From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Enlisting Cooperation From Kids
Parenting is a great challenge. It requires patience, love, understanding, and most
all, communication skills. Kids are just like adults in that they don't like to be told
what to do. But as we all know, a big part of the job of parenting requires telling kids
what to do. The challenge is therefore, to learn how to enlist your child's cooperation...
without enlisting their resistance. Here are a few ideas on the subject.
- Kids prefer to participate in group activities. They usually hate doing
things alone. They get lonely and bored quickly. So, whenever possible, go ahead and offer
to help them clean their room or do their chores. By joining them in the activity, they
feel rewarded by your attention, they learn from your positive attitude and helpfulness,
and may even learn to enjoy the task. (This also beats yelling at your kid, and then doing
the task for them by yourself).
- Be kind to your child's self-esteem. Like most of us, kids hate to be
yelled at, criticized, or put down. It brings out the worst in them and has lasting
damage. When kids feel ridiculed, they are unlikely to cooperate. Instead, win their
cooperation with genuine praise for the good things they do. Like the rest of us, they
need to be praised for their efforts on a regular basis. Expecially with kids, though,
they look for our approval and want to please us. Everyone needs appreciation and children
are generally just like their parents in this respect.
- Don't Panic when your child makes a mistake. When you are upset about
your child's behavior, that's a good time to step back and observe before you react! Find
out your child's side of the story before you jump to conclusions. Think of how you would
have wanted your parents to handle things when you made mistakes as a kid. Kids need to
save face and your judgments need to be sound, not irrational sounding.
- Talk with your child. Communicate honestly and openly. Talk with them
as you would your best friend. Avoid preaching, scolding or threatening them. Allow the
communication to be a two-way street. They have to trust you before they will open up to
you. Until you open up to each other, your communication will remain on a superficial
To win cooperation from children, you must respect the fact that they have opinions.
Sometimes they agree with you, sometimes they don't. To win cooperation, you must decide
which issues are important and which issues are not. Of course, its possible to force kids
to agree with you temporarily, but the results are mixed.
I learned about this while shopping with my kids. If a child doesn't like something,
there is little that you can do to change their mind. Like adults, they have firm
opinions. Take it from one mother who has more than once purchased clothing items that I
was sure my child would grow to love. Only now do I realize that if they said they didn't
like it, trust me, they won't wear it!
ęCopyright, 1995, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated October 18, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon,