The first word my one year old daughter Briani learned was “papa.” The first one she learned to fear was “cuna.”
For those who are Spanish-language challenged, “cuna” means crib. In my house and outside it, I’ve created an aura around the word cuna for my one year old that often works as deterrent for all kinds of unwanted baby behavior. The reason it works is because it is the first word of warning I’ve managed to teach my little one that gets her attention.
Briani knows that when I say, “CUNA” or “Quieres ir para la CUNA?” (do you want to go to the crib?), I mean business. The Power of Cuna Trick is not really about using crib time (a baby version of Time Out) as a deterrent as much as it is about making your warnings count and having some sort of discipline follow your words. The only reason it USUALLY works (remember, Briani is still a baby) is because I frequently follow the threat with action. A misbehaving Briani will get the cuna treatment in no time for persistent bad behavior.
The cool thing about the Cuna Trick is that I’ve even gone Steve Jobs on the concept of crib time. That’s because at home the word cuna definitely means “behave or your going to your crib right now” but outside my house it also has meaning. When we’re not in our home setting, the word cuna means “daddy is going to bother you or make you physically uncomfortable in his arms.”
For example, the other day my wife and I were at a restaurant and Briani was toppling food, sugar wrappers and anything else she could get her 20-month-old hands on. When I threatened her with “CUNA!” my wife did a double take and said to me, “What are you talking about? There’s no crib here.” Briani looked at me like saying, “yeah, daddy, what do you think you are going to do? There’s no cuna around here.”
That’s where the Steve Jobs school of parenting kicked in to show me a whole new dimension to the Cuna Trick. When Briani persisted to make my wife want to leave the restaurant, I told Briani she was going to get “cuna” and improvised a new meaning for it. What I did was that I got Briani in my arms in a weird position I know she hates and I held her in that uncomfortable but not hurting position, telling her “cuna, cuna, cuna” near her ear. Briani will usually cry harder initially but then I start to calm her down by doing what I do at home. Within seconds of a cuna-type hold I tell Briani “ok, shush and no more cuna. Shush and no more cuna.” Within seconds, my once uncontrollable Briani quiets down and I’m able to restore her to her chair like a nice, well behaved child.
A couple weeks ago I was similarly challenged when my wife and I we were stuck on a plane and Briani was having a fit for no reason. Once again, the power of cuna kicked in without me raising my hand or my voice at my child. The fact is that Briani hates to be held in an uncomfortable position so much that when we’re not at home, the word cuna has almost the same exact effect as being involuntarily placed in the crib at our house.
The one thing I need to emphasize is that the word cuna will only be effective if you resist the temptation to make it a joke. My wife has not been able to keep a straight face with it as often as I do so when Briani hears her mutter the warning, Briani shrugs it off knowing that the only cuna enforcer is me. Don’t make that mistake or cuna will have no power for you.
Do you have a magic word you use with your toddler for instant obedience?