I felt increasingly anxious about leaving the house on time. My kids don’t do well when they are rushed, and considering we went to bed late the night before, we started our morning routine about 30 minutes later than usual.
I ran around like I was operating a NASCAR pit stop.
Pack lunches. Check.
Feed kids breakfast. Check.
Make sure kids get dressed. Check.
Skip teeth brushing (let’s be realistic). Check.
Pack bags for the day. Double check.
Take gulps of coffee in between tasks. Triple check.
Things were going relatively smoothly — and yet — I could feel the meltdowns heating up faster than my uneaten oatmeal on the stove.
There was only five minutes remaining before we needed to leave the house. But I still had to accomplish ONE important task: Get the kids out the door and into the car.
This may seem like no biggie to most.
But in our house, this is the big parenting machismo.
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How to get your kids to cooperate.
About six months ago, I read a book by Dr. Theresa Kellam called The Parenting Survival Guide. In the book, she offers a unique (and totally genius) guide for doing special playtimes with your child. The best part is they only require about 30 minutes once a week.
I implemented her unique special playtimes, and they served as a beautiful tool to improve behavior and build peace in our home.
By doing “special playtime” with my oldest, the best tool I gained was a magical phrase that helps kids cooperate and listen.
At the end of each special playtime, Kellam instructs you to give a five-minute warning where you say this:
“You have five minutes left in your special playtime.”
Week-after-week, my son and I would finish our special playtime together, and I would give some variation of the five-minute warning.
“In five minutes, our special playtime is over. And I’m going to pick up the toys.”
“In five minutes, our special playtime will end. We will play again next week.”
Here’s the crazy part.
My son always struggled with transitions. Anytime he was moving from one task to the next task, there was a big power struggle between him and me.
He is such a strong willed child, and all his stubborn behavior left me feeling exhausted and frustrated.
But in special playtime he would just picked up the toys and accepted that it was time to move onto something else.
I used to say to myself, “Really? That’s it? A five-minute warning was all he needed?”
All it took was some forewarning to help him transition from activity-to-activity without a power struggle or tantrum.
Once I saw how well this five-minute warning worked in the special playtime, I started to use it throughout the day.
“In five minutes, it’s time to pick up the toys and start your bedtime routine.”
“In five minutes, it’s time to turn the TV off and leave the house.”
“In five minutes, it’s time to make mom a venti cappuccino.”
(Okay…so I didn’t really ask for a cappuccino.)
Not only did this five-minute warning cut meltdowns and power struggles in half, but I combined them with these printable routine cards, and the results were impressive.
My strong willed child started saying things like, “Okay mommy.” And for a while I kept thinking, “Who is this child?!”
Then I realized that all he needed was a reasonable warning so that he could finish what he was doing.
With only five minutes left before I needed to rush out the door with my kids, I made an announcement.
“In five minutes, we are leaving the house for school.”
“I’m not finished!” my oldest declared — as expected.
“You’re not finished yet. You can finish playing and getting things the way you want. We are leaving in five minutes.”
What’s funny is that I wasn’t sure he was going to come out the door cooperatively. But sure enough, when it was time to leave, he pouted a bit (for good measure of course), then picked up his cars to bring them along (worked for me!) and walked out the door.
This is the most important part.
Once he came out the door and we reached the elevator I named the behavior I liked.
“You left the house when mom said it was time to go. That shows you’re cooperative.”
It doesn’t work in every single situation (nothing in parenting does), but wow, this has cut way down on back talk and power struggles.
And by recognizing and naming each time he cooperated, he started to do one thing: cooperating.
Print this free toddler listening checklist.
This post comes with a free printable checklist to help with toddler listening. I always have the hardest time remembering these phrases. This printable simplifies it!
Here is a sneak preview…
Download Your Free Printable
- Download the checklist. You’ll get the printable, plus join 37,000+ parents who receive my weekly parenting tips and ideas!
- Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
- Place it on your refrigerator. Check things off as you go and don’t forget a thing!
Want more on parenting?
- How to Handle Back Talk and Disrespect Like a Parenting Warrior
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- 9 Quick and Clever Meal Time Hacks for Busy Moms
- Wish Your Kids Slept Later? This Mom Trick Will Change Your Life
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After taking my free email series, you will:
- Learn simple, yet highly effective listening strategies
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