Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Get Your Toddler to Cooperate!

By Elizabeth Pantley, Authorof Kid Cooperation and Perfect Parenting

Toddlers and preschoolersrequire finesse to gain their cooperation, because they have not yet reachedthe age at which they can see and understand the whole picture, so simplyexplaining what you want doesn’t always work. Robert Scotellaro is quoted in The Funny Side of Parenthood as saying,“Reasoning with a two-year-old is about as productive as changing seats on theTitanic.” (He must have had a two-year-old at the time.)

You can get around thisfrustrating state of affairs by changing your approach. Let’s look at twosituations – first the typical (Titanic) way:

Parent: David! Time to change your diaper.

David: No! (As he runs off)

Parent: Come on honey. It’s time to leave, I need tochange you.

David: (Giggles and hides behind sofa)

Parent: David, this isn’t funny. It’s getting late.Come here.

David: (Doesn’t hear a word. Sits down to do a puzzle.)

Parent: Come here! (Gets up and approaches David)

David: (Giggles and runs)

Parent: (Picking up David) Now lie here. Stopsquirming! Lie still. Will you stop this!

(As parent turns to pick up a new diaper, a little barebottom is running away)

I’m sure you’ve all beenthere. Oh, and by the way, David is myson. And this was an actual scene recorded in his baby book. Like you, I gotvery tired of this. And then I discovered a better way:

Parent: (Picking up diaper and holding it like apuppet, making it talk in a silly, squeaky voice)

Hi David! I’m Dilly Diaper! Come here and play with me!

David: (Running over to Diaper) Hi Dilly!

Parent as Diaper: You’re such a nice boy. Will you give me akiss?

David: Yes. (Gives diaper a kiss)

Parent as Diaper: How ‘bout a nice hug?

David: (Giggles and hugs Diaper)

Parent as Diaper: Lie righthere next to me. Right here. Yup. Can I go on you? Oh yes?!

Goodygoody goody! (The diaper chats with David while he’s being changed. Then itsays, Oh, David! Listen, I hear your shoes calling you – David! David!

The most amazing thing aboutthis trick is that it works over and over and over and over. You’ll keepthinking, “He’s not honestly going to fall for this again?” But he will!Probably the nicest by-product of this method is that it gets you in a good moodand you have a little fun time with your child.

When you’ve got a toddlerthis technique is a pure lifesaver. When my son David was little I used thisall the time. (I then used it with my youngest child, Coleton, and it workedjust as well.) Remembering back to one day, when David was almost three, wewere waiting in a long line at the grocery store and I was making my hand talkto him. It was asking him questions about the items in the cart. Suddenly, hehugged my hand, looked up at me and said, “Mommy, I love for you to pretendthis hand is talking.”

Another parent reported thatshe called her toddler to the table for dinner a number of times, when hecalmly looked up at her, chubby hands on padded hips and said, “Mommy, whydon’t you have my dinner call to me?”

And suddenly, the peas on hisplate came to life and called out to him; he ran over to join the family at thedinner table.

A variation on thistechnique, that also works very well, is to capitalize on a young child’s vividimagination as a way to thwart negative emotions. Pretend to find a trail ofcaterpillars on the way to the store, hop to the car like a bunny, or pretend acarrot gives you magic powers as you eat it.

It’s delightful to see how apotentially negative situation can be turned into a fun experience by changinga child’s focus to fun and fantasy.

Excerptedwith permission from Kid Cooperation, How to Stop Yelling, Nagging andPleading and Get Kids to Cooperate by Elizabeth Pantley Website:

Copyright1996 Published by New Harbinger Publications, Inc.(

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