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Home » Advice and Tips, Baby, Toddler

Using Misdirection with Kids and Babies

Submitted by on Sunday, 4 January 20098 Comments

I have always been fascinated by magic, and enjoy learning and performing it.  I recently discovered how to apply one of the key principles of magic to parenting.  It is the principle of misdirection.  I hope I am not giving away a huge magic secret here by mentioning this – I am sure most people know of the importance of misdirection to a magician.  Good magicians get the audience to look where they want them to look, and not pay attention to where the “dirty work” is happening.  That is what misdirection is all about.

magicianaheadWhat does this have to do with parenting?  Everything.  You can use misdirection in every day situations to get your kids through tasks they normally cringe at.   You don’t have to be a magician to use misdirection with your kids, and you can use it for more than pulling rabbits out of hats.

I stumbled across this idea when I was changing Sweet Cheeks’s diaper the other day.  It went like this:

Sweet Cheeks was not keen on having her diaper changed.  She was whining and tossing herself about.  When this happens, I normally try and get through the change quickly, and then pick her up and have it over with.  That is fine, but it is stressful.

So this time, I took my time and got her attention by talking to her and making some funny sounds.  I was directing her attention to me and my face.  Who wouldn’t want to direct their attention there, right?   ;-)   I got her attention and held it by keeping eye contact with her, talking to her, and making funny sounds.  She laughed and smiled.  She didn’t realise that I was changing her diaper at the same time.  All her focus was on me.  Little leprechauns could have danced on her belly and she wouldn’t have noticed or cared.

The key was that I kept eye contact with her throughout.  Her eyes were on me, and she was focusing where I wanted her to focus.  The hardest part was changing her diaper without actually looking at it.

While you may end up with some crooked or backwards diapers, this trick is worth a try.  I can’t say it will always work – sometimes your baby or child might be in a state where you can’t get their attention or misdirect them in this way, or for a long enough period of time.  If Sweet Cheeks is really upset about something and crying a lot, for example, misdirection does not work.  In those situations, I resort back to getting the deed done ASAP and moving on to something soothing.

Misdirection can be applied to more than babies and diaper changing.  I am sure you have used it in other situations and with toddlers too, perhaps without even knowing it.  As an example, there is a kid’s haircut place I know of that has a TV in front of the barber’s chair.  As kids have their hair cut, they are more focused on the cartoons than on the fact that there are sharp scissors within inches of their heads.  This doesn’t always work either (my toddler, Smarty Pants, won’t have his hair cut there not matter what), but it does work for some.  I don’t condone sitting kids in front of the TV very often, but in this case, it is another example of misdirection in action.

Can you think of any times that you have used misdirection with your kids?  Tell us about it!

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  • You mean you don’t have little leprechauns yet!? I highly recommend them for times when misdirction fails :-)

    Joseph Hoetzl’s last blog post..American Robin

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hey Joseph, thanks for the recommendation, lol, I used to have some but then they all moved out on me to marry little leprechaun-ettes :)

  • My wife and I have used misdirection for our daughter Olivia practically since she was born 2.5 years ago. It’s amazing how well it still works!

    One trick that works well in our case is making Olivia feel that things are a contest. Like if she doesn’t want to put her shoes on, I’ll say something like “daddy’s going to put his shoes on first.” She’ll consider this a game, contest, competition (whatever) and often she’ll rush to put her shoes on before I do.

    So yes, misdirection like this works wonders! :D

    Jon @ DadTrek’s last blog post..5 Special Family Time Ideas for Dads

  • Head Jammer says:

    Thanks for your comment Jon, glad to hear it works for you too! I really like the idea of the contest, I gotta give that a try. My wife does something similar when Smarty Pants is walking too slowly… she says, “Who’s faster?” and makes a race out of getting where they need to go. It works well, he starts running to get there faster.

  • Treemama says:

    All great ideas.

    I find that switching the pace from the drama and doing something to make the girls laugh always changes up the mood.

    Grabbing Em’s around the chest and pulling her close and saying in a goofy voice, I’m going to hug the angry right out of you and jiggling her up and down works great.

    Somehow I doubt it will work when she’s 14 though.

    Treemama’s last blog post..Because I Read Twilight I Have Unrealistic Expectations in Men

  • Head Jammer says:

    Thanks for the great idea Treemama! And you are probably right!

  • FunFamily says:

    My hubby and I sing “Old MacDonald’s Farm” but do a dramatic pause before the animal sound… and then make the animal sound a bit nuts (and loud). And we do bizarre animals. Our toddler holds her breath in anticipation of what’s coming and then giggles and giggles… It’s a great game that allows us to get her hair done, complete clothing changes, etc. It’s been a year, and she’s still not tired of it!

    And of course, like any toddler, she likes to be challenged with “adult” tasks. Like putting her plate (plastic) in the sink. Getting mommy a towel, etc.

    The key is giving clear directions in super short sentences.

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hi FunFamily! I love this idea! This is really great, and I also totally agree about giving clear directions in super short sentences as well. Well put and thanks for your input!

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