Fold your hands

Source: Susan Johnson via Flickr

In the past, I’ve talked about how having a child ask for permission can prevent behavior problems before they happen. Another tool in our prevention toolbox is to have our children fold their hands. Have this technique in the back of your mind when you are headed to an important dinner or any other place where you need to quiet the wiggles.

“When you begin to see those early signs that your kids are going to lose it physically or verbally, instruct them to fold their hands and work on getting some self-control,” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 174).

The authors provide a scenario in which this technique was used very effectively:

“Louise began the training immediately. She and her family [met] the Ezzos that Saturday for breakfast. Toward the end of the meal, a little wandering leg propped itself up on sister’s chair. That would normally be enough of a catalyst to energize the two-and-a-half-year-old and four-year-old into all-out playtime right there in the restaurant–but Mom had another plan. Instead of the classic begs, bribes, and threats, she simply said, ‘Girls, we’re not quite ready to go yet. I want you to fold your hands and get some self-control.’

“Would you believe that in less than a minute those two little girls sat still, with their hands folded in their laps, subduing their impulsive behavior?” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 174).

I’ve seen this play out with my kids. Just a few minutes with their hands folded (in the car, in a restaurant, etc.) is enough to get them to gain self-control. Without it, they snowball into playtime and I am left feeling powerless. If we’re in a place where this technique is useful it also means that my typical discipline measures (timeouts and logical consequences) aren’t appropriate or even feasible (like in the car). And since I have trained them to obey my word, they will fold their hands when I say so.

The reason folding hands works so well is that it channels the child’s energy somewhere. Simply telling a child to be quiet or to settle down doesn’t give them any way to channel their energy.

“When a young child folds his hands to get self-control, it handles all the excessive body energy that makes self-control so difficult. After all, if you want your child to settle down, his energy has to go somewhere. Now, instead of it going into squabbling, cartwheeling, or whispering, it can go into the hands,” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 175).

One more trick to using this technique is to train your children before you actually need to use it.

“It is important to teach this technique to your child when things are calm. If you’re already in the conflict, your children are not going to be especially attentive pupils. You may have your child practice this at the table while you finish up last-minute mealtime preparations. Make it a fun game in the beginning. Demonstrate how to achieve self-control during a peaceful time so that when things begin to get out-of-hand, you’ve got the cure in place,” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 175).

Have you ever had success with this technique? Try it out and let me know how it works for you!