Mum's the Word

Distraction parenting

Posted: Aug. 29, 2017 12:01 am

I'm a firm believer that parenting is 90 percent distraction.

There is always a problem and most problems don't have a quick fix, or can't really be fixed because they aren't real problems, at least not in our grown-up world.

I think there is a time and place to deal with our problems, but as some of these problems aren't real or aren't going away, I think it's equally important to refocus.

Some of these non-problems will come in the form of questions you don't want to answer. For example: The other day my 6-year-old asked me if the tooth fairy takes the tooth from under the pillow or do I do it. I went with: Oh my goodness! Look at that squirrel! He ran right out in front of our car! What do you think he was thinking?

In this instance, I used an actual squirrel but lots of things can be "squirrels."

Why not just address the question, you ask?

Well, I'm a firm believer in not lying but I'm also a big fan of staying a kid as long as possible so ... squirrel!!!!! Had I not been in the car, I would have also paired this with running the opposite direction.

There are so many techniques. I'm going to give you a few examples so that you, too, can join in distraction parenting.

Here are my favorites:

1. Squirrel. Like I said, you can use an actual squirrel or anything else that calls to you. I find animals a good focal point.

2. Look what I can do. Here's where you pull out any party tricks. Can you roll your tongue? Can you pat your head and rub your belly? Hold your breath and have the kids count how many seconds. Ha! 25! Bet you can't beat that!

3. Who farted? This will seriously diffuse almost any situation and usually result in laughter. Crude? Perhaps. But it works like a charm. Sometimes it backfires and there are fierce accusations. You may have to take ownership and follow up with a squirrel.

4. Let's talk about you. Most people, children included, like to talk about themselves. Let them know you're interested in them and then ask them leading questions. It's bonding and distraction mixed together, a true life skill. Example: I've noticed you're really into cats. I bet you can't name five different types of cats. What's your favorite thing about them?

5. Big reveal. Sometimes I start with, "Guess what?!" Then I think about something that could be exciting. Sometimes there's a long pause. Revealing plans about an upcoming get-away or sleepover are always huge. 

6. Sugar. When the kids used to get a cut on their lip or in their mouth, I'd pour sugar on it. Sure, it helps the blood coagulate, but it also distracts from the uncomfortable feeling. It works for uncomfortable situations, too! Who want's Skittles?

7. Critical thought. What do you think about ...? The dot dot dot can be anything from the given question to global warming. It encourages children to think. If in the scenario of the tooth fairy (or a direct question you don't want to answer), be careful because you may have to confirm or deny what they are asking. Or scream, "I think you take the tooth!" and run away. Yeah, it happened.

8. Bargaining. What do you want from me? Name it. I'm not above bribery. Help me help you. Nothing says I love you but don't want to talk about it like something shiny. Here's a quarter, back off magpies!

9. Answer with a question. Distraction technique and preparing them for a career in politics. Where do babies come from? I'd rather deliver this truth than deal with half of their other questions! I'm pretty sure the tooth fairy delivers them on a magical unicorn. Dang it! Why can't I just lie?

10. Ask for some time. Maybe now is not a good time to talk about it. Can I answer that question later during some alone time and pray you forget about it in the meantime?

In the end you may still be faced with the problem or uncomfortable question. Maybe you will deal with it head-on or maybe you will try your own processing technique. Being able to diffuse a situation and distract others from difficulties is key.

With all the unsolvable problems in life, being able to refocus and distract yourself will turn out to be imperative.

Now, what was I doing?

Jen Reekie was born and raised in Quincy and received a communications degree at the University of Kansas, which has come in quite handy as she communicates every day with four children who don't hear a word she says. This stay-at-home mom enjoys the challenge, though, and shares her experiences in this blog, "Mum's the Word." She welcomes your feedback, questions and stories about staying sane while raising kids.

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