My Daughter and the Underwear Reframe

My daughter Elizabeth just turned four a couple of days ago. She is very proud of being a “big girl”. We had a blast celebrating her birthday.

Yesterday morning she sauntered into our bedroom as usual around 6:45 a.m. I woke up, gave her a hug and took her into her bedroom since my wife was enjoying her last few minutes of sleep.

We picked out her clothes for preschool. I grabbed her a pair of underwear and said, “Here put these on”. Her reaction was quite possibly the funniest thing I’ve ever witnessed with my kids.

She looked at the underwear and then noticed the tag. She looked at the tag. Then she looks right at me in the most serious and UPSET tone and says, “Daddy this says three. I’m NOT THREE, I’m four years old!”

The horror! The shock! Liz was offended that I’d ask her to put underwear on that were for three year olds. I chuckled a bit but I had to stop quickly. She’d get upset if she thought I was laughing at her. But seriously, I’m laughing out loud right now while typing this. It was so funny that she made the association to the size tag, thinking she was simply too old to wear those baby undies :)

Anyway, I knew she didn’t want to wear them because of the way she was framing them in her mind. So I quickly reframed the meaning of the 3. I said to her, “Elizabeth – that’s right. That tag says three. That means you have to be AT LEAST three years old to wear those underwear. Because you are four that means you are big enough to wear them”.

The reaction was instant. Her frown turned into a smile and she put them on.

The key to doing this right was:

  • I was quick on my feet thinking of a way to reframe her way of looking at the whole underwear problem;
  • I was congruent about my delivery. Congruence is the most important skill to learn. Look and sound like you mean it!

I hope you got a smile, a laugh, and some learning from this little story.

Remember that you can learn my language tools for parenting toddlers in my course, “Talking to Toddlers” which is available here, on this website.

Enjoy your children,
Chris Thompson

SEE ALSO: This audio lesson will forever change the way you interact with your kids

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4 Responses to My Daughter and the Underwear Reframe

  1. Dona April 30, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    My 2.5 year old daughter is terrified of the hair dryer. Any ideas on how to reframe this? I need to take her for a hair cut…but I’m afraid she will head for the door as soon as she sees or hears a hair dryer.

    • Chris Thompson May 17, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

      It’s usually the noise. My two girls used to FREAK OUT in a public bathroom when those high-power hand dryers would kick in when you wave your hands under them. My youngest also used to freak out when a public bathroom toilet would flush, under high pressure (the automatic ones with light sensors).

      For the hair dryer at home, one thing that often works is to have your child dry YOUR hair. This puts the control in their hands, and they have fun blow drying your hair. They forget about the bothersome noise.

  2. Tzippi May 7, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    My son is going to be two in a month. My husband and I are trying to get him to brush his teeth without making him cry. Every night we all go into the bathroom before his bedtime to brush our teeth. My husband does a good job of trying to make it fun for him with counting his teeth and playing a hide and seek kind of game with the shower, but he still won’t brush his teeth. His teeth are getting yellow so we need to do it, but we don’t want to force him to the point of him having a very negative attitude toward brushing his teach. Any ideas on how to reframe this situation?

    • Chris Thompson May 17, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

      I think you need to figure out what is bothering him about brushing. His verbal skills probably aren’t good enough yet at the age of 2, but you can try asking good questions. Try to anticipate what exactly he doesn’t like about brushing. The taste? Does it hurt his mouth? Is he afraid of the “shaking” in his mouth? Does he not like the foaming up of the toothpaste? If you understand the real issue then you can address it. It might be something super simple that you haven’t thought of yet. I always encourage parents to dig a bit deeper. The problem isn’t that he doesn’t want to brush. It’s something simpler. Something ABOUT the brushing. Find out what it is and then you’ll think of a natural solution.

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