So the other day I was walking with my friend Michelle, and I asked whether her little girl was looking forward to starting school next year.
"No," said Michelle, "She doesn’t want to go."
"Really?" I was surprised. Michelle’s Elly is a confident kid with a big sister in year two.
"She says she’s not going to go."
"Oh no," I replied, "How are you handling that?"
"I’m just ignoring her," shrugged Michelle.
"Good plan," I agreed and we went on to talk about how her husband is being obstinate about upgrading the dishwasher.
I love Michelle. Her attitude is refreshing. So many parents I know would be stressing about a child’s aversion to starting school.
"Why?" they’d ask. And the questions and hand-wringing would escalate.
"Perhaps we should hold her back another year?"
"What does her kindy teacher think?"
"Has she had a negative experience?"
"I wonder if her big sister has said something to worry her?"
"Can you start taking her for little visits now – maybe see the classroom, meet the teacher?"
Michelle and her husband, however, are taking a more sensible approach, in my opinion, in just ignoring her.
Elly is four, after all – school is another five months away. To a four year old, five months is an eternity. There’s a birthday to get through, and Christmas. There’s just no point in stressing about school yet.
Of course there’s a valid argument for beginning to deal with such aversions sooner rather than, so January 2014 doesn’t come complete with Michelle dragging Elly into the school grounds like a cop hauling way an ‘Occupy’ protester.
Plenty of people would encourage a ‘drip feed’ approach while spending the summer in a fever of anxiety about what might happen.
Ignoring it is often the way to go though. It’s less stressful, less time-consuming and equally if not more effective than Googling "abnormal behaviors".
- If you ignore a tantrum, it’ll stop faster than if you try to work out what caused it.
- If you ignore a swear word it’ll disappear from a three year old’s vocabulary more quickly than if you run a grand inquisition into where that filthy language came from.
- If you ignore a claim they are allergic to peas the nausea will disappear, eventually.
- The great white shark that lives under the bed? Ignore it (unless it’s what’s keeping your kid in her room at night. Then name it and feed him the occasional deer hindquarter. Good shark.)
- If you ignore your child’s insistence on wearing Speedos, a ballet top and a Lorax beanie to the shops, there a fair(ish) chance it won’t happen again.
I know, I know, we ignore our kids at our peril. A fear of sand might be a cry for help – a way of saying "those textures make me feel uncomfortable and exposed". It might also be a clever way of a five year old getting her family to stay home from the beach so she can watch Peppa Pig.
Ignoring your kids is an old-fashioned thing to do, and of course it has its pitfalls. We all have stories about the time we had a BROKEN BONE and Dad said it was a sprain and not worth packing up the campsite to have it seen by a doctor. But surely we need to be a little more selective about what we pay close attention to and what we ignore.
Regarding broken bones, bullying, learning difficulties, illnesses (with actual symptoms), I say yes, tell me all about them. I want to know and I’ll do what I can to help.
But your sister being mean, cauliflower tasting "like poison', and feeling like home-schooling might be better than fronting up for actual school, I go the ignore it option.
But that, as ever, is my opinion. Feel free to ignore.
Where do you stand on ignoring the little stuff as a parent?
Kate is a mother of three and the writer of all sorts of things. In addition her work as parenting editor at ivillage she's also written The Mosquito Advertising series of novels for young readers about a bunch of kids who start their own advertising agency - kinda Enid Blyton meets The Gruen Transfer. You can follow her ramblings on twitter @katelhunter