Scaring my kid: dick move?
December 14, 2011 5:06 AM   Subscribe

Question about scaring my two-year-old to get him to obey. Am I being a bad dad?

My two-and-a-half (almost three) year old is a well-behaved, good natured little boy. He does get stubborn, though, when it comes to bath time. He doesn't want to go in, but once he's in, he doesn't want to come out. I take him in when the wife is cooking dinner, so I need to take him out in time for meal time.

But he won't get out of the tub. "But I wanna play!" is his usual refrain, and no amount of cajoling will get the kid out. Of course, I can just pick him up and take him out, but he cries and kicks and pitches a fit. Somewhat dangerous, and anyway, that doesn't seem like fun to do everyday.

Here's what I do, and I feel a bit bad about it. I'll turn out the lights and say "ooh, it sure is dark in here". There's still ambient light from the next room over, so it's not totally dark, but it's enough to spook my son, who gets a scared look and says "I wanna get out". So that works, but it makes me feel terrible. I don't want him to be scared like that, especially on a regular basis; it feels like I'm conditioning him to be scared of me, or the dark, or just the stress that causes him.

It's not a drawn out thing--I pick him up and dry him off and ten seconds later he's back to normal. So I'm torn. What say you all? Am I being a jerk? Or am I overthinking this? Or somewhere in between?
posted by zardoz to Human Relations (41 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I can just pick him up and take him out, but he cries and kicks and pitches a fit. Somewhat dangerous, and anyway, that doesn't seem like fun to do everyday.

IANAParent, but just taking him out seems like the better solution. Also, cajoling seems like a bad idea. By pleading instead of insisting, you're demonstrating to him that whining and resisting works. If you consistently show him that it doesn't work, I suspect he'll stop. Besides, the fear tactic can't keep working for long.
posted by jon1270 at 5:12 AM on December 14, 2011 [6 favorites]

It's not exactly going to scar him for life, but you still should go with the more direct method: pick him up, take him out, dry him off, no argument. You're the boss.
posted by pracowity at 5:13 AM on December 14, 2011 [16 favorites]

Don't forget to give him a time warning before he starts the pleading. "OK, couple more minutes." Then when the time is up, drain the water.
posted by gjc at 5:17 AM on December 14, 2011 [10 favorites]

Then when the time is up, drain the water.

This. Take away what's fun about the bath. When time is up tell him that bathtime is over and drain the water and take the toys out - no negotiations. Hold out a big fluffy towel. His choice is now to either sit shivering and bored in an empty tub or run into your warm arms.
posted by like_neon at 5:21 AM on December 14, 2011 [50 favorites]

Of course, I can just pick him up and take him out, but he cries and kicks and pitches a fit.

This is what I do. Or, did, at least - I had to spend a few weeks doing this, and now I don't need to anymore. My daughter understands that this is how it works now. Don't forget, you're not just managing bathtime here, you're teaching the kid to manage their own behavior when they don't get what they want.

Instinctively, as well, I think that some point your child is also going to need to learn how to function on their own when they're alone in the dark, too, and this practice might put you on a bad footing that time comes.

There's an old Jesuit saying that goes something like, give me the boy until he is 12 years old, and I'll give you the man. While I'm not that strict, I do think that discipline like this is one of those up-front costs that you need to pay when they're children, because the cost of learning those lessons as a teenager or an adult is so much higher.
posted by mhoye at 5:25 AM on December 14, 2011 [7 favorites]

Yes, this isn't the best way to do it. There's no real connection between getting out of the bath and the darkness, and he's just going to dread bathtime. Here what might work:

Say 'okay another minute and we're tidying away the toys'. Help him put the toys back in the basket or bag or tub whatever. Let him splash for a bit.

Then say: 'okay, another two minutes and then we have to say goodbye to the water'. Pull the plug, as others have suggested. Say 'bye, bye, water! see you soon!'

He may want to keep on sliding around the empty bath. My daughter likes to do this. At this point you say, 'ok I'm going to count to ten and then we're going to do a great big jump!'. Get a nice warm towel ready to welcome him as you lift him out. Make the drying process as fun as the bath - cover him up, pretend he's disappeared, play peekaboo etc.

