Get your child to do what you want!

If getting dressed, bedtime and mealtimes are a bit of a battle, try these ingenious solutions!


Sometimes it can feel like your tot spends all their time deliberately going out of their way to do the opposite of what you want, but try out some of these ingenious tricks from mums and you’ll soon find out you’re back in control…


Clothes showdown

We’re all familiar with this scenario: you’re going out somewhere nice and are hoping you can persuade your child to wear something other than a pink sparkly ballerina skirt or Spiderman outfit. This trick is intended to help avoid an issue over clothes, while allowing you to get your own way.

Simply remove all the unsuitable articles from the wardrobe, leaving only a selection of what’s suitable – and your child can choose from that. The rest of the clothes are ‘in the wash’.

Real mum’s verdict

“We were going out for Sunday lunch and I wanted Emma to wear something pretty. I removed everything that I considered unsuitable and went downstairs, leaving her to choose. However, this seriously backfired because when she couldn’t find what she wanted, she went to the dirty washing basket, found her mucky clothes from the day before and wore those.”

Nikki, 27, mum to Emma, 5

Tidying up

The aim of this trick is to get your children to tidy up without continual nagging. You tell them that any toys left lying around at bedtime will be chucked in the wheelie bin, never to be seen again! In theory, this should spur them on to tidying up to avoid losing their possessions.

Real mum’s verdict

“The kids just tidied away their favourite toys, which only made up around half the mess, and ran upstairs leaving the rest behind. There was no way I was going to throw away that many toys, so I simply put them in a box and stored them in the attic for a rainy day. Although this con didn’t achieve what it was supposed to, it sort of worked in another way and certainly de-cluttered the toy box and made tidying up easier.”

Lorraine, 32, mum to Lydia, 4, and Harry, 5

Taking medicine

If you need to give your child a tablet and you know she’ll refuse it, avoid the struggle by cutting the tablet in half and pushing it into a chunk of a chocolate bar or similar treat. The most important thing is to catch her unawares – if she knows what you’re up to, you’ll have no chance!

Real mum’s verdict

“I was really surprised, but this method worked for me on a couple of occasions. Isobel couldn’t understand why she was suddenly getting so many treats! But then she caught
me “doctoring” her snack and refused point blank to touch it. I think if I’d been more careful, she’d never have noticed!”

Louise, 32, mum to Isobel, 5

Early to bed

If your children are overtired or you need a little extra time to do something, aim to trick your children into going to bed earlier. At some point during the afternoon you simply move all the clocks in the house forward by an hour.

Real mum’s verdict

“This con worked like a dream. I told my two boys they could stay up 15 minutes
late if they were good which, of course, was actually 45 minutes earlier. We had supper an hour before usual, then did the usual bath, book and bed routine. Not only did I get an extra 45 minutes peace and quiet, but they were on their best behaviour all evening
so they would be allowed to stay up ‘late’.”

Karen, 40, mum to Cameron, 5, and Angus, 3

Eat up your fish

This trick involves just a tiny white lie, but it’s for a good cause. If your child refuses to eat fish, con her by making home-made ‘chicken nuggets’. They’re really easy to make using chunks of white fish fillet, dipped in egg, coated in breadcrumbs and fried or baked in the oven.

Real mum’s verdict

“Amy, my eldest, was a bit more savvy than the others and wasn’t convinced by the texture. That said, she did eat them without too much fuss. The younger two ate their ‘chicken nuggets’ without any comment. A definite success!”

Phillis, 30, mum to Amy, 7, Charlie, 5, and Leo, 3

Speed them up

This is ideal for when your children are dawdling downstairs and you want them upstairs fast. It’s the easiest game in the world: you simply shout, ‘Last one upstairs is a hairy hippo,’ and start running (slowly). The only downside is that you spend the next 20 minutes being called a hairy hippo!

Real mum’s verdict

“This usually works with my three, although on one occasion when daddy was putting them to bed, I came home to find my youngest in tears because she was being called a hairy hippo. Daddy hadn’t quite worked out the point of the game and was first upstairs!”

Jess, 40, mum to Maddie, 6, Daniel, 4, and Isobel, 3

Bathtime Blues

Struggling to get your toddler into the bath? The key is not to even mention bathtime, but simply ask if she wants to help mummy clean – and when lots of soapy water
and a sponge are involved, very few toddlers can resist. You can whip off her clothes as they get wet – odds are she’ll need washing anyway.

