Not too long ago my husband and I were stuck in traffic on our way to Edaville USA, in Carver, MA. Our four year old boy was unusually quiet in the back seat. Although he knew we were on our way to have a great time with a train ride, a festival of lights, and of course, a visit with Santa, he remained solemn. Then we
discovered what troubling thought was going through his little head. He finally spoke up and in a timid voice said, “Will Santa say that I am naughty?” And with immediate concern in my voice, and to reassure him, I replied, “No, sweetheart.
Santa knows you are a very good boy. We already told him.”
This scenario had me thinking about the power behind Mr. Claus and the leverage parents can access to shape their children’s behavior at the end of every year. I am equally intrigued by the idea of the Elf on the Shelf, popular in many homes today. Both situations have the potential to impact behavior! However, I don’t like using the concept of telling my child he is bad. And I don’t support telling people they have bad behavior. I prefer an approach that is nurturing and encouraging. What I do find compelling is the playfulness and fun involved in motivating, encouraging, and reinforcing good behavior with laughter and joy.
Remember fun? It is such a useful tool. We can use it to promote health and wellness too… good behavior and good decisions usually mean good outcomes.
My job as a parent is to find ways to make behavior change fun. Here are a few things I have learned:
How to keep a toddler active during winter?
Grab the kids and some sleds and head over to the center of town in North Reading and try not to laugh and have fun yourself! We were there on New Year’s Day with a joyful crowd. It was so much fun that I forgot that I was
getting in some exercise by walking back up the hill to do it again (and again)!
How to get a pre-schooler to brush his teeth?
I let him brush my teeth, and I get to brush his. And yes, I did get used to having
toothpaste up my nose; but gratefully he has improved his technique and my nose
is now safe.
Learning to say “Thank You”
My son doesn’t understand why he has to say thank you every time? I told
him he could learn to say it in another language (he loves that).
How to improve understanding/ increase knowledge?
Address the misunderstandings and teachable moments as quickly as you can. This is motherhood…lots of clarifications. My little guy was hopping around the floor saying “rob it, rob it.” He said he was a frog, to which I replied, “Actually,
honey, frogs say “rib it, rib it,” unless they are burglar frogs. And
yet another time he got upset with me (while in line at a crowded Post Office)
for not saving that electrical cord he was born with. He wants it back.
Maybe this New Year you can find some new and fun ways to motivate you and your family to make some very healthy choices.
Wishing you all a very Healthy, Happy, Playful, Fun New Year!