Give things fancy names. When talking to a young toddler, call broccoli “tiny trees.” Cutting fingernails can become “having a manicure.” You get the idea. This trick works better on toddlers than it does on preschoolers. These days, I can call broccoli whatever I want to, but if its first name is not “powdered” and its last name is not “doughnut,” my child is not going to eat it. And any “manicure” at my house had better be followed up with a quick coat of PixieDust Pink, if you know what’s good for you.
Give nonchoice “choices.” I’m not talking about letting your kid choose which superhero underpants to wear, though I think all of us parents can agree that that is a Very Important Decision, Indeed. No, I mean those choices that are phrased like these: “Would you like to clean up these toys or would you like to go to timeout and THEN clean up these toys?” Or, “Would you like to put your shoes on and go outside, or would you like to stay here in this house all alone while I leave, keeping in mind that there will be no one here tall enough to reach the microwave to make you popcorn when you use up your scant fat stores and need to eat again?” Or, “OH FOR THE LOVE STOP SCREAMING OR I WILL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO SCREAM ABOUT.” Or, um. Wait. Maybe not that last one.
Do not leave the house for more than 10 minutes without a snack in your purse, a potty in your trunk, and a trick up your sleeve. Your “trick” will depend on the age of your child, but being able to fold a piece of newspaper into a pirate hat never hurt anybody. My trick is that I am not afraid to make a total fool out of myself, anytime, anywhere: I will dance in the yard, sing for no reason, and lower my voice to make the trashcan “talk.” You would not believe how entertaining that particular characteristic is to an infant/toddler/preschooler. When my daughter becomes a preteen and teenager, I suspect my foolishness will be less entertaining. However, it should serve me well as a means of punishment, and so I plan to keep it in my repertoire. I anticipate many happy years of obedience in response to the words, “If you don’t straighten up, I am not afraid to sing ‘Brick House’ right here, right now. AND I KNOW A DANCE THAT GOES WITH IT."