Home » Blogs » Bonding Time » The Parenting Trick That Saves My Sanity

The Parenting Trick That Saves My Sanity

shutterstock_120028159This one is for all the parents of toddlers out there.  I started doing it three weeks ago and since then, no tantrums (from her, or from me!).  So I thought it was my civic duty to pass it on.

My daughter is two and a half and she can be pretty oppositional at times, particularly when I want her to make a transition and she’s not ready.  And man, there are a lot of transitions–something you notice when your kid fights you on most of them.

I was doing the counting thing, as in, “I’m going to count and when I get to ten, you have to get out of the bathtub.”

That was not going well, as it reminded her that she had to give up something she wanted for something that she didn’t want.  But I’ve discovered that positive counting works wonders.

What that means is, I tell her she can do something a certain number of times and then we say, “All done!” and move on to the next thing (i.e. the thing I want her to do.)  She really likes holding up the number of fingers, might actually count along out loud, and then she gets to announce loudly, “All done!”  I’m amazed how much she buys into the system, but it seems to work with the essential toddlers obsession with fairness and control.  She’s brokered the deal, and she’ll follow through on it.

So an example is that I want her to brush her teeth.  She’s on the trampoline.  I say in an excited voice, “We’re going to do ten more jumps!”, and get her verbal agreement (which is, again, surprisingly easy to do.)  Then I count off, sometimes she counts off, and most important, then she gets off the trampoline and follows me downstairs.  Sometimes I have to prompt her, “Remember, you did your ten jumps, now tooth brushing!” but often I don’t.

Sometimes if she’s in the bath, I make a suggestion of something she can do ten more times (like pour water from one object into another).  She pretty much always agrees, and then it’s a repeat of the paragraph above.

My theory is that what’s working is that she has a sense she’s getting to do MORE of something, before she has to do something else.  As in, she thinks she’s struck a good bargain.  And maybe she has.  It’s a win-win.  Love when that happens.


Little girl image available from Shutterstock.

The Parenting Trick That Saves My Sanity

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

3 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Brown, H. (2014). The Parenting Trick That Saves My Sanity. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 19, 2019, from


Last updated: 30 Jul 2014
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.