Dealing with power struggles and push back from your child when you just want them to clean up, get dressed, brush their teeth or simply transition from one activity to the next can be exhausting.
Sometimes a few extra sparks of excitement and playfulness can at least get over that initial refusal and battle around cooperation. At the very least, it’s worth a shot, right?
Before you read on, please remember that first and foremost, your child may have a very valid reason (sensory, anxiety, something else) for not wanting to do any of the specific tasks. While my parenting style is not to force compliance in anyway, I know for sure we all need tools for motivation.
Keep in mind, if the task you’re trying to get your child to do has any relation to their sensory sensitivities or anxiety or some other neurodivergent quality, this isn’t a long term solution. You still want to focus on building problem solving, emotional regulation and sensory processing skills along the way.
These are my top 6 tricks for getting your child to cooperate with non-preferred tasks.
Using Randomization to Get Your Child to Cooperate
I love this tip for things like taking a bath, cutting nails or brushing teeth. I could also see people using this for getting dressed. Basically, you find a way to make parts of the task randomized. So, things like some dice, a spinner from a board game, or even something like pulling popsicle sticks.
So maybe you roll some dice for bath time and whatever number it lands on is how many seconds of scrubbing you get to do. Popsicle sticks work great for sensory strategies like heavy work.
Maybe you write crab walk, bear crawl, frog hop, dinosaur stomp on different popsicle sticks and they pick a stick to decide how they’re going to get from their room to the kitchen.
A pro to this method is it’s out of your child’s control AND yours, so literally the randomization of it leaves no one to blame.
Use Time-Lapse Recording Mode to Help with Transitions
Use your iPhone/TikTok/Snap chat camera settings to record your child’s task in time-lapse mode to watch it in “superhero speed” when they have completed the task.
You could add all kinds of fun effects to add to the video to have them watch after completing a task, depending on which app you are using!
Use a Self-Recording to Get Your Child to Cooperate with Transitions
I call this one, “dear future self” I love using this next trick as preparations for transitions or big things you’re preparing for, like the first day of school, a doctor’s visit, dentist, etc. Something that you anticipate might be hard for your child. You basically prep your child the way you normally would, like you role play, practice or tell them what to expect with the transition.
Liliana LOVES listening to music in headphones and swinging at the same time. Transitioning away from this is a 50/50 for triggering a meltdown. So, when she asks to do music and swing, I tell her:
“OK you can have music and swing for 30 minutes. After that it’s time to wash your hands for lunch. (Washing hands isn’t her favorite either, by the way). If it’s too hard for you to put the music away, you can take deep breaths or ask me for a hug, hurting me or yelling at me is not okay.”
She agrees, and then I ask if she wants to remind her future self of this plan. She always says yes. So, I selfie record her saying “Liliana, when it’s time to put the music away, don’t forget, you might feel mad and you can’t hit mom, that’s not okay. You can take deep breaths or squeeze your hands if you need to.”
Then when it’s time to be done with music, I’ll tell her, hey someone has a message for you, press play. And she’ll watch it. It works like a charm 99999.99% of the time
Using Music to Get Your Child to Cooperate
I’ve used this one for getting dressed, brushing her hair and cleaning up. I play a song on my phone and if she’s doing something by herself like getting dressed or cleaning up, then I just randomly press pause and she freezes like a statue, when the music plays, she moves/ gets dressed/picks up toys, etc.
Beat the Timer
This one may not work for some kids who are anxious about time, but it works for so many of my clients and works for my daughter as well.
I either put a timer on my phone or I close my eyes and count (really slowly) to see if she can finish putting her clothes away, picking her clothes out for school, washing her hands, going potty- any of it before my eyes open again or before the timer goes off. Sometimes we race to the stairs to see who can get there first after dinner, or race to the car.
Bubbles have been the freaking MVP the past 2 months. I swear it saves us from so many meltdowns. I use it sort of in the same way as trying to beat a timer but instead asking if she can do a task before the last bubble hits the ground.
So, I take a bubble wand and blow bubbles up towards the ceiling so they have like a higher reach, then she has to put her socks on or put her pants on or pick up as many toys as she can before the last bubble hits the ground.
Want more resources on helping your child get dressed? Check out my Stressed to Dressed Ebook!
