5 Ways to Get Your Toddler to do Almost Anything

DSC0619 Version 2 1024x680 5 Ways to Get Your Toddler to do Almost Anything

This is a piece I wrote recently for a parenting outlet on how I get my toddler to listen.  Enjoy! xx

1.  Leverage the FOMO Phenomenon

The FOMO (“Fear of Missing Out”) Phenomenon isn’t limited to attractive 20-somethings living in Manhattan.  Shortly after my son started to understand language, I learned through trial and error that toddlers actually experience FOMO too.  Unlike New Yorkers, though, toddlers can be persuaded by a Fear Of Missing Out by a stuffed animal, imaginary person, or even mom and dad.  And it didn’t take long for my husband and I to start leveraging the FOMO phenomenon on a daily basis:  “What sweetie? You don’t want to take a bath before daycare?  Beeeeaaaarrrr!!  Bear! You’re on deck!  Get ready to go to school, today’s your big day!”  (Witness as toddler quickly scampers into the tub.)  Best for:  getting out the door in record time

2. Alice in Wonderland Your Life

The tooth fairy, Easter bunny, and even Santa himself can’t compete with the magic of tiny blue speckled eggs in a mystery bird’s nest, dazed and fuzzy yolk-colored ducklings marching hazily in a row, or a mama spider spinning her web from a highrise window as raindrops buzz by.  Day-to-day frustrations, frenzied outbursts, and even the routinely mundane are eclipsed by awe when you direct your toddler’s attention to the magic all around us.  “(Interrupting a crying spell) Did anybody else see that rabbit scamper across the road (or living room)?” Best for: redirecting and qwelling tantrums

3. Everybody Likes a Little Reward Now and Then

Adults are motivated by tangible rewards, and so are little people.  It can be a challenge, though, to find the sweet spot between a motivational incentive and the cultivation of a bad habit.  I can’t think of a more compelling incentive than a Starbuck’s donut, but rewarding myself with a donut every time I go to the gym is not the most productive leverage. Along the same lines, my son wouldn’t mind an ice cream sandwich each time he brushes his teeth, but our dental insurance has a crazy high deductible. Dried fruit like cherries, pineapple, and apples work miracles, are healthier than mini-M&Ms, and can last for months even if your toddler is the personification of perfect and negotiates his way up to 4 dried cherries per good deed.  We also throw a dollar bill or lollipop into the mix every now and then for good measure.

Best for: activities that require delayed gratification

4.  Like the Animals Do

Whether it’s swimming like a fish, eating salad like a iguana, or putting on sunscreen like a seal (if you didn’t know seals wear sunscreen, see #2 above), children are drawn to the animal kingdom and have an instinctual need to observe, learn from, and imitate their wild brethren.  Dipping your feet in the ocean can be scary and intimidating, but jumping over the waves like a dolphin or kicking in the pool like a whiskerfish, that’s living.  Best for: overcoming toddler resistance

5.  Follow the Principles of the Universe

In the world of adulthood, bad decisions result in bad consequences.   Changing the rules of the Universe because you’re dealing with a 2-year-old only paves the road for an artificially extended learning curve.  One of the most educational moments for my toddler was the day he fell into our stinky neighborhood water fountain after he leaned too far over the edge (it was only 10 feet wide and 2 feet deep).  He had a ride of shame home on his tricycle wearing only his damp Elmo underpants and my crocheted sweater. But he still reminds us whenever we’re walking near stagnant water: “Guys, don’t get too close or you can fall in!”  As long as the toddler is aware of the boundaries (because, in this case, ignorance of law is an excuse) and fully informed of the consequences, crossing a well-defined boundary demands a displeasing consequence, according to the laws of the Universe.  Time-out works wonders in our house…or the occasional smelly, shallow fountain.  Best for:  severe transgressions such as drawing on walls

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June 18, 2014 - 2:24 am

Kathleen - Interested in what u do

June 18, 2014 - 4:51 am

Laurel Bill - I love this – my grandson just turned 2 and I will share with my daughter. Thank you!

June 18, 2014 - 6:06 am

Imelda Guanzon - Awesome tips! I could use this for my 4 years old son.

