How to get your kids to behave in 4 easy steps

Disclaimer: I have no idea how to get kids to behave in general. I have two littles of my own, and it’s anyone’s guess.

BUT – I do have a fair bit of experience dealing with other peoples’ kids at photoshoots. And I’d say my success rate so far is 100%.

So, how do you get your kids to behave beautifully like alllll the other kids you see on my website?

  1. You don’t

The truth is, no kids behave perfectly for 90 minutes. I do not expect your kids to do that. Mine certainly don’t. In fact, if I get a toddler who *does* behave for 90 minutes I am much more likely to faint in shock.

The bottom line is: if you are stressed, the kids will be stressed. The more you ask them to smile, and look at the camera, and behave…the less they will do any of those things. I’m teaching you to suck eggs here – you’re a parent, right? You’ve no doubt noticed the tendency of small humans to be persistently contrary. But for some reason, even though we know it won’t do any good, we still try to control them in situations like this.

I can only speak for myself, but most of the time I do that with no real hope that it will actually persuade my kids to behave, but rather to demonstrate to the other parents within earshot that I’m a Good Parent.

Well, my friends, please *breathe*. This is a judgement-free zone. I already know you’re a Good Parent because you’re taking the time to create these amazing memories with these little people you love so much. If they crack it because they don’t want to say cheese to a stranger’s camera, I guarantee I will not be gossiping about you to my mothers’ group. Not least because, if I did, I suspect they would promptly stop sharing all their genuinely juicy Bad Parenting tales over coffees every Thursday.

So please, please don’t stress about it. It is *not* a problem if they get cranky, if they need a break, if they want a snack, or if they need a moment to regroup. They are just being kids. And that’s 100% fine with me.

2. Play

The most important thing is that you play. I talk a lot about playing with your kids at sessions, and I’ve written a whole separate blog about the best games to play, but it really is the simplest way to approach your session. Don’t ask your kids to smile; you need to *make* them smile.

If they love singing, then I want to hear you belting out ‘Old McDonald’ at the top of your lungs. Fart jokes are totally acceptable at family shoots. And no, you are not too cool to pretend to be a monkey on demand. Tickle them, throw them in the air, and turn them upside down. Give them your full attention, and they will love every second.

3. Be quick!

The other secret at my sessions is that I work fast.

Your session is over an hour long and my shutter will snap up to 10 frames per second. The secret to all those happy kids is that I capture them in short bursts. I do not shoot continuously for your whole session. If I did, my camera and I would probably both expire from exhaustion.

Games may only last a minute or two before we move onto the next thing. That is more than enough to capture a whole series of gorgeous images for your gallery. So don’t linger over games they’re getting bored of, just move on!

If your kids do lose interest or get upset, give them space.

Distract them with a new task.

Make it tactile to ground them. Ask them to sniff a flower, bury their feet in the sand, or count some shells. Cuddle them tight; take them for a walk.

Break the pattern, let them regroup, and start again when they’re ready.

You might find that after 45 minutes or so I tell you we have enough for your gallery. This isn’t me trying to sneak off early, I promise! (If you’ve had a shoot with me before, you’ll know I’m more likely to declare your session is over and then shoot another 100 frames en route to the car – sneaking off early isn’t something you do when you have The Best Job In The World!).

But if your kids really are getting tired and a bit over it, then I’ll always give you the option to wrap it up earlier -especially with a late summer shoot.

The other – bigger – reason I do this is that I often find it takes the pressure off parents. You relax into the session and let your kids run a little wilder, knowing that we have enough in the bank already. And there is very little I love more than a wildling!

And finally – the most important thing of all...

4. Take the path of least resistance

Look, I try to keep kids dry until I have what I need from your session. I really do. But if you have water babies and you’ve chosen a shoot at the beach, it is pointless trying to keep them out of the water. You’ll never manage it. And anyway, this is where you’re going to see their personalities shine!

How could you possibly resist this…?

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