From Stressed to Dressed Guide
If you have a child who has sensitivities to the way that clothes fit, the way that fabrics feel to the point where they won’t wear certain clothes, this guidebook will provide a step-by-step program at home to help add variety to their closet and hopefully decrease your daily clothing battles.
One Last Note
Now keep in mind, I know who I’m talking to. Most of you have a neurodivergent child that may have sensory sensitivities, and you can have all the magic tricks in the world and your child still may not want to put socks on or be happy with washing their hair. I get it.
Obviously, you know your child best, so you might hear some of these and know right away “oh my kid would hate that” or “that would cause another issue” then of course feel free to skip that method. For more support, check out podcast episode 33 to check to avoid these 3 mistakes you could be making with your sensory sensitive child.
Overall, the key to seeing improvements with your sensory strategies is consistency and time!
Learn how to look at behavior through an OT lens and start decoding your child’s behavior into sensory and non sensory triggers, so you can start supporting them more effectively. Check out the Sensory IS Behavior mini course.
- Transcript/show notes at www.theotbutterfly.com/38
- Instagram: @TheOTButterfly www.instagram.com/theotbutterfly
- email: LauraPetix@TheOTButterfly.com
- work with me: www.theotbutterfly.com/parentconsult
13:33:23 hi everyone and welcome back to the podcast This is going to be a short and sweet episode, just full of my top tricks.13:33:31 My mom hacks to get your child to cooperate with pretty much anything.13:33:39 But keep in mind, I know who i’m talking to Most of you have a node divergent child that may have sensory sensitivities, or any other behavioral or developmental challenges where you can have all the magic13:33:50 tricks in the world, and your child still may not want to cooperate with putting socks on, or be happy with washing their hair, or any other thing that is related to a sensory trigger.13:34:01 For them, I totally get it. This is not me saying try this and it’s gonna magically fix your child sensory needs no just sometimes a few extra sparks of excitement and playfulness can at least get over that initial refusal13:34:15 and battle that happens around things like transitions and cleaning up or doing anything that they literally do not feel like doing.13:34:23 And at the very least it’s worth a shot to put your energy into one of these playful strategies versus just doing the whole, because I said so bit right, because that kind of gets old.13:34:37 After a while. So yeah, these are my top tips for that.13:34:40 But one last note is that obviously you know your child best.13:34:42 So you might hear some of these strategies, and right away be like no way.13:34:47 My kid would totally hate that. There are some things that I know would not work for Liliana, but they work for other kids that I that I consult for, feel free to just take this with a grain of salt and see if any13:34:59 of these ideas might spark different ideas for You or if you think it might be worth trying for.13:35:04 Your child. i’m also gonna mention that you might be hearing some gardeners outside.13:35:11 This is not their typical day. i’m not going to record this on another day, because I really want to get this out to you.13:35:15 So please be patient if you hear some buzzing in the background let’s get into it.13:35:21 So these are the 6 tricks to get your child more motivated to cooperate.13:35:29 So my first tip is using something to make it random.13:35:35 So think of a dice or a spinner from a game, or pulling popsicle sticks.13:35:43 I love this tip for things like taking a bath, cutting nails, or brushing teeth.13:35:46 I can also see some people using this for getting dressed.13:35:49 But just basically you find a way to make parts of the task randomized by using, like, I said, like a dice a spinner from a board game.13:35:56 We’re pulling popsicle sticks so maybe you roll a dice for bath time, and whatever number it lands on is how many seconds of scrubbing you get to, do, or maybe you write down define each number and if13:36:12 it lands on one. that means you wash their face.13:36:15 If it lands on 2, then it means you wash their left foot, etc. You could also do this with brushing their teeth like whatever a number it lands on is how many seconds you brush or how many teeth you brush first obviously and then you13:36:25 keep rolling the dice until you get to thoroughly brush their teeth.13:36:29 Popsicle sticks work great for sensory strategies like heavy work that you’re trying to get them to do.13:36:37 Maybe you write crab, walk on one bare crawl in another than frog hop.13:36:43 Then dinosaur stomp on different popsical sticks, and then they pick a stick to decide how they’re