to go the bathroom and won’t. I go to work with a pit in my stomach. I constantly check the clock and imagine my daughter at school, suffering. Forgot about going out and doing something for myself these days–the stress on both of us just isn’t worth it.
When the bump in the road became too much for me to bear, I made an appointment with the director of the school.
This meeting was the start of me not just talking about this problem, but dealing with it head-on.
Bumps in the road are inevitable in both our teaching and parenting. I want to share with you the steps I took to address our bump in the road. Hopefully these steps help you with your bumps in the road.
Create a vision:
Both Ariana and I needed to understand the bigger vision of what we were trying to accomplish so together we made a list of our family’s jobs. As you can see, our family job number 3 is taking care of our bodies. This list gave us a way to have a conversation about the variety of ways a person takes care of his/her body with one of them being not holding your pee in.
Isn’t having a vision the first step in our classroom as well? Both teachers and students need to understand and talk about the ‘why’ before any change is possible.
Try new things: I talked to Ariana’s teachers, as well as the directer of her school about our bump in the road. Both of them said that I should stop talking to her about going to the bathroom and react to all of her ‘potty’ comments with as few words and as few emotions as possible.
I also spoke to her pediatrician who basically said to bribe her with chocolate.
Truthfully, at first I was resistant to all of this advice.
The first piece of advice was especially hard to hear because I had been doing the exact opposite. When Ariana did pee with someone else, I reacted with huge hugs and lots of praise. When she didn’t, I reacted with stern looks and and disappointed lectures.
The Dr’s advice was simply way out of my belief system.
But then it hit me that what I was presently doing wasn’t working and trying something new could only help. The chocolate so far has flopped but the advice from her teacher and the director changed the situation in mind blowing ways.
When there is a bump in the road, it is hard to hear advice especially if it’s different from what you are doing. The way to move on from the bump in the road is to try new things. Some ideas might flop. That’s OK. Your kids will be fine. Keep trying. Who knows maybe you will come across an idea that changes a student in dramatic ways.
Allow for Scaffolds/Choices
My heart broke when one of the first changes I saw was regression. My potty trained girl started asking for diapers. I kept my emotions in check and simply said yes. My yes virtually erased almost all of my daughter’s stress and turned her back into the happy girl I knew she was. At the moment, I am giving my daughter the choice of of diapers or underwear and each day her decision is different. These choices have make her feel more in control. This is not my end goal, but it hit me that using a diaper was a scaffolded way for her to keep up her end of our family jobs. I’m still trying to figure out how to let go of the scaffold but I know we will get there.
As teachers, we need to be willing to let go of where we want our students to be and let them be where they are all the while knowing that your support and instruction will help them eventually master the intended skill.
Keep your eyes open for the missing links or as I call it the ‘Lily factor.’
In the midst of this bump in the road, I took my daughter for a Sunday outing at her favorite museum. While we were eating lunch, her classmate Lily walked by wearing the same pink pants and little pink headband that my daughter had on. Lately Ariana had been talking about Lily and the thought of a playdate had crossed my mind but our free time was mostly spent with my mom friends and their kids.
As the girls played, the moms talked and we discovered that both of these pink pants, head banded girls were refusing to go to the bathroom at school. We (the moms) decided that we would facilitate some new types of copying and had them plan to bring the same lunch to school the next day.
As we left the museum that day, Lily put her hood up over her head and Ariana followed suit without a single glance to me. In that moment, I knew that my baby was well on her way to becoming a self-directed girl, a girl who had many play dates and fun times at school in her future and dare I say, a girl that one day soon would pee on the potty without her mother.