I’ve been working at this parenting gig for over seven years now. Each and every day of those seven years has brought some kind of situation that left me at a loss. Whether it’s trying to explain to a toddler that biting your mom is a bad idea, deciding which child to deal with first as siblings go toe-to-toe, or decoding mystery illness symptoms, parenting continues to baffle me on many levels. That’s what makes it such a white knuckle ride.
At the same time, I have picked up a few tricks in my years as a mom. I’ve honed my parenting tools, and come up with some techniques that make my life just that much easier. Today, I’m sharing some of them with you. Hopefully a few work for you, too.
“When I count to three, I need you to climb down from the tree.”
Amber’s Go-To Parenting Tricks
- Set it to music. I sing to my kids constantly to get them to do stuff. We have special songs for getting dressed, going upstairs, brushing your teeth, and a whole lot of other stuff. For getting undressed I sing this to the tune of Ottawan’s “Hands Up” – Hands up, Jacob hands up! Take off your shirt, take off take off your shirt! It works like a charm.
- Order of operations. I’m not a huge fan of bribery. But that doesn’t mean I can’t set up a sequence of events in my favour. This is why you’ll hear me saying things like, “Here’s the plan: first we’ll clean up our toys, then we’ll fold the laundry, then we can each have a cookie.” It’s not bribery, exactly, but it does elicit cooperation.
- Arms wide open. I have spent more time calling for my kids in public places than I would care to remember. It starts out innocently enough, but it quickly escalates. My volume level rises, my face gets red, and more and more passersby stop to look. It’s frustrating, it’s unattractive, and I don’t enjoy it. But if I catch my kid’s eye and kneel down with my arms wide open, that kid will immediately come running pretty much every time. No raised voices, no gawkers, and I feel like I totally rock the mom gig.
- You get what you get, and you don’t get upset. I learned this phrase from a guest at one of my daughter’s birthday parties as I was passing out cake. There’s something about setting words to rhyme that kids find compelling. Apparently, you just can’t argue with a rhyme. I find myself using these words often, when negotiations over exactly how many noodles each kid has get out of hand.
- Counting to three. When I was a kid, if someone’s mom started counting, you didn’t want to be around once she got to three. I don’t use counting as a threat with my kids. However, I do often say, “When I count to three, I want you to [put down your toy / turn off the music / give me the marker / etc.]” There’s something about the counting that eases the transition from one thing to the next, and it often works to get my kids to stop doing something that I don’t want them to do.
- It’s not me, it’s the phone. We all know we’re supposed to give our kids warnings when it’s time to leave, so I’ve always done that. Still, even after giving a warning, I usually find myself arguing with a kid once the actual moment of departure arrives. But then I started using the timer on my phone. I explain that I’m setting the timer, and when it goes off we have to leave. When the beeping starts my kids groan a little, but they don’t argue. How could they argue with a phone? I’m using technology to deflect the blame, and it’s awesome.
Those are some of my parenting shortcuts, but I could always use more. What tricks do you use to make your life with kids just a little easier? I’d love to hear!