going to get from their room to the kitchen, which, helps with transitions just making transitions more fun in the morning, but13:36:53 also provides the regulating heavy work that you might need to help them start their day off.13:37:00 I could also see the strategy working for helping to clean up huge messages.13:37:05 So like when Legos are all over the floor are blocks or crayons, so roll the dice, or spin the spinner to see how many blocks to clean up, or how many seconds they need to wipe the table13:37:15 for pro to this method is it’s out of your child’s control and yours so literally the randomization.13:37:26 It leaves no one to blame, so you can just blame the dice like.13:37:29 Oh, the dice says we got to clean 6 teeth first, so that could work in your favor.13:37:35 My next tip is to use time, lapse, recording mode, to help with with transitions, or just any task where your child is like moving their body through it.13:37:46 So this could work for brushing teeth, getting dressed, cleaning up.13:37:49 These are some of the most common ways that I use this method.13:37:52 So you use your phone or smart device and record them doing the task.13:37:58 But put it in time. Lapse mode which is just like super speed mode.13:38:01 I don’t know what this looks like on androids but on iphone.13:38:03 There’s actually a setting the camera, app you just go to take like a video, and at the bottom, where the red circle is, if you swipe either left or right, it’ll change to time lapse mode and you just13:38:13 click record as like I do this when she’s cleaning up. i’ll just click record while she’s cleaning, and then, after she’s done cleaning, we watch it back and it moves it it moves out like su13:38:24 fast speed, and she thinks it’s hilarious watching herself move at super speed.13:38:29 She calls it superhero speed videos. So when she doesn’t want to clean up, or she’s having a hard time.13:38:33 I’m like you want to do it in superhero speed, and she’s always like, yes, I want to do. I could probably see this working too, in reverse if you played it like in a reverse order like sometimes you could play it like in a rewind13:38:46 motion, or you could play it super slow, just like any sort of effects you can do to taking a video of them.13:38:52 They probably will love. Another tip is to use a self-recording of your child, like your child recording themselves, to cooperate with transitions.13:39:03 So I call this one dear future self so I love using this trick as like preparations for transitions, or for sort of like big events, or something that you’re preparing for like the first day of school or a plate date or a13:39:18 doctor’s visit something that you anticipate might be hard, or be a trigger for your child.13:39:23 So you basically prep your child the way you normally would like you role, play, and you practice or tell them what to expect with the transition and remind them of certain boundaries that you have like all of those things you still do you do that13:39:39 normally. So, for example, here’s a very specific example, Liliana loves listening to music in headphones, and she lives to swing at the same time.13:39:49 Transitioning away from this is like a 50 over 50 trigger for a meltdown, depending on what song it lands on, because the songs always random, and then she sometimes wants to repeat a song, and if I stop the time in the13:39:58 middle of a song. it’s like all hell breaks loose so.13:40:02 But I love that she loves this music. and swinging because it is regulating for her, and it’s she will do this for like an hour at a time.13:40:09 So it’s amazing. But so when she asks to do music and swing, I will tell her.13:40:15 Okay, you can have music and swing for 30 min after that it’s time to wash your hands for lunch.13:40:21 And also, by the way, washing hands is not her favorite either so that’s like a whole trigger, as well, so i’ll say, if it’s too hard for you to put the music away.13:40:29 You can take deep breaths or ask me for a hug, Hurting me or yelling at me is not okay.13:40:36 And then she agrees, and she says I know and then I ask if she wants to remind her future self of this plan, and she always says, Yes, so I selfie record, her, saying she says this to herself: Liliana when it’s time13:40:48 to put the music away. Don’t forget you might feel mad and you can’t hit mom.13:40:52 That’s not Ok. you can take deep breaths or squeeze your hands if you need to.13:40:57 So she is saying that to herself, then when it’s time to be done with the music.13:41:00 I’ll tell her, Hey, someone has a message for you press play, and she’ll watch the video and it works like a dream.13:41:08 99, 9, 9, 9, 9, 9, 9 9% of the time like only one time, has it not worked.13:41:14 And of course there’s still going to be feelings there.13:41:20 But this is something that typically helps. Another tip is to use music.13:41:23 