A Little Bribery Can Go A Long Way

Anyone who knows our family can attest that my 5-year-old could be the poster child for Middle Child Syndrome.  While her big brother and baby sister are confident, focused, and reliable, C is insecure, irresponsible, and generally out to lunch. I love her to death, but she is by far my most challenging child. 

(Well, that does not take into account her 2-year-old sister’s current reign of terror, which everyone assures me is a passing phase.  They better be right because I might be buying a one-way ticket to a deserted island if it doesn’t pass shortly.)

But back to the 5-year-old.  She has always been reticent to go into a classroom, whether it be school or Sunday School or any other childcare situation.  Every year we have dealt with this issue.  This year she is in kindergarten at the local elementary school, and she was doing great getting on the bus with the other neighborhood kids.  She expressed some anxiety over finding her classroom during the first week of school, but her big brother promised to walk her to her room until she was comfortable doing it alone.  I am so very thankful she has him.

So basically, all was going swimmingly.  Until yesterday. 

When the bus rolled around the corner, instead of climbing on with the rest of the kids, C turned around and clung to my leg, burying her face in my stomach.  The first time I hugged her, reassured her, and encouraged her to get on the bus.  She wasn’t budging.

So two times I walked her over to the bus, told her to get on, and firmly walked away.  Each time she ran after me and clung to me.

WHAT was I going to do?  The bus was full of school students, and the kindly older man who has been our bus driver for 3 years was smiling, waiting patiently for her to board.  There was no teacher to gently pry her off my leg and distract her while I made my escape.

I knew I had to get her on that bus so I resorted to the threat of discipline, and she went on grudgingly.  I walked home, wondering how I was going to get her to overcome her reluctance to get on that bus.  Because I do NOT want to go through this every day.

I don’t think she’s seeking attention, although it is possible she has me totally duped.  I really do think she has some anxiety about school that she can’t explain.  It saddens me, but after talking to Hub, we are confident that she needs to be in school.  At this point, there are no other options we’re willing to consider.

After school, her teacher brought her to my car and informed me that C had been sad to come to school.  She tried to talk to her about what would make her feel better but couldn’t get much out of her.  Welcome to my world.

Later that afternoon I exchanged a few emails with her teacher.  She assured me that she isn’t worried about C’s social interactions, but she is concerned with how she is feeling and perceiving school.  She suggested some positive reinforcement, and she is going to send home a book for me to read with her.  She is also going to change her seating in class, as she seems to feel she has no good friends at school.  This is only week 3, so I know it is early, but that is her perception. 

So yesterday afternoon I talked to C about getting on the bus, and I told her that when she gets on the bus happily and willingly, she can watch a TV show after school.  On the days she balks, there is no TV.

Well, that did the trick.  This morning I reminded her of our deal, and sure enough, she hopped right on the bus and turned around and waved.

Could it really be this easy?  Only time will tell.  But for now, I’m not above a little bribery to get the job done.

UPDATE: I just picked C up at school.  She was high as a kite, and the teacher informed me that she had almost been a problem in the other direction.   She CAN be quite silly and hyper.   It’s like one extreme or the other with this one.  I guess that’s good news, all things considered.  Now if we can just help her find some balance.