Toddler Hacks

We have accumulated a grab bag of parenting tricks and tactics that seem to work much of the time when our desires are not entirely in line with Elena’s plans. They aren’t firmly grounded in psychology or philosophy, and she might outgrow them at any minute. Sometimes I feel like we’re manipulating her, but then she cries for five minutes and stops instantly as soon as we show signs of giving in, so it’s a two way street and I don’t feel too bad.

Elena has grown selectively picky about food, but we have ways of making her eat. Most of the time she’ll buy in if we all take a bite at the same time, but she does occasionally fake us out. A second technique is starting to work as she begins to grasp conditional logic. When there’s one dish that she wants, we tell her that if she takes a bite of the main dish, then she can have some of what she wants. The other night, she ate most of her chicken and rice casserole in exchange for peaches. By the end, she seemed to like the casserole on its own.

Bathtime gives me another chance to work with her growing cognitive skills; in this case her sense of self and other and her nurturing tendencies. She likes playing with toys in the water, but doesn’t always want to get soapy. However, she responded affirmatively to my suggestion that we wash one of her toys. As we were washing the Little Pony and talking about how nice it was to be clean, she let me wash her without complaint.

Going to stores is always a risky proposition, starting with the coin-operated kiddie rides at the entrance. I find that she’s happy to spend about a minute on them and then come into the store, which hopefully sets us up for a good experience. Jenny has a different opinion, especially when it’s cold out.

Once in the store, we’re not too worried about Elena breaking things, so we let her look at the merchandise. She frequently puts things back in their proper place on her own, and almost always does so when we make the request. Consistency is key here, because sometimes we can convince her to “find a place to put that” when she know she doesn’t want to give it up. While browsing clearance Christmas items at Kmart, she picked up a doll-blanket combo and carried it around. When it was time to go, we went back to the shelf where she found it and asked her to put it down and tell it goodbye. She complied of her own accord, and we walked all the way to the end of the aisle before she started to cry.

Consistency is also important at bedtime. When I say that it’s time to go to bed, she wags her finger and says “no, no, no.” But she likes getting into her pajamas and reading books, and once we’ve started those activities, she’s locked in. We have to be careful to keep things moving along, because any small change could get incorporated as a necessary part of the routine.

When Elena had a cold in the past few weeks, we put the Mr. Penguin the humidifier in her room, and now she’s in love with it–giving it hugs and kisses before bed. We were also giving her Tylenol before bed (cough syrup is no longer approved for children’s use). Even though she’s better and we’re out of medicine, she’s incorporated it into the bedtime routine.

After our family prayer we go into the bathroom and fill the medicine cup with a little bit of water, which she drinks. We call it water and don’t try to hide the fact that it comes from the faucet, but she still thinks it’s an important part of the routine. We’re pretty sure this is not something that we want her to expect, but don’t have any ideas for transitioning her away from it. There’s no telling how long it will last; the more enjoyable night-night tickle time lasted for months, but seems to have receded now.


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  1. Pingback: Favorite Posts | The Number Field

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