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Get Your Toddler to Cooperate

By Elizabeth Pantley, author of Kid Cooperation and Perfect Parenting

Toddlers and preschoolers require finesse to gain their cooperation, because they have not yet reached the age at which they can see and understand the whole picture, so simply explaining what you want doesn't always work. Robert Scotellaro is quoted in The Funny Side of Parenthood as saying, "Reasoning with a two-year-old is about as productive as changing seats on the Titanic." (He must have had a two-year-old at the time.)

You can get around this frustrating state of affairs by changing your approach. Let's look at two situations - first the typical (Titanic) way:

Parent:    David! Time to change your diaper.
David:     No! (As he runs off)
Parent:     Come on honey. It's time to leave, I need to change you.
David:     (Giggles and hides behind sofa)
Parent:     David, this isn't funny. It's getting late. Come here.
David:     (Doesn't hear a word. Sits down to do a puzzle.)
Parent:     Come here! (Gets up and approaches David)
David:     (Giggles and runs)
Parent:     (Picking up David) Now lie here. Stop squirming! Lie still. Will you stop this! (As parent turns to pick up a new diaper, a little bare bottom is running away)

I'm sure you've all been there. Oh, and by the way, David is my son. And this was an actual scene recorded in his baby book. Like you, I got very tired of this. And then I discovered a better way:

Parent:     (Picking up diaper and holding it like a puppet, making it talk in a silly, squeaky voice) Hi David! I'm Dilly Diaper! Come here and play with me!
David:     (Running over to Diaper) Hi Dilly!
Parent as Diaper:     You're such a nice boy. Will you give me a kiss?
David:     Yes. (Gives diaper a kiss)
Parent as Diaper:     How 'bout a nice hug?
David:     (Giggles and hugs Diaper)
Parent as Diaper:    Lie right here next to me. Right here. Yup. Can I go on you? Oh yes?! Goody goody goody! (The diaper chats with David while he's being changed. Then it says, Oh, David! Listen, I hear your shoes calling you - David! David!)

The most amazing thing about this trick is that it works over and over and over and over. You'll keep thinking, "He's not honestly going to fall for this again?" But he will! Probably the nicest by-product of this method is that it gets you in a good mood and you have a little fun time with your child.

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