the hungry jacket, and other toddler tricks

In my last post, I mentioned I’d found a new parenting book that was immediately effective for me.  Honestly, it’s been so helpful that I feel like the Holy Spirit put it right in front of me so I couldn’t miss it – so of course I have to share it with you here.

How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen is written by the daughters of the women who wrote the parenting classic How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.  I skimmed that older book a few years ago, and didn’t find it helpful for my kids at that time; but this new book has been stunningly relevant and effective for me.  Before I was halfway finished reading my library copy, I ordered a paperback from Amazon because I knew I would be consulting it over and over for years to come.

I’m not going to write an entire book review here, but I wanted to share a few quick stories.   First, in their discussion of rewards and punishments, the authors suggest using rewards for your kids in the same way you use them for yourself.  You promise yourself a piece of chocolate after doing the dishes, or a few minutes of leisure reading after evening chores, as something to look forward to.  It’s less of a bribe and more truly a reward.

So the next time I was having my kids pick up the basement playroom, I worded things differently.  Instead of “if you clean up the whole basement you can watch a video,” I told them, “At 5:00 I’m going to put on your favorite show.  But it’s only 4:15 now, so you might even get some extra TV time, because we’ll turn on the TV as soon as we’re all finished cleaning up the basement.”  I was delighted to see that they started cleaning up without the usual tantrums – and they didn’t even rush upstairs to the TV when we were done, but stayed in the basement for a few minutes to enjoy how clean it was.  (Specifically, to roll around on the clean carpet.  Ha!)

Another trick I’ve been having major, major success with is to use playfulness to elicit cooperation.  When I need my two-year-old to get her jacket on to leave a friend’s house, I put the sleeve in front of my face and say in a funny voice, “I’m so hungry!  Please feed me a hand!  Oh, pleeeeease, pleeease, can I eat Elizabeth’s hand?”  I cannot get over how effective this is.  Not only does she put her coat on, she is smiling as she does it (probably because I continue with “Yum yum yum yum yum, this hand is deliiiiiicious!”)

Playfulness got us out of playgroup and into the car last week, too.   This suggestion was straight from the book: “How should we walk to the car?  Should we take big steps or little tiny steps?  OK, tiny ones – look, here are my little tiny tiptoe steps!  We’re tiptoeing to the car!”  (Another version that I haven’t used yet is, “What kind of animal should we be, walking to the car?  Should we be tigers or elephants?”

I’ve also used playfulness in a few different ways to get the girls up the stairs at bedtime.  In the past I’ve tried “Who can get upstairs the fastest” games, with only modest success, but recently I modified it to “First one up the stairs gets the first five hugs!  Second one up the stairs gets … the second five hugs!”  Worked like a charm.  Then last night when only the two-year-old was refusing to go upstairs, I paused and pretended to listen.  “Wait.  Do you hear that?  It’s your bedtime bunny.  I think he’s crying!  We’d better go check on him.”  She scampered upstairs without a second thought.

Well, the baby is crying so I’d better go.  But you don’t need any more description from me anyway.  Go to the library or go to Amazon.  Get the book, read it, try it, then come back and tell us all YOUR stories!


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