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The Hood Magazine

Getting Out the Door: Tips for Tear-Free Transitions

Feb 27, 2022 03:35PM ● By Nicola Brummer, M.Ed, BCBA, LBA

By: Nicola Brummer, M.Ed, BCBA, LBA, Behavior Care Specialists/ABAeCARE 

Spring is upon us, and when you are a parent this shift into warmer weather is usually paired with a slew of organized activities. For most kids, adjusting to these changes in schedule can be difficult, and I know I am not the only parent who is dreading the constant coaxing I will have to do to get my kids dressed and ready for soccer practice or swim lessons. A power-struggle to get out the door can turn into a stressful event that sets the whole family off-kilter, so I am here to share a strategy to help these transitions go more smoothly. It’s called Behavior Momentum. 

Behavior Momentum is giving your child a series of “easy” or fun tasks to do to get their motors running leading up to a less preferred or more difficult task. When you start with these easier tasks, you give your child an opportunity to be successful at something, and you can stay positive and give them attention and praise for following instructions. This in turn, makes it more likely that they will try the more difficult task.  

So, when my son Forrest is standing his ground and refusing to put on his soccer cleats, instead of wrestling them on him, here is what I do: “Hey Forrest, pick your socks, green or blue?” “Cool! You want green today! Okay wiggle your toes for me to get them ready!” “Nice job buddy! Those socks look so cool. Okay here come your shoes” ….and we are good to go!!! No tears, no struggle, and we are out the door! 

Here are some other tips on how to make this strategy even more effective: 

  • Stay calm and use a positive tone of voice.  

  • Think of tasks that are fun and that you know your child can do  

  • Keep a close proximity to your child and get down to their level. 

  • Give instructions, don’t ask questions (Not: “Do you want to pick socks?”, but “Pick your socks”) 

  • Provide praise following instructions or helpful behaviors 

If you start to apply this strategy, you may find that your child starts to associate these transitions with good things, like praise, high fives, and compliments. And you can set off to the next activity in a peaceful car full of smiling faces.