Getting young kids to do what you want them to do can be a struggle. We all know this.
We’re all familiar with cries of “I don’t want to”, “I’m not tired” and “I don’t like that <insert name of food that they’ve eaten a hundred times before>”.
In the movies, dinner times are when the family gather round the table and share their experiences of the day with each other in a light, loving manner. Why don’t they depict kids pushing plates away or smushing food with their hands? Why aren’t the movie parents picking cutlery and food off the floor every few seconds? Why aren’t their offspring being threatened with the naughty spot if they don’t eat their peas?
The truth is, kids, at a very young age, become able to do things themselves. They can feed themselves, move themselves, dress themselves and so on. The accumulation of these milestones if a feeling of independence, and once they’ve had a taste of that, they don’t want to give it up.
This strengthened desire to develop themselves combined with their thirst for knowledge means that they question everything. They push their own limits. Now, this isn’t a bad thing. Testing themselves is a great way to progress. Unfortunately, that may not be in line with what you, as a parent, may not want them to do at that particular time.
We love our kids but they can be the source of a great deal of stress. A massive amount. And it’s usually worse when they’re tired. They don’t listen to logic. The naughty spot is wasted on a tired child. And the noise. The wails and yells of an annoyed pre-school age child is at the precise frequency to vibrate the ‘annoyed’ gland of the parent brain. It’s quite impressive, actually.
Rebelling – The Child’s Weakness
Have you ever noticed that if an adult pretends to cry, it makes kids laugh? If you tell them not to do something in jest then they’ll do it and laugh. They love to rebel. This, my parenting friends, is their weakness.
Use it. Use it against them. Use it wisely and you will win.
Example – Eating Dinner
Your lovely child has their dinner in front of them. It’s something they definitely, definitely like. Despite this, they are toying with their food, or are distracted, and they simply aren’t eating. It’s a situation that you’re familiar with and you know that if you say “eat your food” then they’ll retort with a series of excuses.
Try something different. Tell that what they have is your favourite food. Tell that you’re hungry and you want to eat it up. Do a comedy shocked look at tell them “don’t you dare eat that” in a silly voice. Now, this could back-fire and you could end up with them shoving the food towards you, but I’ve found that, most times, they laugh and eat up the food with renewed vigour. Job done.
Holy moly, these meaningless record of events are a great tool for any parent to have when manipulating their children. To make mine, I took an A4 piece of paper (cost, 1p) and split it up into seven days. Each day has 5 circles. If a child is good, they get a green tick in a circle. If they do a ‘naughty thing’, they get a red cross. If the day has more ticks than crosses, that’s a good day and they get to put a sticker on that day on the reward sheet. A week of mostly good days gets a reward. BINGO.
Once you’ve explained the ground rules to your child, they will jump through hoops of burning fire to get a green tick. A child who swears blind that they don’t need a bath will do a 180 if you bring up the subject of a red cross. They’ll be stripping off and diving in before Mr Matey has finished making bubbles.
By combining the manipulation of the urge to rebel, and the drive to collect green ticks / avoid red crosses, you can carefully steer your child in the direction that you want.
The Moral Aspect
Some people may suggest that there is a moral grey area in using what may be a disingenuous method to manage your children, but those people aren’t around when it’s an hour past my child’s bedtime and they’re still refusing to go to sleep.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using the above to make everyone’s life easier. You can’t argue with children, especially tired ones. Being a parent is about instilling a moral code, of course, but it’s also about surviving and trying to make a harmonious place to live. A child isn’t happy when it’s arguing or getting itself worked up. If this helps prevent that and move things in a more peaceful direction then everyone is a winner.