“I believe that our children are born with an innate drive to cooperate with us. It’s what we do in the subsequent years that either nurtures that drive or begins to erode it.”
– Alison Smith
If only our kids would cooperate with us, our job would be so much easier, right? I get how frustrating it can be. I also know that if we are not careful how we gain their cooperation, we can create future problems for ourselves and our kids.
Check out these five ways to increase the likelihood that your child will want to cooperate with you, without nagging, threats or raised voices.
- Ensure their needs are being met first. Are they tired, hungry, feeling frustrated? This step may take some observation, reflection and trial and error to figure out, but magic happens when you do. “But we’re in a rush, lady!” you tell me. I get it. However, think about how much time you waste repeating yourself and coming up with new ways to get them to listen. It will pay off to invest a few minutes up front. When you meet the underlying need they have, they no longer need to invent new ways to tell you they need help.
- Teach any missing skills. Do they really understand what is expected? Do they need more teaching or practice? Your child wants to make you happy. When she doesn’t, she either can’t or there’s something she needs. Sometimes that’s a skill.
- Spend more time together. Enjoyable time together increases connection. A strong connection breeds influence and a desire to cooperate. Try some of the ideas from my free download .
- Empathize with their point of view. Especially when you disagree. “I wish we could stay at Grandma’s another day, too. Wouldn’t that be fun!” Your child will feel heard and understood and therefore much more likely to work with you. “But won’t that reinforce the behaviour?” Nope. It will reinforce the message that their viewpoint is important, and therefore so are they. When a child feels heard, they can let go of the need to keep telling you through behaviours you don’t like.
- Ensure that your relationship takes priority. Before you teach a skill or correct behaviour, think “Connect, then direct.” If not, you may lose your influence with them in that moment and encourage a power struggle. Find common ground, have a laugh together or otherwise reconnect as a loving parent-child pair then your child will be more open to what you have to say.
Cooperation can be your parenting litmus test. High cooperation means you are on the right track with your approach. Refusal to cooperate means something needs attention. When cooperation is high, be mindful whether it is a true desire to work with you though, versus an avoidance of a negative consequence. True and lasting influence has no need of force. If you find yourself searching for a consequence or reward to gain cooperation, go back to the basics. Look for an unmet need. Address that. Reconnect and watch the cooperation skyrocket!