So You Want Your Kid to Cooperate

I assume you’ve read Avoiding the Toddler Tantrums and are pretty proud of yourself. You have successfully avoided a tantrum all morning. Sure, the kids have only been awake an hour, but it’s been a peaceful hour. Feeling like Mom of the Year, you are motivated to make breakfast for your sweet angels.

You gaze at pancakes bubbling in the pan, lost in thought about how perfect your kids are. Then, it flips. No, not the pancakes. Your once loving thoughts are clouded by your growing anxiety. Junior has school this morning. Getting him ready, eating breakfast, getting out the door – it is always a battle. You wonder if other parents have to sit on their children to get them dressed.

You find yourself next to the stove, bouncing up and down like a boxer preparing to fight. You shake out your upper body. The theme song to Rocky is playing in your head. Your husband asks what you’re doing. You smile knowingly, ready to channel your inner Toddler Whisperer, armed with tools from How To Talk so Little Kids Listen:

Offer a choice:

“Do you want to wear your monkey or striped shirt today?” You ask Junior.

“I want” he pauses, “the ALLIGATOR one!” He loves to test you. Whatever.

Be Playful:

You enlist your husband, “I bet Junior can get his clothes on before you!” You race to get Junior dressed, trash talking your husband the entire time.

Everyone is successfully dressed. In all the excitement you tell your husband “Suck it, Loser!”  Ok, maybe that was too far. You plan to discuss the importance of good sportsmanship on the way to school.

Give Information:

Pancakes are ready. You didn’t even burn them this morning. You call the kids to the table. But Junior can’t sit still. You look over to see him standing in his chair, dangling a pancake into his mouth. “Chairs are for sitting”. You bite your tongue as not to lecture. It’s hard to do. Really hard.

Say it with a Word:

He is laying across the table now. Is he doing cobra pose?  “SIT!” you bark.

Describe How You Feel:

You glance up, happy to see him sitting in his chair. Until he holds his pancake high above his head, studying the syrup as it drips on the table. “I don’t like sticky syrup on the table.”

Take Action (avoiding lectures, blaming, or yelling):

You watch as he begins to trace circles in the syrup on the table. “You must be done, I won’t let my table get sticky.” You wipe his hands, he tells you he wants to give you a kiss. You feel your heart melt.


Later that morning you load him up in the car on the way to school. Instead of getting in his seat, he dashes to the front. He turns on the hazard lights. Amused at himself, he laughs “Suck it, Loser.” Ahh, the battle continues…

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