Creative Parenting Tips for Getting Through the Day

April 1, 2020

Posted by Lake Erie Nature and Science Center

Sarah Saunders, M.A., LPCC / Meghan Barlow & Associates

Before kids, getting out of the house in a timely fashion was a struggle. When I add in a newborn and toddler, well, now it’s a disaster. I have taken the term “fashionably late” to a whole new level.

In the summer months it was acceptable for you to throw your kids in the car without shoes and in a onesie because they refused to wear pants. Now, that’s not the case. Socks, shoes, coat, hat, oh and yes, don’t forget the pants.

Earlier this week the sun was finally shining and we all needed some fresh air. I figured going for a walk would do everybody good. Well, of course my newborn was screaming bloody murder because he hates his car seat and my toddler refused to wear a hat outside. Although the sun was shining, it was still a cool 40 degrees and windy. Normally, I can pick and choose my battles, but we are trying to stay as far away from the doctor’s office as possible. The hat was non-negotiable.

My patience was thinning. All I could hear was my newborn screaming, while my toddler remained on the floor like a pout-pout starfish. Everything in me wanted to just cancel the walk, but for my sanity, I needed to get the heck out of the house. And if we didn’t go, what would that be teaching my toddler? So, I took a deep breath and decided to get creative.

Instead of showing my frustration, I pulled out one of his favorite books, which immediately re-directed his attention and caused him to regain his composure. Then, I showed him all the characters that were wearing hats; immediate attention grabber. I said, “Mickey is wearing a hat, so he gets to go outside!”, “Minnie is wearing a hat, she gets to go outside.” Insert any name of character with a hat…you get the picture. Well, it worked and we got out the door! This is what I call redirection at its finest!

Instead of using punishment or empty threats to get kids to do what we want, try getting on their level with a little creativity. Here are a few ways to get your kids to comply without using fear, punishment or empty threats:

  • Get down on their level – understand that whatever is being asked of them is difficult. I wholeheartedly believe that all kids want to do well, and if they are having a hard time they need tools to help them. Understand something is difficult for them and show compassion.
  • Make it a game – it does not matter how old you are, everyone loves games. ‘I spy’ is another great way to get kids out the door (open the door and say, “I spy something yellow in the driveway”). When it comes to cleaning, have fun with it. I love to call things a “mission.” Your secret mission is to pick up only the sock in your room. Use fun and silly voices to keep the momentum going.
  • Positive reinforcement – Always, always, always give your kids attention and/or praise when they are behaving in the way you want. When you catch them turning off the iPad the FIRST time you asked, tell them “I love that you listened so well the first time, it makes me really happy” (insert a kiss on the head, hug, high-five).
  • Don’t complicate it – kids really are simple. And let’s face it. As parents, we have enough complicated things to deal with, so keep it simple with the kids. Simple instructions. Break things down. When working with my clients I always use the analogy of a watermelon. I say, what would happen if you put an entire watermelon in your mouth? Some say, “it is impossible.” Others say, “you would have a really bad tummy ache.” The same goes for tasks. You have to break things down one slice at a time. If you ask your child to clean up their toys, that might look like a big watermelon to them and make them sick, causing them to meltdown. Instead, break it down; “Hey buddy, put your cars in the bin.” Be specific and keep it simple.
  • Lead by example – I always encourage parents to pretend they are a mirror when talking with their child. Kids are sponges and they soak up what they see us doing. If you are calm and keep your composure, over time they will come around. The same is true on the opposite end. If you are irritated and yelling, your child will often times will mirror that behavior as well. So, try and think of yourself as a mirror and use your actions and body language to reflect onto your kids.
Topic: Preschool