How To Manipulate Your Kid To Do The Right Thing

Did that title grab your attention?

I hope so. I recently connected with Ginny Olson, the creator and author behind the blog MothersRest and found that we have a ton of similarities and that we share a lot of the same ideas about parenting. We also share a love for chocolate, sarcasm, and story-telling… probably in that order. I invite you to grab your (now cold) cup of coffee and read along with me about how Ginny is mastering the art of kid-manipulation and using it for the greater good.

If I actually knew how to manipulate your kid to do the right thing, I’d write a book. You’d buy it. I’d make a million dollars and retire from life.

In the meantime, daycare gave me a reading assignment.

For your convenience, I’ve included affiliate links. Read my Disclaimer to learn more.

The miracle workers over at daycare know how to manipulate my kid into doing all kinds of things. (How about eating hummus for lunch? How about walking in a line with your mouth shut? How about taking a nap?) To do this, they practice conscious discipline. Don’t worry – I don’t know what that means either. So they told me to read, Dr. Becky Bailey’s book, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline.

This book is a game changer. She tells you to STOP PUNISHING YOUR KID.

What? Really?!

What about when my kid finds a black sharpie marker and writes all over my fabulous red leather sofa, the kitchen cabinets, the white walls in the hall, and my darling throw pillows? (Praise Baby Jesus for Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser that took it off the walls. Praise Baby Jesus for plain ole, boring, white toothpaste that took it off the kitchen cabinets. Praise Baby Jesus for rubbing alcohol that took it off the throw pillows. Praise Baby Jesus for strategically-placed quilts to cover up the sofa…Yep, the sofa is still sporting its wounds from the great sharpie battle of 2017.)


I love how Parents magazine describes this:

These days, experts encourage us to let our kids experience what they call the natural consequences of their actions…If your child refuses to wear his jacket, just let him be cold — and he probably won’t put up a fight the next time.

Logical consequences entail more adult involvement, but they’re also connected to the misbehavior:

If your child runs out into the middle of the street, he must hold your hand for the rest of your walk. It’s this connection that helps your child understand and learn from the repercussions of his actions.

Now back to the sharpie war. Here are the natural consequences I decided to try:
1. You must color in mommy’s presence. On paper. (Because mommy
2. You must help mommy clean up. As in, if you make a mess, you clean it up.

Help-mommy-clean-up only lasted 5 minutes. Because we mommas all know that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. But the 2.5-year-old has been playing “let’s clean the cabinets” with a red block-as-sponge ever since.

Huh, it made an impression. And maybe since I didn’t spank him, which would have also made an impression, he got to learn a few things. Because, Bailey says, spanking hurts (duh) and your brain is so busy defending you from pain that you can’t process anything else. You can’t learn a lesson if your brain is distracted and under threat. Flight or fight, anyone?

Who else grew up in the 70’s when spanking was all the rage? There were switches, belts, hair brushes, hands, paddles… I remember the last time I got a spanking. No clue why I deserved it. (Maybe I drew on the rad mustard yellow sofa with a sharpie.) But I do remember I was DETERMINED not to cry. And I didn’t.

I was super proud of myself. I’d learned to overcome pain. Like a yogi-master. All mind over body. I was INVINCIBLE. And the adults in my life noticed this. That they’d dropped a rung or two on the power scale. Suddenly, spanking was off the list of “reliable punishments.”

See what happened there? I definitely didn’t learn the lesson the adults were going for. Instead, I DISCOVERED POWER. It was MAGNIFICENT.

Now, it’s my turn to be the adult. And I’m trying a new approach.

This anti-punishment thing feels a little hokey. But occasionally I’m amazed that it works. Like I’ve cracked the code and figured out how to manipulate my kid into doing the right thing.

I have an early riser. You can read about my various attempts to sequester him in his room til a decent morning hour – in this other post. Lately, I’ve worked the natural consequences angle to handle this ass-crack-of-dawn situation.

Two weeks ago, child wakes at 5:45am (like normal.) Child yells about bears (like normal.) Child beats on wall (like normal.) Child pisses me off (like normal.) Child wakes up little brother (DAMN IT.)

I storm out of bed, march down the hall and fling open child’s bedroom door. I strike a power pose and stare him in the face. He knows I mean business. Then I do something odd.

Instead of my normal morning whisper-screaming at him to stop actual-screaming in his room, I calmly say, “You know the rules. You can play quietly in your room in the morning til everyone wakes up. But this morning, you yelled. A lot. And woke up your little brother. That’s not fair. He needs sleep. This is a family and we work together to take care of each other. It’s called teamwork. We all help make sure everyone gets the sleep our bodies need.”

He stares at me like I’ve lost my mind. But he’s stopped yelling.

I go on: “Your best friend’s mommy told me he wanted to go to the park to play with you today. That would be fun, right? I know how much you love to play with him.”

I’ve definitely got his attention now.


“I don’t know if we’ll get to go. Because your brother might need an extra long nap today to get all his sleep. Because you woke him up. We might not have any time to go to the park with your friend.”

In the back of my mind, I’m wondering if this is a little too old-school passive aggressive, but, y’all, it’s true! If little brother doesn’t get his sleep at night, little brother is gonna get his sleep at day. And that might mean NO PLAYDATE.

You know what actually happened that day? Big brother took a nap! This dude NEVER takes a nap. And he slept right through the playdate.

Baby Jesus was smiling on me that day. I got the natural consequences award of the whole frikkin’ year.

This child has been quiet every morning since. And he’s so proud when little brother sleeps til 7am. Because he’s helped do his part to care for the family.

And I’m so proud OF ME! For learning how to manipulate my kid to do the right thing. At least this week anyway. (Maybe there’s a book deal in my future after all.)


About the Author

Ginny of MothersRest

Hi! I’m Ginny.

I’m here to help you weather the sleep-deprived transition to motherhood.

This blog is designed to bring you laughter and tips for dealing with those newborn WTF moments and the lack of sleep. Plus, you’ll find suggestions for how baby daddy can help you find your old, amazing self again – even though life is forever changed (for the better!)

And we’ll grow together, exploring toddler tantrums, preschool passions and so on, as my two little babes grow into lovely young men. (Because that’s the goal, right?!) Learn more…

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