15 Tools for Parents of 3 to 12 Year Olds

image for kids worship ministry blogs about 15 helpful hints for parents of younger kids

by Randall Goodgame

Pondering some of my most valuable parenting tools, I came up with this list and expanded on them below.  Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.

  • #15 – The Kindness Contest
  • #14 – Go Tell Your Brother (or sister)
  • #13 – The Do-Over
  • #12 – The Pre-Empt
  • #11 –  The Talking Break
  • #10 –  Earplugs
  • #9 – The Seat Belt
  • #8 – We’ll See
  • #7 – The Meltdown
  • #6 – The Apology
  • #5 – The Nap
  • #4 – The Snuggle
  • #3 – The Bedtime Convo
  • #2 – The Hug
  • #1 – The Yes

#15 – The Kindness Contest

Though I’ve only recently discovered this, it still made the list.  Works best when used sparingly, and in conjunction with an edible prize. As in, “whoever is the kindest during dinner gets two extra scoops of ice cream.”

#14 – Go Tell Your Brother (or sister)

My kids are so sick of this one, it’s amazing I still have to break it out as often as I do.  Here’s the gist of # 14: When a kid comes to tattle, we used to ask them, “Did you tell your (sibling) you didn’t like that and not to do it again?” But now we just say, “Go tell your brother (or sister) how that made you feel.”  Usually, the ‘crime’ is so inconsequential that I never hear anything else about it. Also, the offending sibling has learned by now this is their one chance to keep the parents out of it.  All they have to do is sincerely say, “I’m sorry.”

#13 – The Do-Over

The Do-Over comes in handy whenever there is back-talk or generally disrespectful communication.  We don’t have too much of this, but it does happen.  And when it does, we say, “Hoooold it right there. I don’t think you said quite what you meant to say. Why don’t you try again?”

#12 – The Pre-Empt

We started using The Pre-Empt when our biggest were 2 and 4 years old.  It started because they would go absolutely berserk whenever Amy would take them inside the grocery store.  One day, Amy (my wife) parked the mini-van, turned around and calmly explained what was about to happen, and what she expected from them.  I’m not kidding, she will tell you the difference was immediate and we’ve done it ever since. Our kids are 5, 9 and 12 now, and we still Pre-Empt before restaurants, sometimes before church, basically anytime we really want them to not act like a small troop of baboons.

#11 –  The Talking Break

I’ve blogged about this before, and I know this tool is not for every family.  However, for those of us blessed with children with the gift of gab, The Talking Break may be what keeps us out of the loony bin. Like The Kindness Contest,  The Talking Break works best used sparingly, and it works two ways.  First, “You need to take a talking break.” As in, little gabby must not talk for a few minutes (we started with 5 minutes, but it has grown over the years).  We came up with the Talking Break when our youngest was 4, out of utter desperation. Without the Talking Break, the chatter would swell into a sound tsunami that would drown you where you stood. Second, “I need a Talking Break.”  As in, “It would not be right to give you yet another Talking Break, but I cannot answer another question like, “Why is that the peanut butter?” or “Are these my arms?””

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#10 –  Earplugs

After the explanation of #11, #10 is probably obvious.  I’ve slept with earplugs for years, so we’ve always got some around. These come in especially handy on play dates with more than one friend, or when all three of our kids are playing together in the den. You can still hear what’s going on, but not with ear drum-shattering clarity.

#9 – The Seat Belt

The Seat Belt comes out during dinner time or whenever a child has been repeatedly asked to not get up out of their seat. We’ve really only used this on the boys at 4 or 5 years old, and it started out as a joke, so it’s always been a lighthearted tool. After the umpteenth infraction, we will literally take a leather belt and seat-belt our (now) 5 year old to the chair for the remainder of dinner. Like the rest of these tools, The Seat Belt should be used sparingly, and after a few of these experiences, just the mention of The Belt is usually enough to change the behavior. 

#8 – We’ll See

This one is all Amy.  When we were first married, she used to talk about her dad saying “We’ll see,” to all her questions when she was little, and how infuriating that would be. We were determined to be more respectful and consider all of our future children’s questions. Obviously, we had never had a 3 year old. 

#7 – The Meltdown

These are going to happen anyway, so you might as well make them count.  I’ve totally lost it with my kids a number of times in 12 years, and though I’m not proud of those moments, they probably did some good work in teaching them a certain kind of respect: do not touch a hot stove, do not squeeze a Capri Sun, do not swing a skillet around the kitchen, especially while your dad is crouched looking for the right tupperware lid. You will hit him in the forehead, and that’s not good for anybody.

#6 – The Apology & The Second Apology

When you apologize to your kids, you teach them how to do it (for better or worse). Also, when I really screw up and hurt someone’s feelings, I am a fan of the second apology.  Sure, I apologize right away, but when it’s bad I owe them the right to feel hurt for a minute. I may take a minute and pray, reckon things with the Lord, and come back to apologize again with new humility. This second apology can give everyone a chance to talk it out more dispassionately.

#5 – The Nap

Take a freaking nap. Sometimes even let the one-eyed babysitter do you a favor. It does not make you a bad person, and it might make you a better parent for the rest of that day.

#4 – The Snuggle

When our kids hit 18, maybe they won’t value a good snuggle on the couch with mom or dad they way do now. But till then, I see it as a crucial part of the parent-kid relationship. They need that physical affirmation of our unconditional love. And It’s my favorite thing about watching movies with the fam at home.

#3 – The Bedtime Convo

There’s too much to try and say about this one. I find out about almost everything important in my daughter’s life in the 20 or so minutes it takes to say goodnight. I’ve stayed in there for hours before. It’s priceless, and I could easily miss it in my hurry to catch a few minutes of down time with my bride before we both collapse. 

#2 – A Hug

When they are acting sour, very often my kids don’t need “a talking to.” Many times they just need a hug. I always try to let them be the first to let go. Sometimes they surprise me with how long they are willing to hold on. It’s like they can’t get enough. Hmmmmm.

#1 – The Yes

"The Yes" claims the top spot in the parenting tool box. Yes. Yes says, “I believe in you.”  Yes says, “You are awesome and I want you to be happy.”  Yes says, “I trust you,” and “Surprise!” and “I love you.” all at the same time. Yes claims the #1 spot because of how often we must say “no.”  No you can’t play in the parking lot. No you can’t eat till you’ve washed your hands. No you can’t stay up 5 more minutes. No you can’t watch a movie, No you can’t have an iPhone, No you can’t spend the night out tonight. Kids ask and ask and ask, and they force us to say no over and over. Thankfully my kids have learned that I like to say yes, so when I say no it’s easier for them to swallow (sometimes). I look for surprising opportunities to say yes, even if it inconveniences me or changes my day around, but usually it doesn’t. One night I said “Yes, you can have another cookie” every time they asked until all the Oreos were gone and they were all laughing out loud at the giant stacks of cookies on their plate. Every yes is a gift, and after all, it is better to give than to receive.

--Randall Goodgame is an internationally recognized singer and songwriter and a committed husband and parent. He is also the driving force behind the beloved Slugs & Bugs family music series. Having recently released his fourth Slugs & Bugs CD, Randall records and tours full-time before thousands of families across the U.S.A. and around the world. For more info about his music and live events, go to www.slugsandbugs.com.

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