This may work for a month or so :-)
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 5:27 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

You are conditioning him. Humans learn through conditioning. Look into conditioning and reinforcement a little. This kind of behavioral training works very well on kids his age. What you are doing is pretty negative (it's actually called positive punishment, but... You know, I mean negative with a connotation of "bad") Giving him a positive reinforcer to get out of the tub is a better idea. A special treat, or "you get to watch this show/read this story later if you get out of the tub in time." (I am not a psychologist, but I about to graduate with a degree in psych.)
posted by catatethebird at 5:29 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe you could get a couple of fun hooded towels, and do a superhero "flying" thing with him when he gets out of the bath – a very special after-bath game that you only do at that time.

And you might do the faux-choice trick, too: "do you want to dry off with this towel, or this one?"
posted by taz at 5:29 AM on December 14, 2011

Fun kitchen timer and countdown to takeoff!
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:30 AM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

set a timer, when it goes off, tell him he's got five more minutes, set it for that. When it goes off, have him start letting the water outeWhen he's bored and cold without the water, of course he'll get out, and give him lots of verbal praise, and make the post-bath stuff fun. We used to sing and be really silly during the drying off after bath, making faces in the mirror, lots of hugs and tickles. Rewarding the behavior you want is so much better than punishing the behavior you don't.
posted by lemniskate at 5:30 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks all for the replies. I should point out that I'm in Japan, and one thing you suggested that I can't do is drain the water out; that's used for later baths (not as gross as it sounds). I'll try to just pluck him out directly and see if that works.
posted by zardoz at 5:31 AM on December 14, 2011

I had a discussion with my German boss about children and what to do if they misbehave (i have none,i'm infertile:( ) she answered, and this really interested me, as if the only obedience question was time-wasting (hers is only 5,so no graver sins yet?) and said, she always talks to her daughter, 'we'll do this, and that' and if she 'dawdles' she says to her 'take all day to tie your shoes if you want, it's your time to waste, but it means we won't be able to read a picture-book later'. That's via my bad German, and Saarland the worst behaviour i came across was a teenager who called me 'broad' (Weib) to his mate on the train so badly-behaved children probably aren't very naughty..

If you want to keep on with turning the light out, you could say 'Time to leave!' instead of 'it's getting dark...' Or you could switch the radio/tv on in the next room (except you can't really leave the room in case of drowning risk). How about going on about how chilly and cold it is and how nice and warm it is in the next room?

I actually have a lot of experience of this, from care work: you're supposed to get people out of bed and on the bus to day centre, yet never 'tell them what to do' or force them. You think they want to get out of bed in the morning?! Bossy and brusque can work, keep talking so loudly and so much they can't interrupt...i couldn't always do it and i always felt bad, but don't beat yourself up too much. Just be fast and chipper and ignore all other conversational avenues - don't discuss it. Pull the plug out and start drying him, pretend you've got ten other kids to get through!

People in the electric shop sold me a timer, said their autistic son has no concept of time so they use it for everything - set it for any activity, and then time's up. You can get overpriced alarm clocks for kids that put on a light show or something. I kind of think a strong temptation in the next room.

I have big problems getting myself out of bed - i get too depressed to face the day - some strong and distracting thought or feeling always does it. It is human nature to get on with it, to move, so when you're unthinking, caught up in a strong feeling or remembrance or anticipation, you naturally get on with it.

Re-reading, what he dislikes is change. It's not getting in or out, it's interruption. I'm like that, i HATE changing what i'm doing, eg if the phone rings i swear my guts out, it drives me insane. So he's probably in introvert. Dinner never fails to motivate me though... Your main problem is you have a deadline (mealtime) and he doesn't, conflict. Maybe he'll get over it when he learns to swear! (There is a great Peanuts cartoon about how awful it is not to be able to express your feelings thus. I don't like swearing nonetheless.)
posted by maiamaia at 5:32 AM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Since he doesn't want to get in or out initially, I wonder if it's too chilly for him? I entice my kid out with the promise of using the warm hair dryer on his hair.
posted by xo at 5:36 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

My 2 year old son is like this about wanting to stay in the car and play. Someone offered me this great advice which worked...

Imagine you are working on something important and someone abruptly said to stop what you are doing immediately and without warning. And then they proceeded to physically remove you from what you were doing. You'd be irritated too! Where was the warning that you had to wrap things up???