To get your child to cooperate so i’ve used this one for getting dressed for brushing her hair and cleaning up.13:41:29 So I play a song on my phone and if she’s doing something by herself, like she’s getting her self-dressed or cleaning up.13:41:38 Then I just randomly will press, pause, and she freezes like a statue.13:41:44 Then when the music plays, she moves and gets dressed picks up toys, etc., until she thinks this is really funny.13:41:51 It’s it’s free stance essentially if it’s something that i’m doing like i’m brushing her hair, or I am brushing her teeth.13:41:59 Give her control of my phone, and then she pushes pause and I freeze.13:42:03 It gives her a little control over the imposed touch like grooming stuff, so she’s uncomfortable.13:42:08 She can stop so she could literally pause for however long she wants, and then I usually freeze with like a silly look on my face, and it makes her crack up every time.13:42:21 My other tip. is probably one that you’ve heard before but it’s all about making it a competition like a beat the timer.13:42:25 So again, I think this is one that might not work for some kids who are anxious about time or don’t like losing or doing anything competitive, but it works for a lot of my clients, and sometimes works for my daughter so I either put13:42:37 a timer on my phone, or I just close my eyes and count slowly to see if she can finish putting her clothes away, picking her clothes out for school.13:42:46 Notice. All of my examples are about clothes, because that is our biggest trigger, also do it for washing hands, going potty.13:42:53 Any of it before my eyes open or before the timer goes off. so i’ll i’ll close my eyes and be like, okay.13:42:59 I’m gonna close my eyes and I wonder if you can get dressed before I open my eyes, and then i’ll close my eyes, and i’ll count really really slowly, and then i’ll be like okay, tell me when you’re done this13:43:09 is taking a long time and she’ll say like i’m already done, and i’m like whoa you How did you do that so fast?13:43:17 Like all of that stuff. Sometimes we’ll race to the stairs to see who can get there first, or race to the car again.13:43:25 Use your best judgment on if this would work or pose a safety threat for some of your kids.13:43:28 But it’s just another tool to explore and the last one I’m. going to share, and rave about is the Mvp.13:43:35 For us in this house. Bubbles bubbles have been such a huge tool for us, so I swear it has saved us from so many meltdowns.13:43:44 I use it sort of in the same way as like kind of trying to beat like a timer.13:43:50 But instead of asking if she can do a task before the timer, I just say, can you do this part?13:43:56 Before the last bubble hits the ground. so if you’ve seen me talk about this on Instagram.13:43:59 I also talked about this on our morning routine podcast episode. I take a bubble wand, and I blow bubbles up like I aim towards the ceiling.13:44:06 So they have like a higher, like arch or reach, and then she has to put her socks on like, or pans, or panties, or pick up as many toys as she can before the last bubble hits.13:44:18 The ground, and I know I always let her win I just keep blowing extra bubbles, so there’s no like sadness here.13:44:24 It’s just a really fun way to motivate her to actually do it.13:44:28 So I don’t really actually let her lose yeah and that’s been working for so many things.13:44:34 So bubbles I could see like I I mean you could still do bubbles with like a ten-year-old bubbles are so universal and so cool.13:44:42 So those are my top tips for getting your child to cooperate with daily tasks.13:44:47 That might be somewhat quote non preferred. but remember, at the end of it all, they are allowed to have their feelings.13:44:54 They don’t have to be excited or happy to have to clean up like you can’t expect that of them.13:45:01 We can’t control those feelings they still have to do the cleanup.13:45:05 They still have to get dressed for school, so if you can try to make it fun.13:45:09 Then that’s the best that you can do alright Let me know if you like this episode, I will be on Instagram.13:45:16 Send me a text, send me a13:45:22 All right, let me know. so if you can try to make it fun that’s the best that you can do13:45:34 And that’s the best that you can do all right That was it for the short and sweet episode I hope you got a few new tips of things that you can try, and I will be around Instagram if you want to let me know what you thought of this13:45:45 episode. If you think someone else could benefit from this, please share13:45:57 All right. I hope you found some of these tips to be helpful.13:45:59 This was a short and sweet episode if you liked it. Please leave me a review.13:46:03 Please share it on Instagram. Please share it on Facebook.13:46:05 Share with anyone who you think would find this helpful and i’ll see you guys next week