Tuesday Tips: the art of distraction

silly marlow wearing my hat

silly Marlow

Marlow is at a stage (at least I hope it’s a stage) where she wants to challenge everything I do/say and try to do everything herself. She wants to pick out her own clothes, wants to brush her own teeth, wants to buckle her own carseat, strap on her own shoes, even wipe her own bum!!! She doesn’t want strawberries today, she wants raspberries. She doesn’t want braids in her hair, she wants pigtails, etc.  The thing is, I wouldn’t mind if she did it all on her own, but she just doesn’t do any of these things very well, so at some point I have to step in and help her, despite the fight she puts up.

I’ve discovered that the easiest way to deal with these challenges or to quell a tantrum before it arrives is to throw her off guard with some sort of distraction. I’ll ask her a random question like ‘what’s your favourite animal/colour/book/food/song?’ or ‘who’s your best friend’ or ‘how do you say thank you in Portuguese?’, or I’ll ask her if she had any interesting dreams last night or what she would like to eat for dinner. Anything to direct her mind elsewhere. Nine times out of ten she will forget what we were arguing about, and in the meantime I’ve buckled her shoes or strapped her in her carseat.

Another funny thing I’ll do with her is to sing a song and insert funny words. I’ll sing the ABCs and mix up the letters, or I’ll sing ‘twinkle, twinkle little… pickle‘ or ‘baa baa black… bird‘.  She thinks it’s hilarious! I can usually brush her teeth for the longest time just by singing crazy songs.

These distraction methods also work for the older kids. For example, if we’re in the car and the boys are arguing in the back, I’ll ask a question in a tone of voice that makes them feel like I really need to know the answer, so they take me seriously and try to give me an answer. Or I’ll point out something we’re passing in the car, or tell them a story I know they’ll want to hear.

One of my very favourite tricks when things get chaotic/cranky/loud is to start a sentence with ‘when I was little…’ and then tell a random story of something that happened when I was a child. I swear my kids ALWAYS go immediately quiet to hear my stories. It’s so sweet. If you haven’t tried this trick, it’s definitely a fun one!

Any other distraction tips you have? Please share. It’s always fun to have a trick up your sleeve for the next time you’re losing the mum vs. child battle.

Courtney x


Comments (15)

June 9, 2015

Distraction is the best way to fix battles, I cannot agree more. When my kids fight over a toy, I think of another toy that we have twice, e.g. a car, and quickly shout out: “Who is first to get xy”. And off they are chasing each other and trying to be first. In the meantime I can put the other toy in the toy box in the hope they won’t discover it soon again 🙂

June 9, 2015

I like your song suggestion – I’m at the crazy independent stage with #3 too – gah!!!!! The distraction of snacks always helps here – but of course not much use when trying to brush teeth ;-).

June 9, 2015

Yes distraction! I do this all the time too with my boys, mostly silly questions with my 4yo. When my older two are quarreling I usually suggest we cue up some music, to change the mood especially if we are at home. They are really into music and soccer player stats. That’s my other go to with the older two, “tell me about the players on Manchester City…” haha. I learn something too. 🙂

June 9, 2015

I’m with you, distraction normally works a treat. Esme loves birds at the moment so pointing out a bird will, nine times out of ten do the trick. She is only 18 months so useful to know additional tips in preparation for the inevitable battle of wills that are to come, so thank you

June 10, 2015

Oh I love distraction… it is a great tool for kids and grown ups alike… we distract ourselves from things we ought not to do all the time – that book we would rather read than fix dinner, redirect… lingering on instagram when we should be hanging laundry… the same. Distraction works and even now when my kids are old enough to see my “distracting” from a mile off… they are happy to play along as it often gives then the “out they need” from a tricky situation, an argument they would rather not have for instance.

Distraction is especially good because we can focus on the positive. Sometimes kids seem to go through hideous phases, they are in the thick of every squabble, a destructive force. I follow them through the day and when they do something fabulous take their picture. In fact if you don’t catch the moment don’t worry they will happily re-enact it! What they are hearing is a lot of negatives (don’t do this, don’t do that) but what they see is all the positives – it has really worked for us!

June 10, 2015

Yes! Beau has also turned into a tiny control freak–she wants it all her way. Ace never challenged me at that age. Could it be a (two-year-old) girl thing?

Hope all’s well, Courntey! xx

June 10, 2015

Courtney! 🙂

June 10, 2015

Great article, really useful… thanks Courtney! x

June 10, 2015

Hi Courtney
Gosh l use distraction all the time. The funniest one l ever used was only a few months ago. We were driving up to see my family in Scotland when my son realised we had forgotten to pack his coin collection he wanted to show his grandparents. He is also very into old planes, so as the tension mounted from the back of the car l suddenly shouted, ‘Oh my goodness, l am sure l just saw a Lancaster Bomber over there behind that hedge’, it worked a treat, the race was on for him to see it. As time went on, with him telling me he couldn’t see it, l said ‘oh sorry, my mistake, it’s just a blackbird’!
The coin collection was forgotten as he laughed and l have been told the story of how silly l was again and again!!
I personally think, that unless you want to have a battle with them, distraction really is the only thing. They get so caught up in the here and now and there emotions get the better of them some times. If l am being really honest, l just don’t want to insist that l am right and he is wrong all the time, l don’t think it is good for there confidence, and for me when look back in 10/15 years time, will the argument be important anyway.
I am with you on distraction all the way!

June 10, 2015

Love this – great tips I will definitely try. Also a good alternative to threats or bribery which often don’t work and make me feel guilty. And still so happy with your mum’s queen tea party idea! We’ve been doing that one a lot and it’s spreading – my friend told me her daughter used her queen voice after a picnic with us – kids love it!

June 10, 2015

Ok just tried ‘when I was little’ on my grumpy tired daughter and it totally lifted her mood and made her laugh! (I dumped a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise over my head when my mums back was turned – my daughter found this hilarious) I was so naughty as a little girl so think I will get a lot of mileage out of when ‘I was little’ stories! Thank you for this tip!

Courtney in London
June 11, 2015

Hi Phillipa,
I’m so glad the trick worked! And also so happy to hear my mom’s trick of the tea parties has worked for you. You are so cute to let me know. Thank you! xx

June 13, 2015

Totally agree…I have just finished a year of nannying with a little boy exactly the same age as your Marlow ( I’m now 4 weeks away from due date with my first!) and it most definitely is something to do with that age and just a phase. I found it works well with eating and when the battle starts at dinner time with ‘I not like that, I not hungry.” (Insert ginormous sigh) then a quick change of random conversation will make him forget about fighting dinner time and just eat whilst we chat about the birds in the garden, the baby in my tummy etc….usually works a treat. Let’s hope I can remember all I’ve learnt as a Nanny with my own!! X

June 23, 2015

Such a fab post, I am definitely going to try the ‘when I was little’ as my girls too are always fascinated that I was once their age! I also wanted to recommend a great book called My Big Shouting Day by Rebecca Patterson. Its very witty and deals with challenges so beautifully. If I anticipate any tricky moments, we talk about Bella (the girl in the book) and it diffuses most things and makes us giggle. We love it!

July 19, 2015

Oh gosh thank you for the silly songs idea – twinkle twinke little pickle, how I wonder if you’d like a tickle… Cue huge tickle… has become the no 1 favourite song in our house, along with the ‘insert any word here’ on the bus song. We are doing silly songs daily now and they really work for my strong willed girl, great great tip xx

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