Parenting Hacks for Challenging Moments with Kids
Creative solutions for gaining your kids’ cooperation.
Here are tested creative hacks to gain cooperation in difficult (or desperate) moments with pre-school and early elementary school-aged children.
1. Problem: The sidewalk plop
We’ve all been there. You’re walking your young child without a stroller and suddenly your preschooler plops down and refuses to move. Throw a tantrum into the mix and you get the picture…
If you have another adult with you, offer to take your child’s hands between the two of you and swing them high after every count of three. “One, two, three…zoom!” Walking suddenly becomes a moment of pleasure and connection.
If you’re walking solo, don’t panic! Utilize “helicopter swings.” Have the child run ahead, and when she stops, run towards her, pick her up, and swing her around in high circles like a helicopter.
I was skeptical when I first read about this technique in Miriam Adahan’s book, Teaching Children to Care. But I tried it out and it works. Six helicopter swings later, we were home.
2. Problem: Separation anxiety
The “Forever” Hug. This extended hug makes your child feel like you aren’t in a rush to leave. When you give children permission to hug you “forever,” they often calm down quickly. If they still won’t release after a prolonged period of time, just sprinkle a little “magic pixie dust” to undo the “forever” glue, and voila! You both are happier, and ready to move forward.
3. Problem: Your child is pouting and can’t snap out of it
Search for his or her happy face. Pretend the happy face is playing hide and seek, and look everywhere: under beds, in desk drawers, and cabinets. This is sure to get your child giggling.
4. Problem: Your child refuses to follow directions or isn’t cooperating
Use a puppet to wash your child’s face, brush his teeth, or hair. Alternatively, the puppet can “order” your child to clean his or her room. This third-party puppet eases the power struggle, and the silliness ushers in a better mood.
Alternatively, sing your command.
I sing when I want to scream (most of the time). “Please brush your teeth right now.” Is one refrain I repeat when my younger kids don’t want to cooperate. A silly ditty can work for most situations (like calling to dinner, waking to the bus, or getting into bed). Even if it doesn’t get the job done, at least you and your child are laughing.
5. Problem: Your child is misbehaving or not acting in an age-appropriate manner
Sometimes, you can’t just distract the moment away. You need discipline.
One way to approach this is to simply say, “I see you don’t want…” (insert any privilege previously discussed).
For example, “I see you don’t want to go to your friend’s house.” Or buy that new skateboard.
Just be ready to follow through!
6. Problem: Your children don’t want to clean up something that they created
Children work hard when they play creatively, and breaking the structure or puzzle they just completed in order to put it away can make their efforts feel worthless. Offer to take a picture of their creation to instill the permanence and recognition they crave.
7. Problem: Your child is afraid of monsters or darkness
Create some homemade “monster-cide.” Fill a spray bottle with water (you can also add perfume or rosewater), and proceed to spray away the monsters, goblins, or other scary things that live in the darkness before bedtime.
8. Problem: Your child won’t relocate (up the stairs, to their room, bathroom, or elsewhere as needed)
Imitate different animals to make the “journey” fun! Call out, “Hop like a frog up the stairs! Who is a better frog? My frog is going to get your frog!” Or say, “Let’s slither like snakes to the bathtub.” Children love choices, so you can also ask them to choose their own animal.
9. Problem: Kids won’t complete household chores
Start small with household duties. Ask each child to clear items from the table based on age. At first, my four year old did not want to clear four items, but when we did it together the first couple times, she didn’t want to stop clearing. Eventually, kids will complete this task without any prompting from you.
These hacks have gotten me through some tough moments with my children over the years. We may think, Ugh, it takes so much energy to carry out these ideas. But they take a lot less energy than fighting through these moments. We can all use a little creativity to manage difficult moments with our children, and reap the benefits of deeper connection and joy in the home.
Many thanks to Miriam Adahan and her book, Teaching Children to Care.