Now realize that playing Ducky DiveBomber at bath time is serious business to a 2 year old. So give him some warning that he needs to wrap up his serious business because it is time to move on to something else. By remembering that what they are doing is as serious to them as your grown up business is to you helps. When you give them some time to prepare for leaving the serious business behind, you are respecting them and likely to get fewer tantrums.

I usually give my son 2 minutes. He will sometimes fuss when the 2 minutes are up, but the full blown tantrum is avoided.
posted by murrey at 5:43 AM on December 14, 2011 [37 favorites]

When you give them some time to prepare for leaving the serious business behind, you are respecting them and likely to get fewer tantrums.

This. My brother gives his kids transition time between activities by giving them 10 and 5 minute warnings and then having them say goodbye to their toys or whatever making sure they know they'll see them again. It had really helps avoid tantrums.
posted by Kimberly at 5:51 AM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

A couple of things:

1. 'Time to come out' / 'two more minutes, then' (seconding others who've suggested that).

2. 'OK, we're getting out now'. Count slowly to three, then lift child out of bath. My two-year-old has learned that counting to three means that time's up, and whatever we're about to do, we're doing it on 3.

3. Distraction, distraction, distraction. Find something your child likes to do immediately on getting out of the bath. My two-year-old likes to pull the cord to turn the light out after his bath. He also likes hiding inside the towel and playing peek-a-boo while we're doing the drying-off. Find something to make getting out of the bath inviting.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 5:51 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

As a further expansion on what murrey, Kimberly and le morte de bea arthur just said, the following has been working really well for me recently (with my 2.5 year old daughter): well before bath time I say something like "hey we're going to have a bath later today, that's going to be fun right? Tell me, today, are you going to be upset when it's bath time or are you just going to get right in there as quick as you can?"

Et cetera and mutatis mutandis for leaving the bath and other similar 'trigger' moments during the day.

(By the way, the long-term result of this is that she now tells me before I can ask her that she's not going to get upset by x, y and z. And she doesn't. And if she does and I remind her of what she said, she totally sucks it up and sticks to what she said. Quite amazing to me.)
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 5:52 AM on December 14, 2011 [6 favorites]

I have 3-year-old twins, and transitions can be difficult. As others have mentioned, giving "time warnings" is key - even if a kid is too young to understand how long a minute is, they can understand that that time is being counted down. I usually give my kids a 15-minute warning, then 10 minutes, 5 minutes, then I'll count down by minute from there. Not that they are immediately compliant, and they have started bargaining for more time, but at least they understand that we have to move onto something else, and we can head off the tantrums we used to have.
posted by candyland at 5:53 AM on December 14, 2011

Sometimes they get like that. My daughter had a span of time where she wanted to stay in the bathtub. I do one of two things...I just let the water out. If you let the water out, there is nothing to play with any longer. He'll get out once the water starts to go down the drain, he will soon take the sound of the water going down the drain as a cue soon enough. The other thing I do is take her in the shower. I know, you might not like to do that, but once the water is off, it is time to get out.

Try not to do anything that instills fear in the child, you're not a bad dad, but why make him afraid of something?
posted by Yellow at 6:13 AM on December 14, 2011

Ah drats, I missed that you said you can't let the water out. How did I miss that line?! I shouldn't read this stuff while working! Sorry!
posted by Yellow at 6:15 AM on December 14, 2011

My mother was a preschool teacher and has an incredible knack with very young children (I sometimes call her "The Toddler Whisperer"). One thing she's said about discipline for very young children may help you: Children that age like to feel a certain sense of autonomy, so offering them a choice between two things may help them feel like they are a bit more control of a situation and they'll be more likely to comply. You will, of course, be offering them a choice between two options that both work to your advantage.

So in your case, you'd ask your child something like -- "Okay, it's time to get out of the bath now. Do you want to get into your bathrobe first, or do you want to put away your tub toys first?" If your child says "but I want to play," just repeat that playing is not an option, because it is time to get out of the tub. So -- do you want to put on your bathrobe first, or put your tub toys away first?

This will not be a panacea that works every time, but it will probably lead to a lot more compliance.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:17 AM on December 14, 2011 [6 favorites]

I just used to pull the plug on them & wait for them to get cold if they were dilatory about getting out of the bath :) But I see you can't do that...

