8 Great Ways to Get Your Kids to Cooperate
- Acknowledge strong feelings. A child who feels understood sees you as on his side rather than on his back and is more likely to cooperate. Say, “I noticed how angry you get when you’re having fun and have to leave your friend’s house. Let’s practice a happy goodbye for tomorrow. How would that look and sound?”
- Talk less. Say what needs to be done in a single word if you can. “Coat.” “Breakfast.” “Teeth.” Children hate long explanations, which often turn into a screaming tirade of reasons it must be done. You’re also modeling self-control.
- Tell your child what he can do, rather than what he cannot do. For example, “We pet the cat” works better than, “Don’t pull the cat’s tail like you did last week.” This serves as a reminder of an acceptable action rather than of what your child did wrong.
- Give limited choices. Say to your child, “You can get in your car seat all by yourself or Mommy will help you do it. Do you need my help? It’s your choice.” Most toddlers will say, “Self, self . . . I do it.” The more you do this, the more you’ll get “self” cooperation.
- Lighten up. Make inanimate objects do the talking for you. If you want your child to put on his shoes, for instance, make the shoes say, “Please put your feet in my tummy.” Toddlers will usually happily comply, at least once.
- Rewind! This announcement means that your child will “take back” her words and actions and start anew with good behavior. Silly babble and walking backwards indicate the bad behavior has been “erased.” In order for this to be effective, it must be introduced, demonstrated, and talked about repeatedly, outside the heat of the moment.
- Take a break. To calm a frustrated child, stop and breathe together. Say, “Looks like you need a break; let’s breathe together.” Sitting across from each other, holding hands, inhale slowly and deeply three times. Say, “I’m feeling relaxed now.”
- Take a silly break. A sense of humor is very positive and often works well to stop misbehavior. When things are out of control, consider declaring, “We need to get silly!” Dance, sing the “silly song,” tell a joke, talk in a silly voice or a foreign language. The children will join right in – or at least stop misbehaving long enough to watch the show!