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Make it Fun Get it Done

Happily, children are very social little people who want to please us, and have
us love them. That can be a huge asset when it comes to getting things done that
we need to get done, without resistance, trauma or tears. We can make everyday
tasks pleasurable for children, develop their skills and build up their self-con
fidence at the same time.
For example: you are having a frantically busy day, you have come home from work
tired and frazzled and there are certain things that you need to get done befor
e bedtime. Your child has had a hard day at playschool and is being fractious. H
ow do you cope?
Mom Makes it Fun
Getting children to do what we need them to do, while also meeting their emotion
al needs can be a bit of a balancing act, but there are some simple techniques t
hat we can use to make it much easier:
* Tell your child very clearly what you would like done.
* Explain to the child why it needs to be done.
* Thank the child afterwards for cooperating.
For example, if you are going out, and are already late, but your children are p
laying around and you want to get them moving, you can say:
* We will need to hurry up if we are going to get to grannys house in time.
* Everyone in the car please.
* Well done kids, were on our way.
Its bedtime and you need to put your childs pyjamas on, but he is squirming all ov
er the place. Rather than getting angry, or telling him he is bad, simply state
the facts:
* Its time for bed, but I cant get your pyjamas on when you are jumping around.
* Please stand still so I can get them on.
* Good, we got them on. Now its story time.
You are making supper, and the kitchen is crowded. At the same time your childs t
ricycle is in your way, so you say:
* I need space in this kitchen so I can make supper.
* Please move your tricycle.
* Thanks lots, supper will be ready soon.
Sometimes we need to make children do something, and we need to act fast. But ch
ildren love fun and games and being playful, so instead of getting angry or shou
ting, try to make it into a game. Make eye contact, smile, laugh or quickly take
physical action in a playful way.
Playful Fun
If your child is running in the aisles at the supermarket, instead of feeling wo
rried about how other people will react, or punishing the child:
* Pick the child up playfully.
* Laugh and hug the child while you say, No running in the aisles. Aisles are for
trolleys. Youre not a trolley youre a person. You can run around at when we get h
If you need to get the kids (yours and their friends) into the car, and they are
taking their time:
* Grab the smallest in your arms, shoo the rest.
* Say playfully, Quick, lets get into the car fast so that it turns into a space s
hip. Lets see who can get there first.
You are carrying a hot dish of stew to the table. Your child is in the way:
* Head for the table with the stew in your hands.
* Say, Out of my way please Janie. I would hate to drop the stew on your head. Ho
t food for our insides, not our outsides. Okay family, suppers up.
Doing Things With Children
Very small children often find it hard to do things alone. So its a good idea to
use enabling words (words that give the child permission to do the desired action
in a cooperative way). Words like, Lets all , Come along now or We can do this togethe
lp a small child to get started.
Take Sides with your Child
Sometimes children want things that we cant let them have. At such times it is go
od to be on the side of your child in a practical and fantasy-play way at the same
Toddler Eating Breakfast
You are serving Munchie Muesli for breakfast, and your child starts to cry b
ecause she wants Rice Pops. Instead of saying, No you cant have Rice Pops, you say
, I wish I could give you the biggest box of Rice Pops in the whole world. In fac
t I wish I could give you ten boxes. But we dont have any Rice Pops in the house
right now. We have only Munchie Muesli today.
Your child is in the supermarket and wants a big toy truck on the shelf. Ins
tead of saying, No you cant have it, we can say, I would love to be able to buy you
so many toy trucks they would fill up your cupboard. Unfortunately we dont have e
nough money for that, but when you get your pocket money on Friday, you can choo
se a small one you can afford, or save up for a big one.
Tell Children the Benefits of their Behaviour
* If you want to get your child into bed, you can say, Jump into bed now, and the
n I will come and read you a story.
* If your childs homework is still not done, you can say, Lets get the homework don
e now, so you can watch your favourite DVD.
* If you would like help with the dishes, you can say, Come and help me do the di
shes now, then we can play a game.
Remember to acknowledge afterwards that he or she has done what you requested. W
ords like, thanks for helping, that was quick or I see you have done it all are reaffi
rming to children.
