4 words to manipulate your kids

This isn't science. But it does make transitions easier.

4 words to manipulate your kids

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This is 60-second Dadspeak—daily reflections on becoming a dad, while still growing up myself. You can find the full mini-pod audio list here.


Okay I’ve been trying this experiment for a few months now, and it seems to work. The research question is:

How do I get my kids to throw less of a fit when they have to transition from something they like doing now, to something they don’t want to do?

As parents, we have this frequent need to move a child from one activity to the next. They’re playing with Legos, and it’s time for dinner. Or they’re out in the yard, and they need to take a bath. Often our reaction as parents is to holler toward them: “Hey, it’s dinner time!” or “It’s time for your bath.” And we all know how well that goes down.

So here’s what I’ve been trying. Before telling them what they need to do, show interest in what they’re doing. For example: “What are you playing?” or “What are you working on?” or “That looks fun, how does it work?”

It’s just a few extra words. But it introduces you into their scene and a much smoother way.

And then? Listen to their answer, actually care about it, and then follow with the request: “That’s really cool. You know it’s just about time for dinner.” Or “I know you’re having fun, so finish this round, and then you need to come in for a bath.”

Now, this is not a controlled experiment with carefully measured data. But at least in my experience, it’s made a big difference. It doesn’t work every time, but it does seem to help. So, let me know if it works for you. And if you’ve got any other tips, please let me know.


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