IMAGE Screengrab from Real Simple; @kristenanniebell/Instagram
Just a few days ago, actress Kristen Bell shared a brilliant parenting hack that you’ll catch us doing from now on. The Frozen mom (she voiced Princess Anna of Arendelle) calls it the “hands on the circle” hack, and it keeps her kids safe when around fast cars on the street. So how does it work?
The “circle” Kristen mentions is your car’s gas cap. (In the Philippines, of course, our gas cap's shape is square so you can , er, tweak your script. As soon as the kids get out of the vehicle, you say “hands on the circle!” All the little ones then have to touch the gas cap and can only let go when you say so. This way, you know they won’t be running off while you unfold the stroller or unload the grocery that you have in the trunk.
“[It] was invented by my brilliant sister-in-law, and has thus far kept all kiddos safe from any oncoming traffic,” said Kristen in the caption on Instagram. Amazing, right?
This isn’t the first time the mom-of-two has shared useful parenting tricks. Aside from fixing a broken pull-up diaper with a hair tie or naturally dying sandwiches with rainbow colors to entice the kids, she’s also shared practical discipline and relationship tips. Here are a few:
1. Can’t get the kids to do as you say? Give them choices. Kristen knows how to deal with defiance and stubbornness in tots. Having two daughters both in toddler years -- Lincoln, 3, and Delta, 2 -- she’s found a trick that works whenever the kids don’t want to do as she says. “If you say to a 2-year-old, ‘Let me change your diaper,’ they say, ‘No.’ So we say, ‘How many minutes until I can change your diaper,’” she told Real Simple.
Letting your child decide using strategically phrased questions is a parenting tactic experts have been recommending. And it works for all sorts of situations as well, not just for time-constrained ones. If your child is refusing to get dressed, for example, hold up outfit options. Ask him if he wants to wear a blue shirt or a red shirt.
“If they don’t or can’t pick between the two, don’t offer a third,” says Erin Leyba, a therapist focusing on families and children. Choose from one of the choices yourself. When your child complains, tell him that not choosing means you have to pick for him. The ability to choose goes away, says parenting speaker and author Sharon Silver.
2. Turn trash into boredom busters! Toys are expensive, and kids get bored a lot. One of Kristen’s most helpful hint for parents, she said, is to use trash to your advantage. “We save our toilet paper rolls and use them for crafts. When I get a birthday present, I'll save the ribbons from the package and let them use that for crafts,” she said.
If you need inspiration for this tip, we’ve featured a few moms who DIY toys for their kids. Mom Margaret Wuthrich-Sarmenta, for example, is amazing at turning toilet rolls and cardboard into activities and games for her son Lucas. “He’s learned to appreciate even the simple things and the projects have nurtured his imagination,” said Margaret.
Check out the “cup game” where she taped disposable cups into a big piece of cardboard, and Lucas tries to get a ball into them from a distance. Lucas has even found ways to play with them all on his own too!
3. Split chores 50/50 with your partner. Parenting book Brain Rules for Baby suggests splitting the workload 50/50 with your partner so it can lead to a better, safer marriage. Kristen shared that sticking by this rule has really worked for her and her partner, actor Dax Shepard. “We really took that to heart. He changed 50 percent of the diapers. He gave 50 percent of the baths.”
4. Don’t let your child’s tantrum get to you. Kristen explained to Babble that she doesn't let tantrums ruin the day, and here's why. “She’s going to act the way a child acts,” says Bell, “and I’m not going to let that reflect on me or bring me down. That shouldn’t make me feel ashamed or embarrassed in any way. Only you can make you feel a certain way.”
“Young kids -- namely those between the ages of 1 and 4 -- haven't developed good coping skills yet. They tend just to lose it instead,” Ray Levy, a clinical psychologist and author of Try and Make Me! Simple Strategies That Turn Off the Tantrums and Create Cooperation, told Parents. That’s just the way they are and losing your cool won’t better the situation. (Read here for calm down phrases).