Picture this:

It’s pick-up time at your small being’s school. The teachers are giving a quick update to parents while the parents attempt to wrap their small beings up in warm hats and coats.

Then it happens:

One of the small beings refuses to put on a hat and starts running around the room, knocking down materials along the way. First pencils go down, then it’s books and homework folders.

The parent of this small being looks at the teachers: Are they going to do anything about this or should I? 

The teachers look at the parent: Is she/he going to do anything about this or should I? 

Both big beings do nothing. 

Instead, they both simply hope that the small being calms down and cooperates…and soon!

Meanwhile, the other parents speed up the packing-up process and try not to make eye contact with anyone as they hurry their own small beings out the door.

Have you been there?

Here is my behavioral suggestion for that moment, regardless if you are the parent or the teacher: Do what will be in the best interest of that small being and let go of what you think is your role. 

Stop worrying about if you are going to step on someone’s toes or upset another adult.  In that moment the small being needs some support so that she can stop running around the room like a  Tasmanian devil, so give the small being what they need! The big beings will sort out their own feelings about it.

There’s also something going on here that also needs to be addressed: clear boundaries of authority.  

So here’s something else to consider: Be less concerned about where the line is in specific situations and more concerned about drawing the line in advance. (Tweet)

If you make the boundaries of support clear, then when your small being is in need the expectation of who is providing the support is already established.

If you are a teacher:

When parents come to pick up their small beings make sure to say something to the affect of: “She’s all yours now.” or “Goodbye, Johnny, remember that Mom is now in charge”.  This is a cue to the small being and the parent that there is an exchange of responsibility.

If you are a parent:

At pick-up time you can say: “Hi Ella, it’s my turn to be in charge. Thank your teachers for your time with them.” or “Say bye to your teachers, now you’re with me.” Again, this is a cue not just for your small being but also for all the big beings in the area.  Be ready to mean what you say and say what you mean, even in this public environment!

This strategy can also work for tutors, babysitters and all types of instructors. Being clear about who is going to address challenging behavior before it happens is useful strategy to use in any situation.

If you want to know how to take this idea into a more social arena, then keep your eyes open in the coming weeks for a blog about how to create clear boundaries with friends and extended family!

Ideas into Action!

Try it today – at one moment – to clearly identify when you are the one in charge and when another big being is in charge.  It might surprise you how easy it is to create clarity!

Leave your feedback, experience and thoughts in the comment section below this post or email directly at with your behavior insights!

With a little help we can all grow. Keep checking in weekly for more parenting insights at Behavior and Beyond. For personal insights that I only share with my email list, please join my confidential email list below.