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!!
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