Like most of you I’m sure, my day with a four-year-old means repeating myself a lot and if I could count the number of times I say “focus” in a day then I’d tell you how many times I say it. We have a strong-willed and independent little booger on our hands. One of her preschool teacher’s nailed her in a nutshell when they said, “she’s sweet and quiet but fiercely stubborn and independent.”So that brings me to my next point: getting her to obey. Not that any child likes being told what to do, but oh does she NOT like it. I know there’s differing views on the whole “giving them choices” parenting style; some of you may know it as Love and Logic. And although I think there are some absolutely great tips to follow, I was realizing how inconvenient it would be to always give her a choice as to whether she would rather go get her shoes on first or go potty, brush her teeth here or there, etc.- OK you get the idea. I mean don’t get me wrong, the whole choice thing is, I believe, crucial for helping get along with the strong-willed child but there’s a time for it. For example one of my favorites: Would you rather have broccoli for dinner or [whatever I want her to eat]?
So here’s where I was stuck. I didn’t want every task I ask my daughter to do to end in a battle. I tried to get inside her little brain, and I mulled over this a while. I’d tried everything, I thought. Then, at the time I was watching Octonauts with her, and I noticed they always go on a mission. Then she was on a Little Einstein’s kick, and they’re always solving a problem. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse? Again, problem-solving.
And her current preschool teacher confirmed that I’m onto something the other day when she said that if a child is not obeying in class, she asks them if they would like to be part of the problem or part of the solution, and of course they typically choose to be part of the solution.
My daughter is super- and I mean super- into make-believe. Half the time she won’t respond to her own name because she is not herself but, in fact, a doctor, or a superhero, or a princess. So what if sometimes we just join them? What do I mean?
Here’s what I did: one day when I needed my daughter to do something for me, instead of asking her to do it, I told her I had a MISSION for her. Boy, did she love that! She was so excited to complete the mission, which of course was just a task I simply needed her to complete. And you know what, it caught on. Now, most of the time when I need her to [fill in the blank], I tell her I have a mission for her and I can promise you that she has not only never complained, but she often excitedly runs over to me to find out what it is.
Sometimes we even have a little fun with it. I hold out my hand like I’m ready for a high-five, and she checks in by placing her hand against mine, I make a few silly beeping noises, and give her the mission in a robot voice. She’s figured out the drill for bedtime, let me tell you. As soon as we begin the mission, she tells me what tasks are needed: go potty, put pajamas on, brush teeth- mission complete! Usually she’s in a hurry to complete a mission as fast as she can because she views it as some sort of challenge. I never give her more than three things to do at a time, and she usually finishes them all.
So mamas, I have a mission for you: try this out and let me know how it goes!
PS If your child isn’t quite sure what a mission is, just throw on an episode of Octonauts. OR if you’re a better parent than me and don’t allow screen time, use a super-hero analogy to convey the message.