Ready-Made Parenting is a blog focused on developing specific skills for the role of parenting. Short, to the point, and printable, each post will focus on one specific parenting challenge, and the collaborative, attachment-based strategies that you can use to morph this challenge into a feel-good parenting experience.
Our three year old recently got glasses. Although my husband has had glasses for years, I wasn't quite sure how to incorporate this new 'accessory' into our routines. After all, I was working on getting a routine for wearing and caring for my first pair of glasses!
After some false starts and a few incidents of misplacing the glasses (how on earth did they end up in the trunk of the car?), we are now in a pretty good groove.
Here are some non-coercive strategies that may help your young child and you work in this new habit. Bonus: these ideas may work well for any habit you're trying to incorporate into your child's day.
Set the Stage. Wearing glasses may not be the biggest parenting challenge you've faced, but like other changes, it's respectful to approach it collaboratively, and nice for it to go smoothly. Start off easy. Offer the glasses. Help put them on. Check things out in the mirror. Depending on temperament, show a lot of interest, or be quite non-chalant. Be open to some exploring, curiosity, and complete and utter lack of interest, particularly depending on age and personality. Problem solve with them as much as possible around where, when, and how (my three year old can come up with zanny and useful suggestions that work: I'd miss out on some great ideas if I never asked.) Take it slowly and give both of you time to settle into the habit of wearing and cleaning them.
Look on the Bright Side. Set a positive tone for wearing the glasses. That doesn’t need to mean raving madly about how wonderful they look (in fact, that can backfire for some children). However, a positive and genuine comment, or a sparkle in your eye and a smile can be all a child needs to pick up on your positive feelings about the glasses. (Telling them they need to wear them because it helps their eyes may or may not be helpful: few young children will care for reasoning at this stage.)
Start Slowly. Gradually get in the groove of this new glasses-wearing habit. If they take them off frequently, consider this a ‘getting used to them’ stage, and either put them back on or put them back in the case, without fuss. Re-introduce the glasses when they transition to a new activity (“Time for lunch. Let’s put these beautiful babies back on for eating.”). Go with the flow and know that patience now will pay off in the long run with more and longer self-initiated wearing.
Make it Routine. Over several days, work in a routine of putting them on in the morning, and putting them in the case when they are removed (even if you want them to keep them on). FIgure out where to keep glasses supplies and the case so that it is handy and naturally promotes the habit. Involve your child in the how and where as much as their development allows.
Be Dramatic. There is no need to punish or reward a child who is developing a new habit (or anytime, really). However, it can be helpful to be playful and silly, and even a bit dramatic about wearing the glasses. Be deliberate and goofy about putting the glasses back in their case at bath and bedtime. Exaggerate the process of cleaning the glasses to help young children see the steps and to make it light and enjoyable. Go along when they decide they want to to try the glasses on you, their doll, and the family cat. Putting the glasses back on them may require a bit more gentle tact (slipping them on non-chalantly while they settle in their chair for a craft) but try different approaches and see what works for your child.
Play the Long Game. Habits take a while. If the glasses are making a difference to your child's vision, perhaps they will not mind the adjustment to wearing them if you take a respectful and non-manipulative approach to wearing them. If, however, after several attempts at finding a new groove, you find that your child continues to fling them across the room, hide them in drawers, or simply refuse to let you put them on, consider a follow-up with your optometrist to look at proper fit and changes to vision.