The Art of Distraction
never thought that there was an "art" to distracting your child until my skills were put to the test. When my daughter turned 1 1/2 years old suddenly her emotions and desire to do what she wanted to do were extremely strong. If I decided to change what she wanted to do into what I wanted her to do...watch out! My little angel suddenly became a very loud and angry "monster."
I have a wonderful friend, Kimmy, who saw my daughter transform from a lovely little girl into this wild-n-crazy child! She is the mother of three and had lots of good advice. She would say, "You need to distract her." So, I would say, "Let's go and look at the children outside." But it would not work, Grace would cry even louder. Then Kimmy would say, "Here Grace look at these funny sunglasses. You put them on. Why don't you wear them in the car home." Miraculously, her magic worked. I stood there watching in disbelief. How did she do that?
As I continued to struggle with distracting Grace and watching Kimmy use her magic, my father-in-law opened my eyes up even further to this "art. One day, we were out shopping with Papa and Grammy. Grace was fine each time we entered a store, but was not happy when it was time to go. "I don't want to go!" My father-in-law said, "I wouldn't be happy to be pulled away unexpectedly from something I was having fun doing either." The light bulb turned on! Ahhah...If I could give Grace some warning before we shifted gears, it would give her a chance to accept that we were going to do something new soon.
All right. So now I was starting to equip myself with the skills to perfect my "art." I was learning what activities, objects, phrases, toys would interest Grace. I started actually distracting her just like Kimmy. Grace loves birds, bugs and little animals. So, I would say, "Shh! Is that a blue bird in the tree?" Grace would quiet down as we walked over to investigate. Then she was ready to move to the next activity. I also started to give 5 minute warnings which really did help. This technique then expanded into using a timer (which my Mother-in-law suggested) Now Grace will turn the timer off herself. I guess that I forgot to say that she still tests us. She wants to make sure that we mean what we say if she isn't ready after the timer beeps. But if you keep your strategies consistent and her whining doesn't add time to the clock then she will eventually stop asking to stay up later each night (maybe by the time they turn 20!!).
Now Grace is 3 and the distraction is sometimes tougher. You have to keep on top of what her new likes and dislikes are this week. Now I carry special things in a bag that she doesn't play with a whole lot. So they are special when she sees them. Band-Aids, stickers and lollipops are great to have on hand too! Our "art" of distraction has expanded to include new techniques: silly games, songs, funny dances and goofy faces. A sense of humor really helps to ease children happily from one thing to the next. You will come up with your special "humorous" skits. We play "The monster takes Grace away" a lot. She loves that game. Now the new problem is only playing the monster game 3 times!
In "What to Expect the Toddler Years" by Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi Murkoff and Sandee E. Hathaway, B.S.N., I have found some other helpful tips. "Always think "food" and or "rest" when considering how to deal with irrational behavior." Your child's reactions are exaggerated when they are hungry and tired. Try to avoid these situations because your child really cannot control their misbehavior. They also suggest monitoring yourself. We become crankier when we are hungry and tired too. Another good reminder: "don't let irrationality rule." If you must complete a project and your child won't cooperate, "distract her, take her out to the playground or otherwise put a stop to her efforts. Don't let a child's irrationality run - and ruin - everyone else's life."
You will find that as time goes on, you will master this art. One day I knew that I had when my husband said, "You are really good at distracting Grace." Now I see him doing some of the same things. Don't be afraid to take advice from friends and relatives. I learned my best techniques from them. And most importantly, listen to the needs and desires of your child. They really do want to please you. When Grace listens to me and nicely leaves the swimming pool or birthday party to go home (boring), I will tell her how proud I am of her. I also will tell her it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. She always gives me a big smile because it makes her feel warm and fuzzy on the inside too!
Credits: Pamela Caywood