As others have said, transitions are often difficult for small children. I find it's best to give them as much control as possible but to make it clear that there will be consequences for not getting on with things which follow logically from the failure. The consequences are *not* punishments but more the inevitable necessary result of the child's own choices. False choices are can also be very helpful: "Do you want the red towel or the blue towel?" for instance. It implicitly assumes that the child is getting out, & to get the towel of their choice they have to get out, so psychologically getting out becomes their own idea! It's like magic...

(Of course to make the consequences thing work you have to be actually willing to follow though, so be careful what you promise!)

The counting thing also works well. I have no idea why but somehow "I'm going to count to three and then we're going to do X... 1... 2..." works 10x as effectively as "Do X now."

Read up on "love and logic" & "1 2 3 Magic" for endless blathering about these techniques.
posted by pharm at 6:20 AM on December 14, 2011

Seconding most of what everyone said. I have 3 boys now heading towards teen years, and have been through this. It's the same questions as getting them to go to bed, eat dinner, and any other number of 'routine' things.

You're not a bad dad. You're just learning. We've all done 'bad dad' things as we muddle through the challenges of raising a kid.

Anyway - routine and consistency. A child that young won't understand you explaining things, so you just have to be consistent. And try not to associate things together (darkness with unpleasantness/leaving the bath).

The count down works well for most things. I think the 15 minutes is a bit long for that age.. they'll forget after 2 minutes you said anything. So I'd go with a 5 minute countdown, and maybe even use an egg timer so they can track the time.

Then the hardest part is that they'll still scream and pitch a fit. For either days, or weeks. Until one day, suddenly, the egg timer will go off and they'll climb out on their own. Just until that day, the hardest part is not getting frustrated with them. Just do it all business-like. Take out, dry off best you can, shove them in bed clothes and that's it. It does get better!

(on preview - have to disagree with Empress, just because of the age we're talking about. That will work for someone older - toddler, say 5 - 7 years old, but 2-3.. you just gotta do it. Reasoning (trying to reason) with a 2 year old is exercise in frustration)
posted by rich at 6:20 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

(on preview - have to disagree with Empress, just because of the age we're talking about. That will work for someone older - toddler, say 5 - 7 years old, but 2-3.. you just gotta do it. Reasoning (trying to reason) with a 2 year old is exercise in frustration)

Actually, 2-3 was precisely the age my mother was using this trick on, and I've seen it work. Most recently with my 3-year-old niece. A 5 to 7 year old is old enough to be savvy about, "hey, wait, how come you're only offering me options that work for you?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:29 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

What you're doing is reinforcing the idea that being in the dark is bad and scary. It's hard enough to learn, as a child, that the dark is nothing to be afraid of even without your dad telling you that it is.

I'm not a parent, a friend of mine got her son out of the stubborn "But I don't wanna!" habit by giving him a 5 minute warning, then 2, then 1. She'd act like it was really fun to count down the time--she wasn't sternly saying, "OK son, 5 minutes and you're done" but rather, "OK, we have 5 more minutes to play and then we're having dinner!" and then, "Two more minutes to play before dinner!" and so on. The change in her kid's reaction to having to stop what he was doing was dramatic. Knowing the plan ahead of time, and knowing how much time he had left seemed to make him a lot calmer than abruptly saying, "OK, time to go!"
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:47 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

A very important thing is to not reinforce bad behavior by giving in. Every single time that you give in to the person's wining and complaints, you are teaching them that that is an acceptable way to get what they want.

Instead, just set a timer and say, "when this goes off, it's time to get out of the bath" and *never* deviate from that, unless you specifically indicate you will do so *before* the person enters the bath.

The worst thing you can do is to sometimes do, sometimes don't enforce the rule. This will train the person that more work is required to get what they want, which they will willingly do, as long as they get what they want.
posted by rebent at 6:54 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing the countdown. My kid is almost nine and I still have to do this.

She was about 4, but when she started giving me guff about bath time (and dragging her heels at bedtime) I started using a timer. For a bath, I'd set it for 15-20 minutes, and then when it went off, there'd be no arguing because it wasn't me saying it was time to get out of the tub. I don't know if 2 is too young, but it seems like it would work. Basically you're introducing a neutral third party who is saying it's time to get out of the tub, so it gets around the power struggle. With a phone, you could set the alarm to play some tune he might enjoy and say that when the song starts, it's time to get out of the tub.

I still use the timer, but now she has X minutes to play, and then when the timer goes off she knows it's time to wash her hair and scrub up.

