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Outsmarting KO

This morning KO wailed, “I don’t WANNA go to school!”

He’s done this at the beginning of every school day since he started nursery at the age of 3. Well, almost every school day. There have been a few exceptions. These rare exceptions have cruelly dangled before me the promise of an end to the daily school run battles. Then just as quickly as the tantalising vision appears, it’s snatched away.

But it’s great. Every time KO wails at me, “I don’t WANNA go to schoooool …” I have the opportunity to come up with an inventive (or not) response to try to guide his little mind through the morass of complaints, whining, and balking that is otherwise known as a TYPICAL SCHOOL MORNING IN THE LIFE OF KO. It’s been illuminating. (To put it politely.)

I’ve tried:

The matter-of-fact response: “Well you HAVE to go. You can say what you like, but you’ll still have to go.”

The cynical response: “Well, sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do. That’s life.”

The self-pitying response: “Well, I don’t want to hear you whinging about school every day either!”

The sympathetic response: “I know, darling. Life can be really tough sometimes, can’t it?”

The tough response: “Tough. You’re going.”

The bribe: “If you get to school cheerfully this morning, you can have a [insert bribe here]!” Bribes include chocolate, sweets, toys, books, pizza, movie night, a new car, cash …

The desperate plea: “Oh pleeeeeeeeeease KO … can you just get your shoes on please??!”

The diversion: “Oh my goodness! Did I just see Spiderman walk past our window?! Quick, let’s go see!”

The sarcastic: “What?? Really??? But I thought you LOVED school …”

The don’t-be-silly: “What?? What are you talking about? Yesterday when I picked you up from school, you were having a GREAT time! You didn’t even want to leave! And the day before that too!”

The threat: “If I hear ANY MORE WHINGING about school this morning, we will NOT go to the park after school!”

The deafness: “Isn’t it a lovely day out! And I think you have lunch time club today at school!”

The mimic (this one’s highly ineffective, but really annoys KO, which can be amusing): “I don’t WANNA go to school …”

The I-can-relate: “I didn’t like going to school either when I was a child …”

The you-should-be-grateful: “Lots of children in the world only WISH they were as lucky as you, to get to go to school … some children have to work all day making shoes …”

Or the it-could-be-a-lot-worse variation: “Your school is LOVELY. You know when I was growing up …”

The angry-and-shouting (hiding my head in shame): “Oh for goodness sake!!!!! GET YOUR SHOES ON, **NOW**!!!”

The I-give-up: “Fine, I’ll carry you.”

The feelings-come-and-go: “You know it’ll be fun once you’re there!”

The what-are-the-alternatives?: “I’m just going to do boring work all day. You wouldn’t want to be at home …”

The let’s-explore-your-feelings: “School is really boring for you, isn’t it? What would you rather be doing?”

The explain-yourself: “Why don’t you want to go to school?”

The it’s-good-for-you: “But you NEED to go, so that you can learn!”

The look-at-the-perks: “There are loads of kids at school! If you stayed at home, you’d be all alone all day!”

The are-you-being-bullied (with concern): “What’s the matter? Is anyone being mean to you?”

And the list goes on. And on. **Note: I am not advocating any of the above responses. Many of them reflect a certain desperation that can descend upon my mind at times like these.

I’m sure that one day, KO is going to stop protesting this. It’s just that he’s an incredibly tenacious kid (maybe that’s true of all kids). He reckons that if he keeps this up, perhaps not this year, perhaps not next, but one day, the day will come when I’ll say, “Fine! Don’t go to school then!”

He can tell that I don’t like it when he whines and moans in the morning. He knows he’s making my life more difficult when he drags his feet, refuses to get dressed, refuses to walk.  And even if he knows that the chances are close to nil that he’ll be allowed to stay at home, he gets some satisfaction from just being a sulky, uncooperative little monkey. (Again, the polite word for it.)

I’ve been told that the only way forward for changing these sorts of behaviours is to focus on the positive behaviours and to reward them. This is similar to “the bribe” except it’s reliant on catching the child spontaneously behaving in the desired way (yeah, right). You then swoop down onto the child, and reward them. In KO’s book, all rewards are flawed. Because no matter what the reward, he wants more. There is very little that I can offer him to motivate him to change. He likes the way things are, already. He’s got it pretty good.

But I am an intelligent, grown woman. And I’ve been racking my brains for a response to KO’s daily protest, a response that will acknowledge his feelings, but encourage him to move on. And I think I’ve found it.

This morning when KO wailed, “I don’t WANNA go to school,” I said (matter-of-factly, and with a touch of sympathy), “I KNOW you don’t darling. But what if you DID? What would that be like?”

The result? KO was rendered speechless (a minor miracle). His brow remained furrowed all the way to school, but he didn’t whine, and he didn’t refuse to move. It was as if some great unknown power was pushing him along, reluctantly, all the way to school, which we reached in good time. (Thank you, great unknown power!)

When we arrived at school, he said again (but quietly), “I don’t WANNA go to school …” and again I said (with an insanely cheerful smile), “I KNOW you don’t darling … But what if you DID? What would that be like?”

And so we had a fairly non-eventful morning, the sort of morning that I imagine MOST other parents have, taking their children to school. The sort of morning I fantasize about having.

I think this may be a breakthrough.

We shall see.

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