When children get their inner tanks well filled up with love and physical warmth
, they are happy people, and happy people are more likely to work with us and be
willing to cooperate. So love your children lots and hug and hold them often. Y
ou can never give a child too much love. They thrive on it.
Understanding what Children Hear
We need to remember to watch how we say things. When we label children or call t
hem names, they believe us and act in accordance. It also discourages them and d
amages their self-esteem. If we call children silly, lazy, stupid, slow, careles
s, untidy, disobedient, etc., they will believe that is what they are. They wont
know what to do about it, how to change, or how to do whatever it is we want the
m to do.
However, if we simply describe the undesirable behaviour, say how it affects us,
and describe what can be done to fix it, children are empowered to take action,
and are left with a positive image of themselves. That is because we are the mi
rrors who reflect back to our children a picture of who they are. They will beli
eve whatever we reflect to them. This is how they come to develop a good or a ba
d self-image.
For example, if your childs toys are lying all over the floor and you want them m
oved, here are two very different ways of going about that, and how each one wil
l affect the child.
What not to say:
You terrible, untidy child, why cant you pick up your toys? In this case your child
hears that she is terrible, untidy and cant pick up her toys. She will believe y
ou and feel helpless and bad about herself.
Daughter Needs Comfort
What to say:
I get upset (feeling) when the toys are lying all over the floor (the situation)
as I trip over them (the tangible effect of the situation on you). What the chil
d hears is, Mom gets upset when my toys are lying on the floor, as she trips and
falls over them. I can solve the problem by picking them up. She doesnt get any ba
d messages about herself, and you give her the opportunity to fix the situation.
Helping them Find their Own Solutions
When children are older, it is often good to simply describe the problem and let
them decide how to fix it. Using the example above, we would just tell the olde
r child about the fact that his toys on the floor are a problem, and say how we
feel about it. He could then use his own initiative and decide to solve the prob
lem, by picking up his toys. Smaller children might need us to say, Come and lets
pick your things up together. We need to keep in mind the physical, emotional and
cognitive developmental level of the child, and what he or she is able to do at
their particular stage of development.
Dealing with Our Feelings
When we feel things intensely, we need to be able to communicate our feelings to
the child. We might want to say, I feel tired , I feel sad or even, I feel angry An
is a tricky one though, as some children are very afraid of anger. So whenever i
t is possible, it is better to rather say, I am feeling upset about Pick your battles
, and save the stronger words for when they are really needed, and preferable no
t if your anger is triggered and you are in danger of flying off the handle.
Also we often experience anger when we are really in a state of shock. Lets imagi
ne that our child ran out into the road and nearly got knocked down by a car. In
stead of yelling, Look where you are going, you nearly got killed, we can quickly
tune into what we truly feel. Then (with our heart still pounding) we might say,
Phew! I got the fright of my life. I thought you were going to get knocked over.
Thank goodness you are safe. The child will understand the seriousness of the si
tuation by the intensity of our voice, but not have to fear our anger. As a resu
lt it easier for him to learn from his experience and change his behaviour.
Mother Comfort
Dealing with Childrens Feelings
We have the right to express all our feelings, so long as we remember that child
ren have the right to do that too. When they feel sad, they need to be allowed t
o cry, when they feel happy they need to be allowed laugh and when they feel ang
ry, we need to let them express their anger as well. Sometimes we need to limit
their behaviour, and remind them that no, means no. But we should always allow them
to express their feelings about the boundaries we have set, in a safe way, with
crying or anger if needed, without letting them hurt themselves or anyone else.
When feelings are expressed at the time they are triggered, they dont get bottled
up. That makes for more relaxed and cooperative children.
Suggested reading:
Cohen, Larry. 2001. Playful Parenting. New York: Ballantine Books
Faber, Adele and Mazlish, Elaine. 2012 (Updated). How to Talk so Kids will Li
sten and Listen so Kids will Talk. New York: Harper Collins
Gordon, Thomas. 2000. Parent Effectiveness Training. New York: Ballantine Book
Grille, Robin. 2005. Parenting for a Peaceful World. NSW, Australia: Longuevil
le Media
Solter, Aletha, 1989. Helping Young Children Flourish. California: Shining Sta
r Press