Failing all that, picking him up by wrapping him in a towelly bear hug is preferable to turning out the lights, I think. It's too bad you can't drain the tub, that's the ace in the hole!
posted by looli at 7:02 AM on December 14, 2011

Agreeing with everyone here about giving warning and setting a timer if needed.

Around this age my daughter went through a phase where she was horrible about leaving playgrounds. So we did a few things -
  • Discussed consequences with her. In our case, explaining that such a bad ending to a visit to the playground would make us want to take her to playgrounds less often.
  • Continue with warning about time left. 10 minutes, 5, 2, ok let's go.
  • Started using the timer on my phone for the final countdown, which ended with a loud, continuing sound effect.
It took a little time but soon enough I could just give the one 5 minute warning then hold up the phone when the alarm went off she would run over. Overall, it helped in other transitions as well. As mentioned above at this age you are conditioning them for more than just getting out of the bath.

In your case you might explain that taking longer to get him out of the bath means there will be less time to do something later - reading a story, before bed playtime, whatever he likes that happens between bath and bed OR that you have to start his bath time earlier and thus cut into his pre-bath playtime. Then get one of those kitchen timers that ends with a "DING!" and tell him when you are setting it for five minutes. When time is up, you take him out if he is not cooperating.

Then, you have to stick to the consequences you have set up. Otherwise, you'll be like those parents at the playground telling their 7 year-olds that REALLY SERIOUSLY THIS TIME, two minutes (for the eighth time that afternoon).

Also, he might not actually be scared of the dark but rather he now knows that at that stage "Dad means business" and knows he'll be pulled out next.
posted by mikepop at 7:05 AM on December 14, 2011

Rule-by-fear is a strategy sustainable only by escalating it to places I'm sure you don't want to go.

Now that you have a two year old starting to show signs of believing that carrying on like a pork chop will bend you to his tiny will, you'd be well advised to grab a copy of 1-2-3 Magic and get reading before his natural plan for world domination begins getting early results in your house.

Also, a five-minute warning, then a two-minute warning, will help a great deal whenever you need him to wind something up because it's time to do something else.

And don't be ashamed when totally transparent ploys like reverse psychology or obvious distraction actually work. All's fair in love and war, especially when - as is the case when raising toddlers - those are the same thing.
posted by flabdablet at 7:14 AM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, the biggest reason not to do this is that it's just unsustainable as he gets older. Someday when he's 12, the only way you'll be able to maintain this manner of controlling his behavior is by threatening to hit, which isn't going to be effective, and will instigate other undesirable behaviors anyway. So using positive reinforcement like "you can play for five more minutes" and "two more minutes, then it's time to get out and read your bedtime story!" etc., is great, because it's fantastically scalable as he gets older.
posted by so_gracefully at 7:49 AM on December 14, 2011

My mom used to throw my towel in the dryer for a few minutes. 'warm towel will be ready in five minutes!' and 'quick get into warm towel while it's still cozy and warm!'.

Works at bedtime too, by ironing bed sheets.
posted by whalebreath at 7:56 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

The five minute / two minute / one minute warning is very effective -- note also that two year olds have no idea how long a minute is; it doesn't have to be five actual minutes.

Another strategy I've used to combat dawdling is to get the kid thinking about the fun part of whatever comes next. We have a... ok this is going to sound sort of silly to describe in detail, let's just summarize it as a drying-off ritual that involves the bath towel pretending to be a friendly shark om nom nom. It was the kid's idea originally, whatever, I'm not saying you need to make shark-towel puppets specifically, the point is I can now say "I think I hear a shark coming" and he gets excited and starts putting his bath toys away, because shark time comes after bath time and shark time is fun. In your case maybe start talking about what you'll be having for dinner, since that's what comes next.
posted by ook at 8:04 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Use a timer. Make sure it has a button to make the beeping stop, and make sure your son presses the button.

My daughter takes a bath for exactly eight minutes. The timer starts as soon as the water is ready, so if she fools around she misses bath time. We use this timer, which beeps during countdown at 5 and 3 minutes. Finally, when the timer is done, it beeps until my daughter presses the button to make it stop, then she willingly hops out of the bath (though I have extricated her a few times before she got with the program).

