Expert Parenting Advice
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The story of Stinky Bear

Why understanding and accepting your child's world can be rewarding and make it easier to get them to cooperate.

One of my favorite things about my 4-year-old daughter is watching her relationship with her stuffed toys.

She has this intense friendship with one of her stuffed bears, Stinky Bear.

Stinky Bear is a very old panda teddy that she's had for most of her life.

She can play with him for hours, bouncing around on his back, talking to him about her day, or just throwing him in the air.

We call him Stinky Bear because he is in such a bad condition. His eyes are scratched. His fur is patchy. He's one wash away from falling apart.

We've tried buying her new teddy bears to replace him, but no other teddy can take his place in her heart.

Last week she told me that she has two wishes that she is going to make when she sees a shooting star. "I am going to wish to be Elsa (from Frozen), and I am going to wish that Stinky Bear turns into a real panda."

She even uses Stinky Bear as a weapon. The other day, my daughter and my son were arguing.

Suddenly, she picked up Stinky Bear, and in a high voice (Stinky Bear's voice) she said, "You are poopoo!" to her brother.

Then she looked at Stinky Bear, and told him, her voice strict, "Stinky Bear, that's a bad word. You are naughty."

She smiled, impressed with the loophole that she had discovered.

It is so interesting to spend time in your child's world, because they see the world so differently. And the great thing is, the more time you spend in their world, the better your relationship with them will be.

For example, because I know and accept my daughter's love for her teddy, I can join her when she plays with her bear. I can be part of the circle when we dance around, my daughter and I both holding Stinky's paws. I can help my daughter search for bamboo for Stinky when we go for a hike (because he's a panda, and "pandas only eat bamboo"). I can ask Stinky to help me find my daughter when she is hiding underneath the covers, trying to stifle her laughter.

When I spoke to Jenny Michaelson, a parenting coach from California, she explained that this ability to join your child's world, to accept that the way they see the world is important to them, is critical if you want to get them to cooperate.

And the more you do it, the more connected you become to your child, and the easier it becomes to get them to cooperate.

In my interview with Jenny, she explains how you can connect with your child to make it easier for them to transition between what they are doing, and what you want them to do.

Since talking to Jenny, I've been using this strategy a lot, and it really works.