You won't read about these sneaky dad solutions in any advice book. But the results speak for themselves.
Start the day with a smile
At our house, I'm the breakfast guy. One day when my daughter, Myah, was 4, I turned her meal into a face -- two fried eggs for the eyes, toast cut diagonally for the ears, turkey bacon for the smiley mouth, and grated cheese for the nose. She got such a kick out of it that I do it all the time now. I use cereal, fruit, and different food colorings to make her meals look like characters from her favorite movies. She used to eat only eggs for breakfast, but these days she cleans her plate every time.
-Keith Kramarz; League City, Tex.
Use common cents
I've always found rewards to be more effective than threats. So I put my 7-year-old triplets, Austin, Grant, and Sabrina, on an incentive system. The kids helped me put together a chore list, and now for every task they do -- whether it's getting ready for school by themselves or putting their clothes away -- they get a penny. At the end of the week, I give them an allowance based on how much they did. The great thing is, even when I get lax about the list for a while, they keep doing their chores, because they've gotten into the habit.
-Bill Laut; El Dorado Hills, Calif.
Tune in, tune out
I picked up a pocket AM/FM radio when my daughter, Avery, was a newborn. Tuned to static, it filters out sound in the house. When I turned it on at naptime, she'd close her eyes right away. And after she fell asleep on me, I'd pop in the little headphones and catch up on the news. We also keep the radio on in her room at night as a source of white noise.
-Arlen Speights; Olympia, Wash.
By the time my son, Vic, was 5 months old, we had exhausted our repertoire of baby songs to soothe him. One day, in a moment of desperation, I sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" to him in a soft, heartfelt manner worthy of the founding fathers. It must have stirred his budding patriotism, because for the next two months, every time I started singing the national anthem he quieted down.
-Chris Tauber; Longwood, Fla.
Wait for the beep
It was always a battle to get my 3-year-old daughter, Sarah, to stop what she was doing and move on to the next activity. I wear a digital watch, and one day I told her, "Okay, we have five more minutes at the playground. When my watch beeps, that means we're done." To my amazement, when the alarm went off Sarah was focused on the watch, not on my saying it was time to go. It works to this day. My wife uses this trick too -- but because she has a traditional watch, she just makes the beeping noises herself when time's up.
-David McKinnis; Fairfield, Conn.
It was hard to get each of my boys -- Jonathan, 6, Alexander, 4, and Mark, 2 -- to sleep at night when they were small. They'd cry for what felt like an eternity when we left their room. So I came up with this routine: I read to them and put them to bed. Then I slowly paced in and out of their room while reading my newspaper. The first few times when I walked out, they'd cry. But once they realized I'd be back in a few seconds, they'd calm down. Over the course of ten days, I'd gradually walk farther and farther away so that it took a little longer to return each time. By the end, I just didn't come back. I wore a hole in the carpet doing this, but it worked for all three boys -- and I got my reading done too.
-Richard Fogelson; Arlington, Va.
Tell road tales
When I used to drop off my daughters, Madeline and Emma, with the sitter, they'd get very upset. To ease the transition, I'd make up a new story every morning. I'd tell them the first half on the ride to the sitter, then promise to finish it on the way home if they were good about letting me leave. The only problem was remembering what the story was about for the whole day. But I always managed to make my way through it.
-Geoff Gillette; Colorado Springs, Colo.
Don't do as I say
My 5-year-old son, Donovan, used to resist getting dressed. About a year ago, I started playing this game: I say, "Donovan, whatever you do, don't put on your shirt. When I look at you, I don't want to see a shirt on your body!" Then when I turn away, he laughs, quickly puts it on, and says, "Dad, look at me!" I give him an exaggerated response like, "Oh, no! I can't believe you did that!" He gets a big kick out of it, and it lets us get on with our day.
-Bob Hugel; Maplewood, N.J.
Take this call
My 1-year-old daughter, Edana, never stops wiggling on the changing table, so I came up with a way to occupy her. Since she loves to talk on the phone, one day I pretended to get a call on her foot. I held it to my ear, handed it to her, and said, "It's for you." She babbled into her foot for a while, then gave it back to me so I could chat some more. We do it all the time now. I get a new diaper on her much faster -- plus, with her feet up, it's easy to wipe her butt.
-Greg Jakubowski; Topeka, Kans.
Plan a sleepy-time surprise
We used to have trouble getting Joshua, 5, to sleep. One night, I hid his teddy bears under the covers. He loved the surprise, and now it's turned into a nightly ritual. I hide books or other things in his bed, or I'll move things around in his room. I always give him three clues about what I've done before he enters, then I let him look. He loves bedtime now.
-Shane La Flower; Barre, Vt.
Copyright © 2004. Reprinted with permission from the October 2004 issue of Parents magazine.