Incentivise me

You know that feeling?….the one where you have been on holiday?

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Where you have slept in for days, drank many a casual coffee, or baileys, or cold pressed coffee with baileys…where you have not done housework but have laid around, played with the kids, gone to bed early some nights and late others…and generally forgone any structure to your days….until it’s Sunday evening. And you have to return to work tomorrow morning. You know that feeling? The one where you know you have to get up early the next morning, you have to deal with the traffic, you have to deal with PEOPLE, you have to perform to certain standards placed upon you by others. You know that feeling of, “I REALLY don’t want to return to all that yet…I’m not ready… just one more day….just a little more freedom….” But instead, you suck it up, give yourself a kick into gear and get back to work. Because you have to. Because at the end of the week (or month, or fortnight) a certain amount of money is given to you for carrying out those duties. You return, because you are incentivised to return.

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Well this morning, Indi needed to be incentivised. She needed to be incentivised to return to school. She needed something to help her 5 year old brain deal with the loss of freedom, the loss of sleeping in, the loss of hanging out with Mumma, the loss of choosing her activities throughout the day, the loss of free play. She needed something else to focus her mind on when the anxiety started telling her that getting back in to her school routine was too hard, too scary, too much. She needed something to help excite her when she told me she was too tired to go to school, that she would miss me too much all day (I think she threw that one in for good measure), that she didn’t know if it was sand and swings day and she HATES sand and swings day…

So I incentivised her.

I told her to wait right there in bed as I had something to surprise her with. Something that she could earn this week. I told her that I had all those feelings too, but that school was important and something that she must do. I told her that I had something she could think about to get rid of the things in her mind that were making her feel sad and not capable….

And I pulled out of the top of my cupboard….

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a Shopkins Pack.

I brought it to Indi, still curled up in bed denying that she was going to school, and I told her, “If you are able to carry out your morning routines each day this week then you will earn this Shopkins Pack. That means you have to get ready for school and do all your morning chore-chip chores without whinging about them, and you have to do your best not to worry about school, for 5 days, then on Saturday, you can open and have this Shopkins Pack.”

Indi “eeked” with delight, inspected the Shopkins Pack…and got dressed for school. We put the INCENTIVE up on the kitchen windowsill where she would be able to see it all week and remember what she was working towards. She completed ALL of her morning chore-chip chores and even had ten minutes to herself before we headed out to school. She smiled in the car and I silently high-fived myself for being on-top of this.

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And everything was peachy….

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Until we got to the school gate and anxiety kicked in again.

She clung to my legs, she sat on my lap and wrapped herself around me, she switched between wanting to play with a friend to not wanting to leave me. Last year she liked to be at school early enough to watch what was going on around her. This year it seems this just allows her to worry. When it was time to line up, the silent tears flowed down her face, and her legs wobbled trying to hold herself up and walk towards her classmates. Her Teacher Aide took her hand and lead her inside to ‘help’ get some things ready before the rest of the kids came in. Once she was in the classroom and busy ‘helping’, her brain switched from worry, to order. She had a role, she had a routine and ‘fitting in’, no longer mattered. She would be fine and I promised to be there waiting at 3:15 when the bell rung, to pick her up (I’ll deal with her reluctance to go to after-school care tomorrow, tomorrow!).

So this week I will continue to incentivise her mornings. We will get to school just before the bell to reduce worry time and I will hope that she finds her confidence in her school routines again. This term, I will (try to) find a balance between incentivising her and placing expectations of behaviour on her. This term I will remember that her brain is wired differently to mine, and I will (try to) be understanding of this. This term I will (try to) teach her strategies to help her remain in control of her emotions and to help her plan for her days. This term we will get back on top of the school routine…and then we will have school holidays…and start all over again…

What strategies do you have in place to help transition your child back into their school routine? Leave your tips and advice in the comments.