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Expert Advice on Getting Kids out the Door

How to get kids out the door without going out of your mind
Advice from Our Advisory Board

Ross A. Thompson, Ph.D., University of California, Davis: Make routine preparations fun by singing through them. This is why preschool educators use music during transition times.

Jack Maypole, M.D., Boston Medical Center: Use a picture board where kids can move a felt or magnet cutout down a ladder of activities that ticks off the morning schedule. This worked like a charm for my otherwise-occupied daughter, helping her string together a mental flow of what had to happen to get ready.

T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., Children's Hospital Boston: Tell your child, "We're going to go on a trip. Anything you need? Your doll? Your suitcase? Have it ready." Check once more if her beloved doll and suitcase are ready, and give a warning that it'll be time to leave soon. Then gather her up and say, "Now we are going."

Tina Grotzer, Ed.D., Harvard Graduate School of Education: Say something like, "I wonder if you can get to the door before Mommy can sing the whole alphabet song." Then challenge them to go faster next time.

Ellen Galinsky, president, Families and Work Institute: My children had "car kits" with a few toys for the car. They interviewed each other and had singing contests. (This in the days before American Idol!)

Cheryl Roberts, Ed.D., Washington, D.C., School Readiness Programs: If a child sees his parents frantically rushing out the door, it raises anxiety in the child and also demonstrates "this is the way we get ready to go someplace." Because anxiety is a very unpleasant feeling, he will naturally rebel.

And If All Else Fails . . .

Cheryl Roberts: If your child is reluctant, say, "I know you don't want to go right now, but sometimes we have to do things we don't want to. And this is one of those times." No discussion. Just get on with the business of getting out the door.

Tina Grotzer: If you say you are going at a certain time, then go. Don't stop to do one more thing while they dawdle, because the next time they aren't going to believe that it's time to go when you say it is.

Ross Thompson: Keep in mind the difference between what needs to get done before departing (using the toilet), what can be done in the car (eating a snack), and what doesn't have to get done at all (brushing her hair).

Ellen Galinsky: If you flip out (which all of us have), say that you are sorry for getting upset but that it is very important to you to be on time.

Jack Maypole: Remember to breathe. Blowing your stack sets you back.

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