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“Front-loading” is a trick I teach mothers and fathers in my therapy and coaching practice.  It’s a positive and effective way to help children avoid temptation of almost any kind. Basically, to front-load is to give your child the information, expectations, and limits about something that is going to happen before they actually have to deal with it.  The reason this works is that most of us handle things better when we have a little lead time to think through and prepare.  When our brains are running on impulses, we don’t have access to our highest and best brain functions, including the ability to control those impulses!

Here’s an example.  Imagine the public library where you take your 3 year old for storytime has a set of stairs right next to the check out desk.  But, the stairs have a sign on them saying “Keep off,” and the librarians get grouchy if your preschooler even sits on the first step.  The situation is complicated by two more details: (1) your preschooler loves stairs, and (2) your hands and focus are otherwise engaged when you are at the checkout desk.

The last few times you went to the library your child couldn’t help himself and walked up a stair while you were talking to the checkout clerk.  So this time, before you even go in to the library, you pause and quietly talk with your child.

No parenting trick works the first time and every time, but this one, when repeated, is great for helping children learn, remember, and follow expectations—because you are engaging the very best part of their brain.  Give it a try!