The timer is great because there's no room for negotiation. It is inarguable that the timer is over, the child can hear it beeping. It is simply time to get out. Buy it, use it, love it.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:18 AM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

My mother used to just pull the plug out and walk away. Playing in the bath is a lot less fun and a lot more chilly once the water has drained out.
posted by wwax at 8:25 AM on December 14, 2011

For my kid, even now (he's six) it's "ok you can do X (stay in bath, whatever) but then you won't have time for a story and you'll have to go straight to bed."

And instead of fear, you can also use fun. Make it a race. "I bet you can't get out of the tub and into your PJs before this timer goes off! But if you can, you get one extra story. Ready set go!"

My kid really hates the prospect of missing out on stories, so both of these worked. Nowadays, he likes the routine of letting his own water out/getting his PJs on enough that I don't have to boss him as much, except about toothbrushing.
posted by emjaybee at 9:06 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lots of good suggestions above, particularly giving time warnings to help him make the shift. Changing activities is hard for lots of kids at that age.

Another thing I do with my 2-year-old is tell him what's going to happen first, second, third, etc. He does better when he knows the order of activities. It might be "FIRST, we're going to get out of the bath; SECOND, we're going to dry off; THIRD, we're going to get pajamas; and LAST, we will go have dinner with mommy." Or it might be "We're going to take a bath AND THEN it will be time to get out and have dinner." This helps a lot with transitions with my toddler, when he knows what's coming. (Now he tells me how I'm going to unload the car: "FIRST, get the baby. THEN, get me.")

Another strategy that sometimes work is to sympathize while enforcing. The two minutes is up, it's time to get out of the bath, and he starts in with, "I don't want to!" You sympathize, "I wish bathtime wasn't over too! It's so much fun! It makes you sad when bathtime is over. But it's not bathtime any more, it's dinner time." This sounds stupid until you do it and it works; I guess when you're two you have a lot of emotions and not a lot of words for them, and it helps to know your parent is on your side and sympathizes with you. Sometimes this literally cuts a tantrum off as it's beginning and gets my 2-year-old to come cooperate ... I guess he just wants me to understand that he's frustrated. (This strategy is from "Between Parent and Child.")
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:10 AM on December 14, 2011

Can't you just change bath time so you're not rushed to get to dinner?
posted by kinetic at 9:34 AM on December 14, 2011

I wanted to be a nice parent, and get things done by reasoning with my children. The problem is that this approach doesn't always work, because kids have limited capacity for 1) understanding the need to make transitions and 2) actually making the transitions.

Help your child get ready to make the transition by counting or by using the timer. Help your child make the transition by asking, "Do you want me to lift you out? or do you want to get out yourself?" If the answer to the question is "I don't want to come out," just sigh and say, "Well, it's time so here we go!" and lift him out. He'll complain, maybe even thrash about, but you're bigger and stronger and you love him, so you can lift and dry in a loving way.

Be prepared to do this three or four times and pretty soon you'll see him making the choice himself. When he does, lay on the praise for helping you out.
posted by jasper411 at 11:28 AM on December 14, 2011

We have warnings first ("Just a few more minutes and bathtime will be done!"), but when it's time to be done, we say "bye-bye" to the bath, and to the toy ducky, and the boat, and the water, etc. before I lift him out.

This helps with the transition, since he knows that bye-bye means he's going to leave what he's doing, and because waving at the toys is a physical thing he can focus on doing that isn't fighting to stay in the bath. (Caveat: my son is not quite two, so I don't know if this would work with a not-quite three-year-old.)
posted by meggan at 1:11 PM on December 14, 2011

Awesome, great, wonderful responses. Thank you all! No more turning out the lights. I'll try the timer method and the choice method and the sympathy method...I've kinda sorta used all of those at times, but I just need to stick with it.

Ask MeFi: the grandma of the Internet.
posted by zardoz at 2:15 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is sort of silly, but my mother and father used to do something similar to me (not in the bathroom, but if I was at the kitchen table and everyone was going to bed), with the whole turning out the lights bit. Sometimes they did it on purpose to get me to hurry up, sometimes they were distracted and simply forgot I was there. My memory of it now makes me think that having the light go off and come back on made me want to hurry up. I think it even seemed funny sometimes.

I don't love the dark, but I do love my mom and dad, and they weren't bad parents at all. And it's sort of funny to think about right now.
posted by anniecat at 2:42 PM on December 14, 2011

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