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While our children are infants, they have no choice but to “go with the flow” of the family. Sure, we can anticipate that they will need to eat or sleep, but for the most part, babies can do that just about anywhere, and we really don’t need to prepare them for it, or give them any warning.

As infants enter into toddler-hood, developmentally they become much more aware of the daily routine, and they begin to ANTICIPATE what is going to happen next. They also like to feel some sense of CONTROL over the situation, and they have some power now! They can throw a temper tantrum at the drop of a hat when they feel it is necessary! And boy, have we seen some tantrums!

Young children are also now beginning to EXPRESS their likes and dislikes, or let us know what they want. Just this weekend, my five year old asked me nine different times if she could have a lollipop before dinner! (Okay, maybe not nine…) Here’s how the conversation went:

first/then

Sydney: Can I have a lollipop?

Me: No.

Sydney: Mommy, can I please have a lollipop?

Me: No. You still cannot have a lollipop.

Five minutes pass

Sydney: (insert puppy dog eyes) Mommy, Sarah had a lollipop. Can I have a lollipop, too?

Me: No! We are NOT having LOLLIPOPS!!!

And then it occurred to me! I was cooking dinner, and deep in thought planning in my head for an upcoming trip. In Sydney’s five year old brain, my “no” meant “never”…like “there will never in the immediate or distant future be a time when that much anticipated lollipop will be allowed to go into my mouth!” I only meant no lollipops until after dinner. Did I say that? No! Ugh…I needed a do-over!

So, I got down to her level in front of the simmering pot on the stove, calmed my voice down and said, “Sydney, I’m cooking dinner. FIRST a healthy dinner, then a LOLLIPOP.”

The tears stopped! She sniffled, and repeated back to me, “If I eat my dinner, I can have a lollipop?” “Yes, Sydney. First dinner, then a lollipop.” I got a hug and an “okay!” and she wandered off to probably stare at that delicious lollipop until I called her for dinner.

Is it always that easy? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But, my point here is to encourage you to use what we like to call the FIRST/THEN technique. The FIRST/THEN technique can make your life much easier, especially when our little princes and princesses are having a hard time transitioning, or have something they REALLY want (like a lollipop!)

How do I use this during a transition? Let’s take a look at another example, this time with clean up. My little buddy, Daniel, was begging his Mom to let him use the computer. (Yes, he is three! And he loves it!). We already have cars and trucks out on the floor. You USE THE FIRST/THEN TECHNIQUE.

“FIRST clean up cars and trucks, THEN computer.” Think about this…had we just said “No computer. Clean up cars and trucks.” OH MY STARS! Daniel probably would have fallen apart thinking the computer was an absolute and forever no. What were we actually thinking? That we need to clean up first, then sure! Go for it! Play on the computer! But, did we say that? Not even close! Insert FIRST/THEN, and now Daniel can anticipate the upcoming computer use. (YAY!) AND he is more willing to comply with the not-so-fun task of cleaning up.

Sometimes we even use this without realizing! When have you found yourself using the FIRST/THEN technique? Has it made your life easier with your child? Tell us!

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