Now that you know How to be a Jedi, and this being the perfect month for all things Star Wars, due to the release of Star Wars: Episode VII, we wanted to share some of our Jedi mind tricks, that we as dads have used to engineer our kids into doing exactly what we needed them to do. Plus this whole blog was named after it so it’s about time we shared these tips and tricks with you The Rebels (those taking back the name of dad). Just know, these ideas may not work 100% with every kid but this is what we’ve found to work for us so we thought it was worth a share. And remember, in the words of Master Yoda, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
At our first pediatrician appointment I’ll never forget the doctor saying, “Just listen to what I have to say and do it. Everything will be fine that way.” Boom, I was sold. He didn’t need to convince me. I never felt so supported than I did at that very moment. There were some really great tips I took out of that appointment that day but the most important one was the sleeping situation. As brand new parents, with a newborn, we had already witnessed some nightmarish nights those first couple at home on our own. However, one simple tip changed all of that. We were told that during the day we should only let our son reach “level 1 or 2” sleep. Which meant mostly only letting him sleep in our arms during the day because he couldn’t ever reach a completely deep sleep that way. So no crib, no bassinet. Because he never had a real deep sleep, he was tired and ready to pass out at night where he was then allowed the crib and bassinet. This was when he could reach a “level 3 or 4” sleep. And if I’m being honest, this kid has been a champ sleeper his whole life (except the 4 days before the doctors appointment) and I attribute it to doing it right from the start.
When our son was very young, like 6 months old, he began eating solid foods. Unfortunately when they’re that young they still aren’t talking much, so they can’t easily say they’re “hungry”, want “more”, or are “done”. However, they are sponges so we took advantage of that and taught him those things in sign language. He took to it fairly fast and before we knew it he was talking to us through his hands and not his mouth…yet. Now we didn’t have to listen to a bunch of crying and he could get what he needed. That’s a win-win.
Speaking of solid foods, early on when he moved away from only milk, we gave him packets that were vegetable purees with fruits that we knew he liked. Before we knew it he related those vegetable tastes with something he also liked. We never bribed him with any food because we were afraid he would associate it with something negative that way. Instead we like to give him choices but between one healthy food and another so he feels he’s in control over what he’s eating but at the end of the day “now I am the master”.
My wife and I both love video games, if you couldn’t tell from Build an Arcade Machine or Do Video Games Make You a Better Parent?, but having a young one in your life can make finding time to play difficult. If you try to game when they’re around, they want to play it instead of letting you or they want to get your attention back on them and off the game. If you wait to play it when they go to sleep you’ll find a lot of times that you’re ready to shut off and not think (and that includes not playing video games). So how can you play while they’re awake and yet have peace to do it? Give them a controller. It’s only while they’re really young that they don’t understand you yourself need some play time, too, but not necessarily with them. So we like to give him a fake controller that isn’t synched to the system we’re playing on so he thinks he’s playing with us when in reality it’s just a disconnected controller. We encourage him, we teach him which direction to move, and there are those times, depending on the game, that we let him push a button on our controller. It still creates a bond with hanging out but also allows an opportunity to teach him gaming in general and the educational things that come with it (direction, what objects are, colors, etc).
Trying to go out and eat dinner but your child is hangry (hungry + angry) and loses all patience so he starts screaming or crying out of frustration? Can’t find a babysitter and you have to go to a doctor’s appointment but can’t have your toddler running around thinking it’s a playground? Maybe you’re like me and work from home but there are times you have to bring your little dude with you to a meeting and if you don’t have something to keep him occupied you won’t get anything productive done during that valuable time. All of these moments are typically very scarce and aren’t the norm so we decided that these are emergency cases and it involves breaking the glass and grabbing for the fire extinguisher we like to call…the iPad. Queue Ludwig Van Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in C Minor. Yup, I said it. I’m not ashamed. The way it stays effective is that we don’t give him the iPad on a regular basis. Not at all actually. He plays with his trains, his Mega Bloks, he reads his books, and listens to music in the form of children’s records on vinyl. However, we know 1) he’s an intelligent kid and this isn’t going to stunt him and that 2) there are times that we need him to stop and become something he’s not, a zombie, for 20 minutes so we can get something very important accomplished. When it comes to dinner usually crayons and toys will suffice until about the last 20-minute-home-stretch and that’s when we usually whip the iPad out. At the doctors we both had to go together and we couldn’t find anyone to watch him. With work, when I go to my meetings, everyone there loves him and those who aren’t in a meeting sometimes volunteer to watch and play with him but for those times everyone is busy the iPad is something to help keep him busy, too. It also allows him to sit in on the meeting with me and sees how grown adults work together (which is probably more educational than what typical toddlers are exposed to). So if you’re 100% anti-screen time and are likening this to the Dark Side…then you can go ahead and close this webpage and not return until you learn The New Dad Order and play by those rules. For everyone else, you’re not alone and we’ll get through this together and remember, iPad “you’re our only hope”.
LEARNING THE ALPHABET
The moment we’re born we are constantly learning. Learning what we like, what we don’t, how to sleep, who these people are that are holding us, how to move around, and everything else. If we did it, we learned it first. When transitioning from baby to toddler there is especially a lot of learning going on. Names, numbers, colors, foods, objects and letters. Our son loved to learn all those things but one trick we found was that watching Wheel of Fortune (uh oh, yes, a little more screen time), and repeating what each letter was every time Vanna White turned them, he learned the alphabet so quickly that he was only 18 months when he could tell you each letter himself. Look, again, I’m not saying a screen is the answer but I think if there’s something educational that they are interested in, why fight it if it’s not doing any harm? It never proved to be over stimulating that he couldn’t learn without it. In fact, he loved letters even more that one of his favorite books became Dr Seuss’ ABC book. By two years old he was singing the alphabet song to us.
Now there are a myriad of things that work when it comes to cleaning up, make it a game, make it a race, make it their role (don’t call it a chore). However, what worked for us is something that we didn’t even do but that someone else must have. We don’t know where he learned it (either church or a group of ladies who watch him once a month for a couple of hours) but someone taught him the “Clean Up” song and out of nowhere he’ll want to sing that song so when he does he starts cleaning up on his own. Now this is when you know you’ve reached Master Jedi Dad status.
Do you have any tips and tricks into getting your kids to do what you want that you’re willing to share? Let us know below in the comments.