15 Silly Tactics Parents Use To Get Kids To Do Totally Normal Things

"My son will only wee in exchange for a marshmallow."

How do you get your children to brush their teeth? If you’re anything like me, the only way is by holding them upside down by the ankles, while they giggle with delight (and you can quickly shove a toothbrush in their mouth).

I’ve also tried setting a stopwatch for two minutes, while barking “change” at them like a drill sergeant to get them to switch positions every 20 seconds.

Then there’s the “teach me how to brush my teeth by showing me how you brush yours” method. One thing I’ve realised since becoming a parent is that if you act like you’re incompetent, kids LOVE it.

They’re evil geniuses, every one of them.

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But it’s not just brushing teeth that can be a battle. Getting dressed, eating breakfast, even leaving the house can feel like WW3.

This Morning presenter Rochelle Humes admits to resorting to superhuman efforts – dressing her husband Marvin up in a Spiderman outfit and telling her daughter: “Spiderman won’t come to visit you if you don’t eat all your dinner.”

Meanwhile, mum Matilda tells me: “I have to pretend I’m going to be really really cross and fed up if my son brushes his teeth, or does a wee, or gets dressed, and then I have to do hands-on-hips full-on mock telling off when he appears fully ready for school and giggling. Never fails, but I have no idea why!”

So many parents resort to completely ridiculous tactics. Because if it works, it works.

Here are 15 more our favourite tried-and-tested techniques:

Eating And Drinking

“I have spent many a year persuading my children that it was illegal for adults to spoon-feed a child over four, and that police called randomly to houses and looked in the windows to make sure people were obeying the law. The beauty of this one is that some times, through conspiratorial whispers, we break the law and, hey presto, the broccoli gets eaten too.” - Robert

“We had to use reverse psychology with our daughter: “I don’t believe you can eat that and finish! There’s just no way!” When she was smaller, she wouldn’t let me feed her unless she was distracted by a ‘fascinating object.’ There were five of these in rotation in one hand, while trying to wean in the other. These ‘fascinating objects’ were anything I could find: a bunch of keys, pompom, coins...” - Lucy

“To keep my daughter eating, we have to sing The Grand Old Duke of York over and over and over, for maybe half an hour. We’ve had to jazz it up, too – so now the Duke has taken approximately 10,000 raisins, grapes, gorillas, frogs, toads up the hill!” - Alli

“I have to pretend that my daughter and I are monkeys to get her to eat a banana (the only whole fruit she will eat in the first place).” - Hannah

“To get our son to drink water when he was tiny, we had to do ‘cheers’! Every time.” - Claire

Going To The Loo

“My best advice was from a friend who told me to tell the children that they had ‘magic belly buttons’ that mummies used to see if they needed the loo. It’s only just stopped working – and my daughter is now 9!” - Sarah

“My son will only wee in exchange for a marshmallow.” - Clare

Bathing And Brushing

“I was a single dad for about a decade so was always up to something. I used to get the kids to race to see how quickly they could get upstairs get in the bath, wash thoroughly - including hair - get out, get dried, get PJs on and back downstairs, ready for a pre-bed treat. That went on for months – even years!” - John

“My kids want to be carried upstairs for their bath upside down, hanging over a shoulder. Both of them by the same person. My husband does this and I cannot. So when he’s in London three nights a week, there is much fury!” - Laura

“I spend most of my time telling my son his teeth will fall out in the night if he doesn’t brush them. It works!” - Amrit

“Singing the Hey Duggee toothbrush song is key. It has been my ear-worm for two weeks of holiday.” - Laura


“As a baby, the only way we could get our daughter to sleep was walking up and down the stairs, every two hours through the night. With undiagnosed allergies she was an awful sleeper so we did this for hours.” - Samantha

“We used to have to lie down next to our daughter’s bed and let her fiddle with our mouth and lips for 45 minutes until she fell asleep!” - Gemma

“A classic has to be keeping the kids awake on a long journey home so they’re not awake until midnight, driving you crazy and getting over-tired. We used to have a game where one of the kids would have one side of the car, and the other the other side, and they would have a competition to see how many animals they could see out of their respective windows. That lasted all the way home. They would fight to sit on certain sides as you saw more animals out of the window. It was good fun!” - John

And Finally...

“We have to microwave our daughter’s teddy bears – she doesn’t like cold bears.” - Dayna