How to Have Happy & Cooperative Toddlers during a Diaper Change

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Always ask permission as a sign of respect and consideration for the child’s experience and perspective.

Approach with a gentle stride and a calm demeanor. Place your hand on their back and sweetly ask, “May I check your diaper? Then wait for 7-to-10 seconds, giving them time to respond.

When a child says “no” and it is necessary to change it, honor the “no” by responding, “I hear you, you aren’t ready, I can come back in a few minutes and ask again.” When you return, the intent and verbiage should be different. “I am back. It is time to change your diaper now. Are you ready?”

If a child says no again: “You still aren’t ready, I understand, hmmm, I am worried if the pee or poop sit in your diaper, it may give you a rash, and I want to keep your skin and body safe, it is time now.” Then acknowledge the disruption by explaining how you will support them. “I see you are busy playing, so I will do it quickly so you can come right back to play.” More respect and acknowledgment of them and their perspective. You are building partnership and modeling respectful behavior in relationships.

Stick with respect and offer choices, so they feel like they are in control. “Would you like to walk to the diaper table, or would you like me to carry you?” This is a crucial moment for the child, you, your relationship, and future diaper changes because you are honoring the child’s experience and this detail is not going to be lost on them. In fact, they are taking it all in, making notes on what respect feels like. You are planting some serious and powerful seeds in these moments.

If they resist moving and plant their feet or throw their body down, say (and this is a gem that you will use often) “Ah, I heard you say you wanted to walk, but now you are choosing to stay still, you are telling me you want me to carry you, I would be happy to help.” Then bend down, still with love and kindness, pick up their body and carry them to the changing table.

The key in these moments is to avoid engaging in this resistant behavior. Your only job is to steady the course, no matter what attempt at distraction your little throws your way. This is a stellar opportunity to practice acceptance of all choices. Whatever the child does, accept it, take it in, and adapt but steady the course. This diaper change Is happening, buddy.

Children want us to be leaders because it permits them to be leaders in their own lives. Even though they are making it hard for you, they are testing your relationship.

When you steady the course and don’t let them pull you into their distraction, they feel loved by you. When you let them distract you or wear you down and/or abandon your mission, they question your commitment to them, and you become untrustworthy.

Here is another opportunity to model respect and ask, “May I pick you up?”

Typically, they will raise their little hands to say yes. Asking if you can pick allows them to prepare their body to be picked up. As soon as you ask the question, their brains communicate to their bodies to flex the necessary muscles to prepare to be picked up. This enables your child to feel strong and participate when you pick them up. Grabbing a child to pick them up without warning is shocking and scary. Asking and waiting until you have their attention and permission will support them physically, mentally, and will build more trust between you both.

Now that the child is in your arms, gently and lovingly lay them down, supporting their head and entire body until they are lying comfortably.

Once the child is lying comfortably, take a breath, lay your hand gently on their belly and look into their eyes. Smile sweetly and ask, “Are you ready?” Wait for them to respond and then begin the diaper change.

First: Ask them to help while you remove their bottoms. “Will you please lift your legs in the air so I can remove your bottoms?” then watch as they gleefully shoot their legs in the air.

Second: Tell them what you are doing next. “I am going to use this wipe to clean your body. It may be a little cold.” Then gently wipe them and, if necessary, hold their legs up with a gentle, respectful grip.

Third: Hold the new diaper and show it to them. “I am going to put this fresh diaper on you now. Will you please lift your legs again?” They are usually thrilled to assist you in this way, and their legs go flying in the air. “Thank you! That is so helpful.” Then slide the diaper under their bottom and ask them to please lower their legs back down.

This level of commitment to respectful interaction around diaper changes will create a beautiful relationship between you and the children you care for. They will rarely resist having a diaper change because the experience will be rich in connection, and connection leads to cooperation.

Avoid giving children electronics to distract them during a diaper change. You will be teaching them to check out when someone is touching them.

Avoid negative responses to how their poop smells or how much they pooped. It is embarrassing and disrespectful to make fun of how a child’s body creates smelly or gross things. They will interpret it to mean they are gross or smelly. Stay neutral, matter of fact, no big deal, all in a day’s work.

Stay present with your little one when changing a diaper. Stay off the phone and avoid interruption until the diaper change is complete. Make eye contact as much as possible and talk with them about the details. They love you. They trust you. This is a beautiful time to honor them, teach them, and model kindness.

Sarah is a child behavior & respectful child care expert. She has been coaching parents in effective respectful care strategy for over 10 years. She makes complex parenting issues simple to navigate and her methods are clear, effective and provide immediate relief for both parent and child.ehavior specialist and

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