June 18, 2014 - 7:10 am

John Baker - that was a lot of insight, it sounds like you have experience along with the wisdom

June 18, 2014 - 11:54 am

Lauren Stevens - SO true! We’re currently living this, and this is our first go-round with a toddler…

June 18, 2014 - 12:00 pm

Katie @ Pick Any Two - Love these tips! I will never forget the day my toddler started eating broccoli ferociously because I told him that it was dinosaur food (hey, some dinosaurs ate trees and broccoli florets look like trees!). Game-changer, right there!

June 18, 2014 - 6:45 pm

beverleygolden - Very valuable tips, especially knowing that the first seven years of child development are all about “mirroring” and learning from the world around them. Enjoyed how you include imagination in tip number #2 and how you bring nature and the animal kingdom into play as well. Love how you also included honouring the laws of the Universe.

June 18, 2014 - 6:57 pm

Meryl Hershey Beck - These are great ideas! I love the way you combine imagination with redirection tantrums, and definitely find to FOMO phenomenon interesting. Thank you for sharing!

June 18, 2014 - 7:39 pm

Carele Belanger - Great tips. I remember using a a little reward system for my kids and it was always working.

June 18, 2014 - 8:43 pm

Kungphoo - These are awesome ideas and tip! Definitely something I will have to try in the future, especially redirecting tantrums to something beautiful and amazing in the world around us. Thanks for providing this!

June 18, 2014 - 8:50 pm

Alexandra McAllister - These are all great ideas and tips! I can see you have a lot of experience with a toddler! 😉 Thanks so much for sharing! The pic is so sweet! :)

June 18, 2014 - 9:57 pm

Shari Yantes - These tips are fabulous!! I’m going to have to share this with all of my friends and family with young cildren! Thanks so much for sharing!!

June 18, 2014 - 10:20 pm

casavilorainteriors - Rewards are what worked fro me with my kids. Punishment works too when they don’t do as they are told.

June 19, 2014 - 3:43 am

rochefel - Thank you for this post, Jessica. Follow the Principles of the Universe made a lot of sense to me with 3 children at home, (3 and 4yrs). I get to do the reward system, too and it works at time. Well, not all the time, but it does. Lol! Having babies at home is really lot of fun with a TON of responsibilities especially right now that we decided to homeschool them. Your post is very timely. :)

June 19, 2014 - 3:46 pm

Sharon O'Day - I don’t have kids or grandkids, but I read each and every word with fascination. Peeking into the human brain became a priority for me when I started mentoring grown women around their money … and I found that so many issues grew out of things that occurred at the age you are writing about. Suddenly the challenges of parenting took on a whole other aspect. Keep writing!

June 19, 2014 - 4:37 pm

Nate - All very helpful tips. Thank you!

June 19, 2014 - 8:26 pm

danisdecadentdeals - What a cute post! I do not have any kids, but I will pass these tips along to my friends:)

June 19, 2014 - 10:51 pm

Roslyn - Great ideas. Intuitively used some years ago and was told by elders I wasn’t being firm enough. I guess it depends on your belief system about using psychology or control.

June 20, 2014 - 1:10 am

Tina - What great ideas! I remember when Lauren was about 4 and attending a Montessori School. She refused to get dressed and be ready on time. The instructor said to simply bring her in her pjs (making sure I had a change of clothes for her cubby). I did…which means she went to school in her pjs. ONLY ONCE. Smart Montessori teacher!

June 20, 2014 - 11:29 am

Don Purdum - I appreciate so much that you mention a conversation around rewards. I know as a young parent years ago I did was taught as a child – negative reinforcement to get my son to do what we wanted him to do. It doesn’t work and it risks bending their personalities long-term into a negative perspective as well.

Positive reinforcement is so much better and it does work!!!!! There is a time for negative discipline (like a spanking or grounding), but perhaps fewer is more impactful than often.

June 20, 2014 - 6:02 pm

Gina Binder - This is golden: “Changing the rules of the Universe because you’re dealing with a 2-year-old only paves the road for an artificially extended learning curve”. These same applies to dealing with teenagers!

June 20, 2014 - 6:55 pm

Tom Holmberg - Getting toddlers to listen isvlike getting a puppy to focus. These are great tips.

June 22, 2014 - 5:48 pm

Robin Strohmaier - These are great tips, Jessica! Positive reinforcement is so much better and it does work!

June 23, 2014 - 3:10 am

Gilly - These are very creative and fun ideas to working it out with your cutie pie 😀

August 12, 2014 - 12:42 am

Rachel Everett - Great writer (and great mom, too!) I love the wisdom and humor in this post. Fab.

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