Parenting Tricks

Setting Expectations

My wife is/was an expert at this. Every night before bed she tells Tim what is happening tomorrow morning "Tomorrow morning is school and then ...". When a friend is coming over you should talk to them about sharing the toys and being nice and being a good host and friend.

Setting expectations while out in public is very important because often you do not have easy ways to punish and your child will know this. Talk to them about proper behavior while in the shopping cart or the check out line. Leaving the area is the best way of punishing them unless, of course, that's what they want. We all have been in a store with a screaming infant so yours isn't going to kill anyone. It is much more important for you to not give in to them so that future store visits will be better instead trying to escape the embarrassment this one time by letting them have the candy bar and then getting the same treatment every time.

Giving Choices

Your little person is just like all of us -- we all want to have choices in life. As I've mentioned before, we have a rule that only water or milk during and after dinner -- we didn't want the sugar sitting on his teeth overnight. So I would give him choices of cups and straws for drinking during dinner. It sounds stupid but it was very effective. Would you like some tater-tots or pizza for dinner? Would you like ketchup and/or relish with your hotdog? You are always in control but giving your child choices let's them feel like an individual. Oh, and be prepared when your child starts to give you choices back. "Ok dad, would you like to watch TV with me or play a computer game?"


This is an extremely important parenting tool which I still use on my 4 year old. Sometimes some little disappointment or pain will turn from a reaction into an episode. Usually the pain is gone in 10 seconds but the crying can go one for minutes. By switching your child's attention to something else, you can often have them forget the event quite quickly.

Now as your little one grows older (3-4) you cannot misdirect an older child because they call it on your or remember it quite effectively. More importantly, they are going to need to learn how to resolve and move past issues themselves. Tim had a hard time with this right at 4. Sometimes he would get so upset about something that he couldn't move on. The older he got the more effective talking about it was.

Setting Limits

One important tool to use is setting limits on certain behavior. If your child wants something or wants to do something, you have an opportunity to define it as a privilege -- to get them to understand that it is special and only done in certain circumstances. Some examples of other behaviors to limit are below.

You can use a birthday (or really any special day) as the time to graduate them away from some behavior. Start telling them a couple of weeks beforehand that they are turning 2 coming up and are becoming a big boy/girl and that the pacifier is going to be only for bed (and maybe car). Get them used to the idea before D-day. You can even hold a little party for them or something (turning 2 1/2) or whatever you need to do. Then when they complain (oh and they will) you can remind them that now that they are a big girl/boy, they need to behave differently. Misdirection is important here but you must stand firm.

Making Things a Game

Although there are many things which must be dealt with in a serious manner, you have an opportunity with the rest to make it fun. One of the effective things that I am using these days is when I want him to eat a little more breakfast before school. I act horrified that he liked multiple flavors of syrup on his waffle in the morning. I tell him that I'll make one for him with maple and blueberry syrup but he can't eat it. He says "ok dad" and still thinks it's hilarious when I catch him taking bites. That's worked for years.

An easy way to get your child to go to bed is to race them there. All I needed to do for a long time to get Tim flying up to bed was to start counting "10, 9, 8, ..." and he would take off so he could make it to his bed before 0. Loads of fun for everyone included my wife as we'd dash by heading upstairs. A little bit of exercise, faster to bed, everyone's a winner.

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