Rookie move

Peanut loves the bath, but some days is feeling obstinate. Shocking, I know, given his age and his temperament. So I broke out the classic fail-safe last night for the first time this year: “choose your bath color tonight.” A little cake gel colorant dissolved in a coffee cup and poured ceremoniously into the tub, and we had a whine- and struggle-free purple bath.

battle-free technique no. 1

Battle-free technique number one

Nor, this particular evening did Peanut want to brush his teeth. We proffered the toothbrush that blinks. To no avail. Offered a choice of toothpastes and the option to self brush first or after parental brushing. Nothing. We suggested an upside down brushing (dangling toddlers works for anything but three year olds are *so* over that technique) but he declined. We settled for the threat, our last resort: no teeth, no stories. If you say yes stories, you say yes teeth. Your choice. We have no stake in the answer.

Grumblingly whiningly sold. Clean teeth and the never-yet-missed two stories.

There must be a better way.

So I thought of you. I’m offering up this post for those of you who are struggling with or masters of issues of any kind…let’s do a greatest hits of how to get around our children’s behavior. The colored bath and the upside down teeth brushing are my favorites at home. In public, a special purse toy that only comes out when I need five minutes of quiet work for us. Haircuts and hair tangles, in our house, get homemade yogurt popsicles in the tub. And veggie avoidance that goes on too long get broiled (425 degree, olive oil and salt) veggies delivered fresh from the oven to a Peanut in the tub. Because my kid thinks eating in the bath is the height of decadence. Whatever, dude, every other kid gets good bribes, like candy, but you don’t need to know that.

And for doctor’s visits, which none of us fear but I know some families do, are scheduled later the same week as one of my doctor’s visits, so he can see everything happen to me first.

What do you do for the reluctant toothbrusher? What is your magic, fail-safe, works every time trick for some issue your kid wants to get around? What issue do you desperately need advice on? Feel free to post anonymously. Just make up a fake email account from yahoo or hotmail and ask or answer as you see fit.

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17 thoughts on “Rookie move

  1. WOW you are a way better mom then me. I will have to try that bath color trick. My toddler is just 2 1/2 and the “conversation” is just coming along. I bribe with pickles and smarties……Yes smarties….especially in the barbers chair ( shame on me)
    Tooth brushing? That one is tricky..I let him brush mine and I skip the toothpaste. “They” say the don’t really need it for now as long as they drink lots of water.(flouride in the tap water??)I also have the ” never before seen, only taken out in emergency situation” toy. Works like a charm in Church. Looking forward to reading what others say. :)

  2. Jen, before kids I judged candy bribe. I now have one of the most spirited, intense, and tenacious kids I could ever hope to meet, and I judge nothing. Smarties and haircut seem like a fond memory he’ll have as an adult, not poor parenting. See how I made that a ritual not a bribe? Rationalization is the name of the game, honey. Keep up the Smarties until well after he asks for them, and it’s a family tradition.
    Pickles as a bribe is pretty damned funny.

  3. We’re big fans of the false choice, but it sounds like you kind of did that with the “you brush or we brush” tactic. Perhaps you could expand it and pull the old “let’s flip for it; heads I win, tails you lose” gag. “Sorry, buddy, it’s out of my hands. The coin has the final say.” I think I’m joking (but am not at all sure).

    • Daryl, I think introducing the coin flip at this juncture is GENIUS! Gonna try it. Of course, I’ll probably wind up with “you obey the coin, you can keep the coin,” but it’s worth it. The world is all about paying for work, so I can pay a penny a night for clean teeth.
      I love the choice-between-two-things-I-want-you-to-do but three years was the end of that. Now it’s “Neither, and Mom, you can’t tell me what to do.”

  4. I left a comment but for some reason it didn’t post. I have gone through two 3-year-old phases (a stage I call “The Devil Years”) and know all about this. Feel free to e-mail me because I have a zillion posts on just this subject. Oh, and just remember: 4 years old is even worse. :)

    However, if you really want some good advice (i.e., not mine), check out the following books:
    The New! Parent Power by John Rosemond
    Setting Limits With Your Strong-willed Child
    How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk
    Easy To Love, Difficult To Discipline.

    (do a search for these on my blog and you’ll find some more info).

    Good luck!

  5. Veggies in the tub? Haircuts (with popsicles) in the tub? YOU ARE A FUCKING GENIUS. Truly. So is upside-down tooth brushing. My girls would totally go for that!

    Weirdly, my girls like to brush their teeth.

    My two struggles are with Miss M.:
    -cutting her fingernails
    -using the fuc#^%ng potty on any consistent basis

    The nail cutting I usually get through by singing Backyardigans songs and giving her a manicure afterwards, but she still fights.

    The potty? Nothing works. Nothing. Kill me now.

