A Spoonful of Sugar Makes me a Better Parent


Sometimes children do the strangest things. Sometimes you have no idea why they do what they do. Their brains just work differently than an adults. I can handle that.

But somedays nothing I do or say seems to make the day run smoother. They yell, fight, cry, scream, and that’s just the beginning!

When our days get like that I think of Mr. Banks. I think of how upset he was with the children. I think of how he didn’t listen. I think of how he didn’t connect. I think of how sad the children were and how angry he was.

Of course, who can think of Mr. Banks without thinking of Mary Poppins?


Her magic was mesmerizing and worked miracles instantaneously. But before we get to her magic, let’s talk a little more about her.

In the song, “The Perfect Nanny”,  Jane and Micheal sing about the perfect nanny. And, as we can see by the end of the movie, if parents embody these traits, they’ll achieve the same level of love and respect from their children as Mary Poppins did.

What do children want in parents? A cheery disposition, rosy cheeks (no warts), playing games (all sorts), take them on outings, give them treats, sing songs, bring sweets. Never be cross or cruel, never give them cod liver oil (or gruel), never smell of barley water. Do not scold or dominate them and they’ll never give you cause to hate them.

Seems pretty straight forward. I don’t smell of barley water, don’t give cod liver oil. I’m on a roll!

Some of these things children don’t need daily (like outings, sweets, and treats), others are more important. Have a cheery disposition, do not be cross or cruel, do not scold or dominate. That’s a very basic list, but sometimes it’s harder than one might think to guide children to making good choices without dominating them and forcing them to do what you want. Sometimes it means stepping back and allowing your children to do the opposite of what you’d like them to do. Sometimes it means letting them be in charge.

There are moments when you need something to happen, but children don’t see the same need as the parent does. What else can a parent do besides threaten them, put them in time out, or just force them?

“In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and…. snap!
The job’s a game
And every task you undertake
Becomes a piece of cake
A lark! A spree!
It’s very clear to see
That… a…
Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go do–own
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way”

If you turn your request into a game, things become so much easier! Children are excited to join in with you when you make it fun. It doesn’t matter whether it’s eating certain foods, cleaning up the table, or helping their baby brother with something. If you liven up the activity, it makes all the difference.

Cordelia doesn’t like to eat food. Oh sure, bread, treats, sugary foods are all fine, but not supper. So we often play a game. Not as bribery, but just to have fun. Ryan and I are the feeling stations and race marshals, the kiddos are all cars. They run around the kitchen, but every few laps they have to stop and refuel (eat a bite of food). It’s great because they eat well, they expend energy, and they laugh so hard while playing. But most importantly, it heightens our bond to each other, avoids conflict, and improves the relationships the children have with each other. It’s a win-win situation.

I know some might think children need to learn to sit still while eating, to remain at the table,and I get that! But the two are not mutually exclusive. Meeting the needs of your children allows them to grow into their maturity gracefully. When Ella was young she never sat still. Often she played under the table while we ate. Sometimes she ran around. Now she sits and chats with us. Agatha usually sits with us, but sometimes she just needs to join in the game and fill her love cup while doing so.

Brom is attached to his clothes. It’s all we can do to get him to change right now, and even harder to get him to wash. Tonight he needed to both wash and change before he was going anywhere near my bed! His legs were black from the thighs down to the tips of his wiggly little toes. His face was multicoloured, and his hands were slimy with dirt, water, and whatever he found in the front yard.

I let him know I’d like him to wash before bed. HE crossed his arms, pursed his lips, and gave me the best angry face ever! “NO!”

Instead of arguing I grabbed a scrap of fabric from the floor and ran tot he bathroom with it, shouting, “Oh no! The deflector shields are down, we have to fix them quick or the storm troopers might get us! Come quick!” He came chasing after me, to the bathroom.
I said, “The only way to fix it is to use this cloth to wipe all the stardust off our ship! Quick help me get the cloth full of bubbles!” He climbed up to the sink, got his hands and arms right in there, getting the fabric all ready. Then I said, “We won’t be able to fix the ship less we wipe all the stardust off ourselves too. Quick, help me climb into the sink to wash!” He giggled, told me I don’t fit, and assured me he could fix he ship on his own. In seconds he was sparkly clean again.

These are just two ways Mary Poppins helps me be a better parent. I’d love to hear how Mary Poppins inspired you in your relationship!



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