Welcome back to True Tales fr)om the Pink & Blue Trenches, a Thursday series co-hosted by the fabulous Melissa (Wife, mom, Author and NOW a TV personality) from Home On Deranged.
Each week, we choose a new topic and then compare notes on differences and similarities of raising toddler and pre-school boys vs. girls.
This week we discuss Ways to Motivate a Toddler and infuse the comedy of everyday life with toddlers!
Post written by Melissa
This week, it’s my turn here at Home on Deranged to discuss what it’s like to motivate a toddler. Or rather, to knock your head repeatedly against a wall and then get up and do it again. And again. It’s not that you can’t motivate them; it’s that they lack a desire to be motivated. Weird, huh?
When it comes to motivating toddlers, it’s a lot like motivating a drunk person: you cajole, yell, bribe, cry, sigh, threaten, walk away, come back and do it all over again. And in the end, they usually pass out and have no recollection of anything that happened. But you do. And sometimes you learn your lesson. Most times, you don’t.
In an effort to learn to laugh at my efforts, I’ve compiled for you
5 ways to motivate a toddler (or a drunk person):
- Bribery – Let’s face it: human beings love to be bribed. If you offered me a million bucks to do your laundry every day for a month, I’d totally do it. If you offered me a box of Whitman’s chocolates in exchange for eating salad every day for a week, I *probably* would do it. Kids and drunk folks are the same. They’re more likely to be willing to pick up their socks, clean up their room, finish their dinner, not go home with a total stranger, if you just offer them a better option. Our girls love Pringles, candy and fruit snacks. If I need them to finish most of their dinner, I offer a strawberry for three bites of chicken. If I need them to come inside from playing now that they are covered in dirt and sweat, I offer a bath time plunge. If I need my drunk friend to get in the freaking car and stop flirting with the questionable male she’s met, I offer to take her to Waffle House. Easy-peasy. SUCCESS RATE? For kids, odds are about 8 out of 10, as long as you have something they want. For drunk people, eh, about 4 out of 10, since they can usually get what they want from someone else.
- Threatening – Another tried and true facet of human nature. If you threaten to cut off my electricity, I’m more likely to pay my bill. When kids are still young, they don’t have the scope of experience to know whether your threats can be completed or not, so they usually take you at your word. When my 3 year old kept throwing things at people in a fit of anger, I threatened to take away her favorite pair of Minnie Mouse shoes. She didn’t comply, so the shoes disappeared. Her behavior improved. When my 2 year old wouldn’t stop stepping on the iPad while playing with it, I threatened to throw it in the trash. She didn’t comply, so the iPad was trashed. Not really, but she thought it was, and since its return, hasn’t stepped on it. Nice? Probably not. Manipulative? Definitely. But I’m only armed with so many options. And if my drunk friend refuses to get in the car so we can go home, I threaten to never be the designated driver again. SUCCESS RATE? For young kids, about 7 out of 10, depending on how wound up they are. But as they age, they learn that you won’t really throw away the iPad, and your cover is blown. For drunk people, in my experience, about 8 out of 10, because no one wants to be the DD.
- Coaxing – This is where the lovey-dovey, huggy-kissy phase comes in. You tell your kids how much you would LOVE for them to clean up their room, and won’t it be so much nicer when it’s done? You smother them with hugs and kisses and tickles, and they love you and comply with your desire to pick up all the damn balls and put them back in the ball pit. For the fourteenth time today. If my drunk friend isn’t quite as tired as I am and ready to leave the bar/club, I can say things like, “You know, we could go home and drink on the porch.” Suddenly, the night just got a lot more interesting. SUCCESS RATE? For toddlers, you stand a 9 out of 10 chance of getting what you want because they still to hug you, sit in your lap and giggle wildly at your tickles. For my drunk friends, if the liquor is good and plentiful, 10 out of 10.
- Ignoring – No matter how much we think of ourselves as rebels or loners or badasses, we all want some form of human companionship. So if and when we find ourselves totally ignored by the people we find significant in our lives, it either makes us want to do something for them, or makes us want to run. Younger kids HATE to be ignored. They will say your name over and over and over, poke you in the belly, yell, whatever it takes to get a response from you. If I’ve told our girls to clean their play room, and they proceed to start wailing, I give them a “look” and turn and walk away. When they come to complain, I ask, “Did you finish?” If the answer is no, I go back to ignoring them, with the exception of potty breaks. For my drunk friends, I ignore their begging and pleading to stay a little longer and/or let them go home with a stranger and simply force them into the car, even buckling the seat belt if I have to. SUCCESS RATE? For the kids, it all depends on your personal stamina. Some days, I can make it white noise and ignore the pleading. Some days, I cave. So overall, 5 out of 10 at best. For the adults, usually a 8 out of 10, since I’ve probably heard the crying and whining before.
- Distraction – One of my all-time favorite in the bag of tricks. The more clever ways you can think of to get a toddler’s mind on to a completely different topic, the better. When the kids would bog down at the flea market, looking at toys we already own, I would simply point out the really cool toy, two booths down. If the 3 year old is shrieking in anger, either her dad will fart, or I will grab her and tickle her, and the laughter makes her forget whatever the tantrum was about in the first place, and she’s back to playing nicely. For my drunk friend, point out the other cute guys around her when the one she wants is with someone else. Or point out someone’s ugly outfit, and get her giggling. SUCCESS RATE? For toddlers, this one is about 9 out of 10 for us, as distraction inadvertently motivates our girls to do something they might not otherwise agree to do. For adults, about 6 out of 10, because you never know how wildly a mood is going to swing.
There you have it. An utterly un-comprehensive list of techniques I use to motivate a toddler or a drunk person. The reality is that although I may have these tucked into my arsenal, I’m usually working on the fly, and/or caught off guard by a situation, so what really happens? I panic, say something silly, and the situation dissolves into fits of laughter. And the toys stay on the floor, and my drunk friend goes home with someone else. Motivate, shmotivate.