By Linda Hopkins, a ParentingSuccess Parent
One of the things I regularly employ and that I find very useful is the idea of choices when I’m trying to achieve something with my son.
This is actually something that I picked up initially for business. I have a background in sales and it’s a little tip I learned when trying to book a meeting with somebody, although you can use it in a variety of situations when you’re trying to achieve something. So rather than asking “when can you meet?” or “can you meet on Tuesday?” which can elicit either a No or an evasive response, you offer a choice. “What’s best for you, Tuesday or Wednesday / mornings or afternoons?” This assumes they are going to do what you’ve asked them to do and puts their brain into the mode of just choosing when or how they want to do it.
This idea of offering choices works well with children and is something that I was reminded of when I attended several of the parenting success workshops last year. Let’s say you’re trying to get your child dressed in the morning and he’s just not interested, instead of repeatedly asking him to “put your trousers on” or “come on you need to get dressed now” (which let’s face it usually just turns into a nagging session and upsets you both) you might try something like “which trousers would you like, the green or blue ones?”, or “do you want to put your socks or your pants on first?”. This encourages their brains to focus on considering which option they prefer (rather than ignoring or refusing your request) and also makes them feel that they have some choice over the matter. Let’s face it no one likes to be told what to do every minute of the day!
Now I won’t say that this works every time but in my experience you have a better shot at achieving what you want calmly and in a fun way by using this method.
Taking this a step further, last night I was employing this tactic over the subject of getting my son upstairs for a bath. He is nearly 7 and a complete Lego fanatic and as usual last night after dinner was completely engrossed in his Lego creations. So having given him the usual 10 and 5 minute warnings that it was time to pack up and go upstairs for a bath I went for the choice option. “So what do you want tonight, a bath or a shower?” He’s only just recently taken to the idea of showering, having hated it before, so this has become a lovely quick way of getting washed and ready for bed when we are pressed for time that he now seems to find rather fun.
However last night he decided that he really didn’t want to have any of it. I duly offered the bath or shower option and I got a flat “neither”. This is the age when your bright, intelligent child shines through and sometimes just beats you at your own game! So I then introduced the compromise of a quick wash as an added option. Nope. Having none of it.
So after a couple of goes time to switch to a different tack. Another thing I’ve learnt from discussions with other parents and some of the parenting workshops I’ve attended is to always try and be creative.
Some years ago I was introduced to the idea of “playful parenting” by Jane Tyson who is now the Area Facilitator for ParentingSuccess for the Guildford area. She has a son a few years older than mine with a reasonably similar outlook and personality to mine it seems and she’s been a really good source of advice for me over the years. She’d been recommended a book called “playful parenting” by her stepmother, I confess I haven’t read it but I love the idea, and she was telling me a story about getting her daughter dressed for school one day. At the time she was having trouble getting her daughter dressed and out of the house in the mornings and it was becoming a really stressful thing for them both. So she relayed to me how on this particular occasion she went for the playful parenting option and got down on her hands and knees and I think put her socks on her own hands and started pretending she was a dog! I may have got some of the details wrong but I remember her telling me how it turned it into a really fun moment with her daughter where they played this silly dog game laughing together whilst getting her dressed. I absolutely loved this story and it’s one of those little genius things that has stuck with me. I’m a single mum and sometimes there is so little time in the day to get everything done that needs to be done that the fun and joy just sails right out the window. So I’m very mindful of this and the playful parenting idea has really helped me lighten up and get some fun back in the room.
So returning to the subject of my grubby 6 year old…I decided to try the playful card. When we go camping he sometimes has a “bath” in our big yellow tub trug, basically a big plastic bucket with handles that we mainly use for the washing up! We’ve been doing this since he was 2 and he can just about squeeze himself into the same tub and still loves his “hot tub” in a field.
So last night I asked him if he would like to have a bath in a bucket in the bath! I took the trug up, plonked it in the bath, filled it up and he was up there and in it 5 minutes later. Success! And no nagging.
Have a think today about where you can be more “playful” with your parenting. I find pants on head during dressing time usually works well to lighten the mood on most occasions!