My beautiful Babaganouski turns two at the end of this month. As such trying to gain his co-operation sometimes can be quite a challenge. I have had to give my memory a bit of a jolt, to recall what strategies I have previously used to gain co-operation from a toddler.
I have listed ten strategies that I have found effective to gain the co-operation from a toddler:
(1). Remove Temptation.
I have our house set up, so that the children can roam freely, but respectfully around the house. I have removed any major temptations, so as to eliminate the need for my constant nagging. For example, we have moved the Thinkers iPod dock (which is where he stores his iPod while at school) to higher ground. Babaganouski, just could not keep away from its bright lights and I did not want to see it broken.
(2). Repeat The Request.
This is my most used strategy when trying to extract a recalcitrant toddler from the car. Why is it that they never want to get out of the car?
We have a people mover, so he has plenty of room to run around in there and loves nothing more than me making an attempt to grab him and running the other way, squealing with laughter. I now wait at the door of the car and request Babaganouski to hop out of the car. I don’t enter his game and just repeat the request calmly again (and again and again and again sometimes), at spaced intervals. He eventually then gets out of the car by himself.
This is not a quick solution, so cannot always be used in every situation. I prefer it though when I do have time, compared to picking up a toddler against their will with all the associated screaming and crying that goes along with it.
This is strategy can be hit and miss with Babaganouski, but is always worth a try. If I need him to stop touching something/move away from an area, I will try and create interest in another item that I think will appeal to him, which will then hopefully make him forget about what he was doing previously.
(4). Show and Tell
To gain co-operation from a toddler, I like them to understand the request as much as possible. This means that sometimes words are not enough and I need to find a way of showing Babaganouski what I mean. For example if he started asking for a banana just before dinner, I will pick him up and show him that dinner is almost ready and explain that he needs to wait for it to be ready.
In Babaganouski’s case this is generally listen and watch as he has a limited vocabulary. By taking the time to listen/watch and work out what he is trying to communicate to me, I can then determine the best way to handle his behaviour.
For example one morning when I asked him to go outside to the pram and get ready for the walk to school, he said “no” and was agitated about something. I asked him what was wrong and he said “ball”. I told him to go and get it then and he made a hand gesture, signalling that he didn’t know where it was. “Look under your cot.” I told him and he trotted off and happily came back with the ball and went straight outside to the pram.
All my children (and me) have loved routine and I have found that by knowing roughly what is coming up in their day, it helps gain the co-operation of a toddler. Over the holidays, we were out of our standard routine, which is always great for a change, but I found that when it then came to trying to get Babaganouski to have his afternoon sleep it was much harder than usual. There were days when we were out and about and he didn’t have a sleep or we had friends over so he went down much later.
Last week, with school going back I found it took me a few days to get him back in the habit of lunch, cleaning hands and face, story and going to sleep quietly. He protested strongly about going to sleep for the first couple of days, but thankfully he has settled down now.
(7). Choosing the right battles.
With four kids, I have days where I stop and think “When was the last time I said something that wasn’t nagging to my kids?” I really don’t like feeling like a nag. This doesn’t mean that I let the kids do whatever they want, but that I try (some days better than others) to choose the big issues to focus on, rather than commenting on every single thing that is going on.
I find this effective in gaining co-operation because if I have been tightly monitoring all day, I find they end up ignoring me. By keeping to the big issues, I haven’t watered down my authority by over doing it.
(8). Make it fun.
After bath Babaganouski loves to run around nude. When I say it is time to get dressed, he is quite likely to run to the other end of the house! One option is to use my strength and struggle with the toddler to get him dressed – there is generally crying and screaming involved with this option.
As an alternative I can try and make it more fun by singing his favourite nursery rhymes and making it a little game. When I put his pyjama top over his head, I keep his head covered and say “Where’s Babaganouski?” He loves then to pull the top down and say “me”. We then do the same thing for hands and feet – and then he is dressed for bed without the tears.
(9). Spending time with the toddler.
On those days where I have had lots of running around to do, there is generally a significant drop in the co-operation quota from Babaganouski. I have found that by stopping and taking short bursts of time, 15 minutes or so through out one of those busy days, to sit with him on the floor doing something he wants to do, he is far more likely to cooperate when I ask him to do something. It is important that he feel some of his needs have been met during the day as well as me completing my tasks.
(10). Allowing for choice.
As adults we like to have control over what is going on in our life and find it disempowering if choice is taken from us. With this in mind, if I can allow for there to be some degree of choice to be made for the toddler, I find it is helpful in gaining their co-operation.
Toddlers can be easily overwhelmed by choice, so it needs to be easily understood and limited. For example if Babaganouski is starting to baulk at bed time, I will say to him “Do you want dad to read the story or mum?” His choice is not about whether or not he wants to go to bed (because he is!), but about a discrete part of the going to bed process.
As with most areas of children’s behaviour, there is no one size fits all strategy for getting a toddler to do what you want them to do. However, knowing that I have a range of strategies to draw upon when faced with an uncooperative toddler, I find it takes some of the intensity out of this situation and gives me the confidence to handle it in a calmer manner.
What strategies do you have up your sleeve to gain the co-operation of your toddler?