Get Your Toddler to Cooperate!
By Elizabeth Pantley
Preschoolers require more finesse to gain their cooperation because they have not yet reached the age at which they can see and understand the whole picture. 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 the Titanic.” (He must have had a two-year-old at the time.)
You can get around this frustrating state of affairs by changing your approach. Let’s look at two situations – 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 to change 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. Stop squirming! Lie still. Will you stop this?!
(As parent turns to pick up a new diaper, a little bare bottom is seen running away.)
I’m sure you’ve all been there.
By the way, David is my son. Like you, I got very tired of this. And then I discovered a better way.
Parent: (picking up diaper and holding it like a puppet, 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 a kiss?
David: Yes. (gives diaper a kiss)
Parent as Diaper: How ‘bout a nice hug?
David: (giggles and hugs diaper)
Parent as Diaper: Lie right here next to me. Right here. Yup. Can I go on you? Oh, yes?! Goody goody goody!
(The diaper continues to chat with David while he’s being changed. Then it says, “Oh, David! Listen, I hear your shoes calling you – ‘David! David!’”)
How long can you get away with this?
The most amazing thing about this trick is that it works over and over and over and over. You’ll keep thinking, “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 mood and you have a little fun time with your child.
When you’ve got a toddler, this technique is a pure lifesaver. When my son David was little, I used this all the time. I now use it with my youngest child Coleton, who just turned two. One day when David was almost three, we were waiting in a long line at the grocery store and I was making my hand talk to him. He was hugging my hand when he looked up at me and said, “Mommy, I love for you to pretend this hand is talking.”
Another day, after I had called David to the table for dinner a number of times, he calmly looked up at me, chubby hands on padded hips and said, “Mommy, why don’t you have my dinner call to me?” And suddenly, the peas on his plate came to life and called out to David; he ran over to join us at the dinner table.
Variation with imagination
A variation on this technique that also works very well is to capitalize on your young child’s vivid imagination as a way to thwart negative emotions. Pretend to find a trail of caterpillars on the way to the store, hop to the car like a bunny or pretend a carrot gives you magic powers as you eat it.
It’s delightful to see how a potentially negative situation can be turned into a fun experience by changing a child’s focus to fantasy.
Excerpted with permission by New Harbinger Publications, Inc. from Kid Cooperation: How to Stop Yelling, Nagging and Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate by Elizabeth Pantley.
Parenting educator Elizabeth Pantley is the author of numerous parenting books, including the widely cited The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night. Buy her books at Powells.com. She is a regular radio show guest and is quoted frequently on the web and in national family and women’s publications. Elizabeth lives in Washington state with her husband, their four children and her mother. Visit her at www.pantley.com/elizabeth.