Real mum’s verdict

‘I was quite surprised, but this actually worked. It took a lot longer than usual, but both the bath and Imogen got cleaned! I do think the novelty would probably wear off if you tried it too often, but it’s certainly a good standby.’

Suni, 32, mum to Imogen, 2

Eat their veg

If your youngsters aren’t keen on greens, a great way to up their vegetable intake is to give them  carrot cake or courgette muffins. Why fight over vegetables, when you can let them eat cake?

Real mum’s verdict

“I tried both courgette muffins and carrot cake with my kids and they ate them happily enough, but they definitely preferred the carrot cake. I think they were a bit unsure about the muffins, which had tiny specks of green in them. The next time I made them,
I put green icing on top and called them Monster Muffins – and they were a huge success! “

Arabella, 30, mum to Harry, 5, Brendan 4, and Anna, 2

Get dressed

This idea is featured in Tidy Your Room by Jane Bidder. The book has loads of tips and ideas to encourage your children to do the things they hate, whether it’s getting dressed in the morning, tidying away their toys or simply helping you with chores. The aim of this trick is to encourage your child to get dressed by himself. You sing out the name of a garment as he puts it on: ‘pants, pants, pants, pants,’ ‘socks, socks, socks, socks,’ trousers, trousers, trousers,’ and so on.

Real mum’s verdict

‘I felt extremely silly doing this but Grace was definitely entertained and did dress herself, in a way. Although it was good practice for her, I don’t think I fancy that performance every morning, because it was too time-consuming.’

Chloe, 47, mum to Grace, 2

Washing hair

This gem is the inspiration of David Borgenicht and James Grace, from their book, How to Con your Kid. If hair washing is a big issue, they suggest organising a competition, as it blinds kids to the con and, before you know it, their hair is clean. Basically, you see how fast you can wash their hair and write down how long it takes so you can try to beat the clock next time.

Real mum’s verdict

‘I liked this idea because hair washing is always such a performance in our house. Unfortunately, things went pear-shaped. Maybe I’m just cack-handed, but I was doing it so quickly I ended up rubbing shampoo into Abby’s eyes. She made such a fuss
that Theo wouldn’t even get into the bath. This is definitely one for gentler mums to try!’

Sandra, 36, mum to Lucy, 4, and Theo, 3 

Mellow mealtimes

If you’re struggling to get your little ones to eat their five-a-day, take a look at The Art of Hiding Vegetables by Karen Bali and Sally Child. 

It has plenty of easy and clever ways to boost your child’s intake of healthy foods. Tips include adding cauliflower to mashed potato or prunes to chocolate cake, as well as simple, tasty recipes to try.

Expert ideas

Dr Craig Blackwell, family GP

‘I hate to admit it, but good, old-fashioned bribery can often work a treat if children are reluctant to let me examine them or are nervous about having an injection. I have a box of sweets on my desk and while they’re absorbed in choosing a sweet, I can usually get the job done.’

Dr Rana Conway, child nutrition specialist

‘My eldest isn’t keen on certain vegetables, so I make pasta sauce with loads of veg, then I blend it all together in a processor so it’s  unrecognisable! He’ll happily eat it.’

Gail Fogarty, nursery teacher

‘If children are about to start squabbling, I raise my voice slightly and say something like, “Look at that lorry or jigsaw,” or whatever, and go towards it. The kids usually follow me and the argument is avoided.’

Mums’ stories:

“I give my children ‘milkshake’.”

“If my kids won’t eat their supper, I tell them they can have a milkshake instead. I make it with natural yogurt not ice cream and tinned fruit, so they still have a nutritious snack.”

Philippa Forester, TV and radio presenter

“I let my boys ‘stay up late’.”

I told my two boys they could stay up 15 minutes late if they were good which, of course, was actually 45 minutes earlier. We had supper an hour before usual, then did the usual bath, book and bed routine. Not only did I get an extra 45 minutes peace and quiet, but they were on their best behaviour all evening so they would be allowed to stay up ‘late’.”


Karen, 40, mum to Cameron, 5, and Angus, 3

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