I have this fantasy that some day I’ll wake up and my kids will just do what I ask them to do. Happily. Without running away or throwing an angry screaming fit about it (You want me to stop what I’m doing and wash my hands before lunch?! These sweaty sticky hands?! These grimy little hands that are busy throwing a basketball into my hoop for the 10,000th time today?! How dare you!!!). But, until that day, I’ll just trick them into obedience. Here are some of my favorite ways to throw them off guard just enough to make them do what I want them to do.
When I’m brushing David’s teeth or helping him floss I’ll say something along the lines of, “I bet I can open my mouth bigger than you!” or “Can you roar like a lion?” or “Can you make your mouth as big as a wide-mouthed frog?”. Then, when he’s got his mouth gaping open, I’ll rush in with the toothbrush and get the deed done.
“You can’t smile for the camera. Don’t do it! Noooooooo! Don’t you dare smile!”. And he smiles.
When David is getting too loud my first inclination is usually to get louder. But what actually works better is a whisper. I’ll start whispering random things to him in an “excited whisper”–like what I’m saying is really important. He usually catches on after a few seconds and starts trying to listen to what I’m saying. The cutest thing is that when I’m whispering he always responds in a whisper, too. Now we’re having a whisper conversation instead of a shouting match!
Give them “choices”:
“Do you want broccoli or green beans with your dinner?” versus “Do you want vegetables with your dinner tonight?” (because, duh, no they do not want vegetables with their dinner tonight–but that doesn’t change the fact that they will get vegetables with their dinner tonight).
Make it a game:
When we have a particularly messy house (OK, we have a particularly messy house by about 4:00 every day) we’ll play “secret scrap” (or, in David’s case, “secret ball”). I’ll find a secret item that he has to find and put away, and if he does he gets a prize (usually a sticker or a hand stamp).
*Note: I don’t actually have a secret item in mind when we start the game. I just wait until I’m satisfied that things have been cleaned up and I tell him that the last thing he put away was the secret scrap.
The other day David was having a temper tantrum in the car (this happens quite often–you know, if I don’t sing the correct song or I don’t sing it in the correct way or I quit singing songs or I sing them too loudly or…). I just shouted over the top of his protests “Look! A schoolbus! What color is that light over there? Hold your breath through the tunnel (really just a freeway overpass). How many square signs can you find?”–and I just kept going until he started answering my questions. Then he wanted me to ask more questions. So I did. And he answered them. Temper tantrum: over.
David doesn’t have any older siblings and Jacob is still too young to be any competition yet. But David has an older cousin who he looks up to and adores. And sometimes I use that to my advantage: “Guess what? Cousin Noah uses a spoon and fork at the dinner table. He doesn’t even throw food when he’s at the table! In fact, I happen to know that cousin Noah keeps his face and shirt clean when he’s eating!”. Now David wants to use a spoon and a fork better than Cousin Noah and keep his face and his shirt cleaner.
Encourage them to exert their independence:
David is two-and-a-half, so feeling like a “big kid” is kind of a “big deal” these days. I’ll say things to him like, “Wow! You’re such a big boy now–I bet you can even help do the Velcro on your shoes like a big boy!”. And, you know what, usually he can.
Now, these are some handy little tricks of the trade, but they do not work 100% of the time. Even with those odds, though, I’ll take any help I can get!