My 4 year old daughter is hesitant to go to preschool, sometimes to the point of whining and complaining, yet once she gets there she is happy as a clam and has a great time. Any suggestions?

—Tired of hearing it.

Dear Tired,

Ah yes, the “dread game”, I know it well. Most children of all ages play it at some point and actually quite a few adults, me included, also indulge in it from time to time. Not to worry, there’s plenty you can do.

Start off by recognizing what it is and naming it out loud, “Ah! The dread game!” Try to say it with some humor so it will be received better. Put some healthy boundaries around it, “I’m all ears, tell me all about it for 1 full minute, I’ll time you, ready? Start!” When your child pauses say “Tell me more.”, or “Anything else?” Both of you will find it’s harder than it sounds to go the full minute. Don’t problem solve. When your child finishes, say, “Thank you.” Then either walk away, humming, or if in the car change the subject “Hey!, did I tell you what happened at the store yesterday?” or turn up the radio and sing along.

Bottom Line: Don’t buy into it.

Here’s the story behind it. Your little ones are learning logic from 4 to 8 years. Anyone younger than that is pre logic and literally does not have the developmental tools to know that they will be having a great time in the near future. Don’t try to convince them or talk them out of their mood.

Anyone in the years from 4 to 8 is just getting logic, and is either in a transition period of still getting stuck developmentally (you know how they go back and forth when they are learning a new skill) or has learned that the “dread game “ is a great way to get you to engage and get some attention.

Any adults doing it are stuck developmentally, not always in a permanent way, usually just like kids, they just slipped back there because they were stressed, tired, hungry or got some old stuff triggered.

Any way you look at it, that person, no matter their age, at that moment is in the middle of it and can’t get out, no matter how much you try to talk them out of it or fix it.

The best approach is to acknowledge it, name it and set a limit to how long they can indulge in it.

Remind yourself that the stuckee is developmentally very young and needs you to be the kind, loving, respectful adult who provides structure, AND does not join in the drama.