What can we learn from The Pied Piper to help reduce power struggles with young kids?

3 November 2013
Comments: 0
3 November 2013, Comments: 0
Do you remember from the tale of The Pied Piper that whenever he would make music, kids would stop what they were doing and then start to follow along? What can we, as often-overwhelmed, multi-tasking, just-wanting-to-do-our-best parents, learn from this?


Have you ever tried to sing instructions to your kid when urging them to get dressed, brush their teeth or to release their pal’s favorite bear while making a playdate get-away? The Pied Piper was onto something! Kids can become more cooperative in the presence of a song.

A clever caregiver can make use of this knowledge while also building kids’ brains (and at the same time preventing those headache-making power struggles).

How does this work?

Is it because when we sing, our tone has changed from authoritarian to entertainer, creating a more willing child (and relaxed adult)?  Is it because music releases feel-good endorphins in both the singer and listener?  Is it because the child becomes distracted (enchanted?) by the music and forgets his own need to struggle for power?  I don’t know.  Maybe all three!  But what I do know is this: music is magic.

When you use music, add gestures or moves, and sing or chant (either in first, second or third languages), you are making a wonderful connection in the brain of a child.  Research tells us that this joyful combination–music, movement, and learning–helps build strong brains.

Think before you act

One explanation is that these tantrums occur when there is a disconnect between the ‘reactive’ brain (reptilian brain – at the top of our necks) and the ‘thinking’ brain (cerebral cortex – behind the forehead – our command center!). We’re all guilty of this at times…(re)acting before putting our brain in gear? This is even more so relevant for kids as they build their young brains.  The more we can help kids disengage from these over-reactions through comforting sensory emotions like singing and tone of voice, the more we can help them in building bridges toward emotional and social intelligence.

Added bonus

And if you add in second language learning (i.e. sing songs in Spanish!), you take monster-making moments and convert them to brain-building opportunities to practice something new.  What a great outcome — bilingual monsters, er…purring kittens!


Try this 3 Step Approach:
  1. Choose a few events during the day that are monster-makers and power struggles.
  2. Find songs that are simple, catchy, employ pleasant repetition, and are specifically about the task at hand.  Think about that Clean Up Song. Or make up your own song to the tune of Frère Jacques — Brush your teeth, brush your teeth…etc.
  3. Before you begin the task, hum or sing the song to your child.  They’ll be curious. Use the song to direct the child, not your grumpy bossy parent voice.
  4. Repeat, be relentless.  Never do this task without a pleasant rendition of that same tune. Kids will join in, use it to stay focused on task, and they won’t have to relearn it every time. It will become part of that activity!


Alert, Alert!   The following is a commercial message about our products…

We learned to do this at home…  and then decided to write songs to follow a child through a typical day.  People have told us they really help.

From waking up, getting dressed, washing up, setting the table, being hungry, playing, moving and snuggling down for the night, our song narrates the event.

You can listen and learn to sing them in English, Spanish or Chinese — do the moves that accompany them, and you might see some remarkable results–well beyond just cooperation. Because my guess is that some of these activities might on occasion, be potential power struggles!


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