The Phrase that Always Gets My Kids Moving when I Need Them To

Kids on the move.Kids on the move.We've all been there. Yes, every parent knows that point in the standoff with your child where it's either going to turn into a major meltdown or you're going to sit there for another 20 minutes waiting for the coat or shoes to be put on, the teeth to be brushed, or insert whatever it is that your child takes forever to accomplish. At this point, there is one simple phrase that I've found puts a huge smile on my kids' faces and gets them moving quickly. That phrase is "How fast can you ____?"


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This phrase has perhaps become the most important phrase in my parenting repertoire only behind "I love you." When I just want to scream in frustration, instead I now say, "How fast can you ____?" While it works magically in helping everyone in the house get ready in the morning and into the car, it also works wonders in changing my kids' moods when they're in a funk. Just last week I was at the park with my five-year-old who was pouting because he couldn't find anyone to play with and all the swings were taken, and I was tired of watching him stand there doing nothing. And so I said, "How fast can you get up that ladder and down the slide?"

Well, if you've ever seen a frown turn upside down so quickly, he was off in a sprint. I simply counted as he did the route and because I knew he could do it faster, when he got to the bottom, I sent him on his way again to try to beat his time. Next up, he was requesting that I put my phone timer on to see how fast he could do everything on the playground, and off he went to happily play by himself for another ten minutes.

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This also works great when I need one of kids to do something as simple as run upstairs and grab something for me. And it's also great for a lull in a play date. My friends and I often find ourselves saying "How many times can you guys run from here to the tree and back?" or "Who can do seven times down the slide fastest?" And while I thought that this would perhaps only work on my already competitive child and his younger sister who likes to mimic him, I've found that friends have tried this technique with their dilly-dalliers and their children are quickly rushing to put on their coats or run off and play.

Only time will tell if I am causing uber-competitive kids as a result (and if I am, I think I'm ok with it if it saves me from fighting with toddlers), but while I worry a little bit about that aspect of it, I actually think that it's indeed having the opposite effect. When so many things are competitive, it is impossible for them to "win" all the time and therefore they have to face the reality of losing. My son used to hate losing at anything, but it doesn't bother him that much anymore since we've created all these mini-competitions. Not even when his baby sister beats him at getting pajamas on a bed time.

This post was written by Sarah Fernandez.

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