Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday Tidbit: The Art of Distraction (AKA: What to Do When Your Kids Drive You Nuts)

The Art of Distraction (AKA: What to Do When Your Kids Drive You Nuts)

It seems to me that the most irritating things our kids do are reinforced by our irritation, so they do them MORE! What a terrible, terrible cycle!

Want a great trick to get your kids to stop doing something and to calm yourself down, too? DISTRACT them! Are your kids fighting over a toy? Sing a silly song! Got a whiney-hiney that won't stop the drama? Ask a question that will really get her thinking! When all else fails, say, "Hey, look at THAT!" and point somewhere!

The first time I saw this technique in action was long ago. It was the first time I visited my husband's family, Christmas break my senior year of college. My mother-in-law took care of a few children during the day. Two of them were fighting over a toy. Now, up until that point, the only way I'd ever seen an adult react to that type of situation was to yell, "NOW YOU SHARE!" while pointing an angry finger. Want to know my mother-in-law's response? In a kind, soft voice, she said, "Let's look out the window here at the pretty bird." She walked towards her big front window, pointing to the bird. The two children dropped the toy, toddled over to the window and totally forgot what they were fighting about. It was magic.

Now when Levi starts to fuss because he doesn't want his inhaler, I sing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." He starts doing the hand motions and laughs. Adam was mad the other day because he didn't want a haircut, I said, "What kind of cake do you think we should get daddy for his birthday?" He happily started spouting off ideas with a smile.

Sometimes I see parents trying way too hard to get a child to stop something. They correct and talk down yet don't get anything accomplished besides raising their own blood pressure. We have got to remember, first of all, that kids don't always understand our fancy words. You'd be surprised what simple words sound fancy to a toddler.

I learned this when Adam was two years old. One Sunday morning, as I ironed a shirt for Wes, Adam took some plastic hangers off the end of the ironing board and started banging them together. "I need you to put those back on the ironing board," I said. He continued banging, like he didn't hear me. "Adam, I need you to put those back on the ironing board." as said as I went on ironing the shirt. He continued banging the hangers together and walked the opposite direction. This time, through clenched teeth, I growled, "Adam, I told you to put those back on the ironing board!" He set the hangers on my nightstand and sweetly asked, "Mama? Is this the ining board?" My heart sank. My obedient, sweetheart of a child simply didn't understand. In all of his two years of life, I had never named that big object in front of my bedroom window. He had no idea what an ironing board was! We never read a picture book with an ironing board in it and certainly didn't have an ironing board in any of our flash card sets. Our kiddos cannot follow our directions if they don't know what those directions mean.

Another thing I think we all forget when our kids aren't doing what we want is that there is no reason to be angry with a child. None of us should feel like we've got something to prove to someone that can't even sing their ABC's. My boss, Maryln Appelbaum says, "Calm trumps anger." That is so true. Let's all work to be kind and compassionate when correcting behavior. Remember to distract them when you start to get frustrated. It will help them, and it will help you, too!

We are off to finish Daddy's birthday cake!


Kristin said...

YES! More wisdom to lock away for the future! :)

Jenny said...

I have started doing the distraction thing with Russell and I find it is working really well :)

Leah said...

Great tips that work so well for us! Happy Birthday again to Wes! :)

April Vernon said...

Thanks, Kristin!!

April Vernon said...

That is awesome, Jenny. I have to remind myself all the time to do this with Adam. For me, it is easier to remember when they are little, but it works just as well when they are older! I think it even works on grown ups! LOL

April Vernon said...

Thanks, Leah!