As parents we try all kinds of crazy things to get our kids to do what we want. Usually, it goes something like this:
Parent: “Honey, Would you please put your shoes on?”
Parent: “Now Sweetheart, I’m asking you nicely to put your shoes on.”
Parent: “Look, We need to leave and in order to do so you’re going to have to put your shoes on.”
Parent: “Am I going to have to help you or are you going to do it yourself like a big boy/girl?”
Parent: “If you don’t put your shoes on right now I’m going to take that toy away!”
Parent: “I’m not kidding around, I will take that toy away!”
Parent: “Oh you think I’m kidding! Don’t even make me count to 3!”
Parent: “Damnit!! Look, I’ll buy you candy at the store!”
Now this isn’t exactly how my conversations go with O and Jake but sometimes they’re not terribly far off from that. I’m sure many other parents are having some flashbacks to some similar conversations as well. Today, I ran into a surprisingly different situation with O. We were about to leave the house and I asked her to get her shoes on. She walked away from me (don’t you just hate that?) and said, “No”. I asked her nicely a couple other times only to be met with resistance. It was at that point that I decided to try something new. O loves watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates. We often pretend that she’s “Izzy”, Jake is “Cubby” (go figure Jake isn’t Jake, oh well…), I’m “Captain Hook” and my wife is “Mr. Smee” (that’s the best! LOL).
So I turned to O and in my best Captain Hook voice said, “Well Matey why don’t you come over here to my magical Nail Painting Factory?” At first she was a bit confused as I hadn’t done this before. She started to get a little smile on her face and I prompted her a couple other times. I was inviting her to grab my hand and come to the Nail Painting Factory. She finally gave in, took my hand, and I helped her on the bed. I took each of her little toes and “magically” painted each one with a bright color! I even let her pick which color she wanted me to to paint them. When I was done “painting” each toe I sprinkled pixie dust on her foot and finished it off with a sock and a shoe. I went through all ten toes and before I knew it both shoes were on!
We had a fun moment together and what normally would’ve turned into me pulling my hair out and her being frustrated ended in us both smiling and walking away. O is 3 years old and her imagination is just running wild. We often find ourselves pretending to be different characters or playing out different scenes. What was different this time was the fact that we were using imagination and pretend to get her to comply with a task she otherwise would have resisted. In the end, she got to have fun playing with Dad (as I did with her) and I was able to get her to put her shoes on.
Sometimes as parents we’re so focused on the end result that we forget there are many means to the same end. Thinking outside the box can enrich the relationship you have with your children and help to build confidence, trust, creativity, and of course build that bond so strongly needed between parent and child.
What ways do you use to encourage your child to do what you ask?