  6. I flippin LOVE the colored bath water thing! My children love baths, but that could sooo be a cool bribe.
    I make train noises while I brush my son’s teeth. Sometimes it works to let him brush first, but he usually is more interested in doing it “By myself!” and I end up practically sitting on him while he screams. :(
    I’m right there with you about the potty, TKW. We sing a potty song if he goes, but I don’t think it actually motivates him; I suspect he doesn’t really care about our ridiculous singing.

  7. How does the kid not turn blue? I’m picturing the girl from Wonka with the snozberries and Blue Man group as the “afterbath” but slightly lighter.

    heh, battlefree technique.

    Kitch, for some reason, I see BEANS + TUB = WIN at your digs.

  8. Seriously. You are asking US? Because I agree with Kitchie. Genius. TV bribes work for us (I know, embarrassing). As in, you don’t do it, no Fifi/Scooby Doo. Also, candy. Boy, I am looking REALLY bad, here. So, I guess skip this “advice.” You’re better off.

  9. Oh, Kitch, I forgot to mention my freaking genius fingernail maneuver. Trim 90% of nail and let child pull the rest off. This may only work for my kid, who, like his grandmother and mother before him will peel ANYTHING he can get his hands on. But maybe there’s something to the do it myself, which, no, you can’t do with sharp objects, but “I’ll get it started for you and you can peel it off” works like a freaking charm here.
    Potty? We gave stickers on a piece of paper (he got to put them on the paper, please, what are we, rookies?) and five in a row bought a trip to the carousel, and ten in a row bought I don’t remember what (experience, not stuff), and twenty in a row got a new guitar. So bribery, but on the long-term scale. Other than that, toilet is such a control issue for them…naked in the backyard helps, but not in November.
    Steel, train noises is great. I’m gonna try that. I let him choose whether he does it by himself first and i finish, or I start and he finishes by himself. I get the by myself, dude, but you’re kind of, how do I say, um, incompetent, dentally speaking.
    jc, lmao at beans plus tub. Yuck and hilarious. I don’t know why he’s not blue, to be honest. He usually picks black, which leaves a horrible ring around the tub, but not ring around the kid. Of course, we’re not too cleanliness focused at the nappy house. We’re more “30 minutes of happy kid while we contain him in small area and read in quiet” focused. So if he’s more dirty getting out, meh.
    Jen, there is no embarrassing in bribing kids. There is effective and there is damaging. TV is effective. Threats for shots at the doctor’s office are damaging. I don’t judge your tv bribes. Nor does any person in the universe who has children.
    Candy is yummy. I do shit for candy, so why wouldn’t a kid? Please. Do you beat them? If not, you’re my kind of mom. Remember, I’m the one who still lets him have two pieces of Halloween candy for breakfast every day. With protein, cuz that’s the way I roll, but candy for breakfast nevertheless. So who am I to judge?

  10. When I was little I was only interested in brushing my teeth because I had this amazing tiny Dixie cup dispenser with Sesame Street (?) characters on them. I was always tremendously excited to see what character was going to emerge next from under the stack after I rinsed my mouth with the top cup. I also remember using this cup dispenser in an attempt to rip off my little sister. “You can have this Cookie Monster cup, but only if I get every other Cookie Monster.” Of course, that poor fool thought we were contracting for an equitable distribution of Cookie Monsters (“every other” as in one for me, one for her, one for me…) but of course I knew it was “every other” as in “EVERY other.” So…maybe try getting him to brush his teeth with anticipation and the possibility of petty corruption.

    • Oh, Panderbear, I forgot about the joy of the “which design will I get” Dixie cups. Freaking genius. Isn’t it funny what parts of childhood stick with us?
      Love it. I just found a bribe I can condone. YAY for Dixie and for Pander!

  11. I was bribed with Dixie Cups too. I vaguely remember something about Annie cards (the collectors cards) and the bumblegum that had messages in it? My mother used to put my brother’s Transformers on top of the sink mirror, and once he brushed his teeth, he could sleep with his toy (play with it using a flashlight under the sheets).

  12. You are a genius! I totally have to try the veggies in the bath.
    For tooth brushing issues, we let them use Mommy and Daddy’s tooth paste with just a tiny amount and they better spit. But now Evan has to use our tooth paste all the time. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea, but at least he remembers more than me.

  13. These are great ideas. I will definitely try the eating in the bathtub.

    Our tricks seem to have very limited shelf-lives.

    My partner threatens to pee first or more, to wash his hands better, or to get dressed faster, and our monster still falls for it and rises to the challenge, but not with me.

    Tooth brushing lately has been working with requests to see just how big his wolf / dinosaur / lion / crocodile mouth is (depending on what meat-eating animal he has chosen to be for the day).

    I keep some balloons in my purse for occasional bribery. And would you believe that sometimes I can bribe him with a green apple?

    But mostly I guess I plead, and ask nicely, and ask not-so-nicely, and try to remember to breathe and that I usually really do like the little guy.

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