By Marcia Hall
From your toddler touching everything in sight to your teenager ignoring everything you tell her, children who don’t cooperate can be frustrating. More than that, they can make you go crazy. Here are a few simple rules to follow to increase the amount of cooperation you get from your child.
Help map out the day as best you can for your child. Often, parents have an idea of what the day will be like, but fail to communicate those plans to their child. When possible, help her envision your day by communicating it with her either that morning or the night before. Younger children will need this to be repeated, so it can help to recap it a few times. It is true that plans might change, but changes will be easier if she knew what the plan was in the first place.
Give warnings when time is coming close for transitions to take place. Children tend to live entirely in the present, so they are usually completely engrossed in the activity they are involved in at any given moment. This is obvious for younger children, but is also true of older children. By giving your child warnings when you need to leave in 10 minutes, your child can begin to finish with what she has started. Timers can be a big help for these warnings for both you and your child. A timer can not only keep you on track to follow through with the time you allotted, but will also give your child an auditory clue to listen for.
Provide your child with choices so that she feels in control of the situation to some degree. It is very difficult for your child to be at the mercy of the adults in her life. Often times, the errands or activities she is being forced to participate in are not activities she would choose to do. You can ease this frustration by making small parts of the day her choice. Small children do well with two or three choices. “Do you want to wear the blue boots, the red shoes or the purple clogs?” Older children can help you decide where you will go first or what music you will listen to along the way. Simple choices can make the difference between a cranky child who drags her feet and a cooperative child who does what is asked of her. Giving teens the choice can relieve some of the pressure too. “The garbage needs to go out before 6AM tomorrow. Do you want to do it before you go to bed or early in the morning” You may know the most common sense option is to do it now and get it over with. But giving your child the option can ease the tension often felt by parents and teens.
Create excitement for the thing you are trying to get your child to cooperate in doing. You might be so caught up in completing your to-do list that you forget to enjoy the process. You are motivated to get the tasks complete because you can see the outcome. Your child could not care less about that outcome, she just wants to have fun. So if you want her to cooperate with you, you will need to bring a little fun to the to-do list. If you are running errands, build a little fun break into every other stop. If you are in the car for a long time, find some games to play, such as I-Spy or 20 questions. Help keep her mind going and you will find she is much more compliant.
Make sure all her physical needs are met before asking her to do something you know she will be resistant about. Is your child hungry, thirsty, tired, overstimulated, cold/hot or sick? It is hard for adults to operate when they have these needs. Your child will be understandably cranky when she needs food or has simply had too much. Take a break and don’t expect your child to do too much.
Make sure your child has enough time for play in her day. Parents today have a tendency to overschedule their children, filling their time with sports, art and other activities. The thought is that an active mind is a healthy mind. To a degree, this is true. However, if the mind of a child is not given the opportunity to think creatively and freely, it will begin to shut down. This is when children become easily agitated, inflexible and unsatisfied. To ensure that you have a more cooperative and helpful child, make sure that your child is given enough time for free play both with you and by herself.
Parents dream of a child who gets her shoes on the first time they ask or takes the garbage out when it needs to go out. Though it may not be possible for your child to do this with 100% accuracy, it is possible to improve her cooperation level.