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Getting Your Kids To Cooperate

By Elizabeth Pantley, Author of Kid Cooperation and Perfect Parenting

"How can I get my kids to cooperate with me? I'm constantly nagging and complaining, not that it does any good! It seems like it starts in the morning and doesn't end until they are all asleep. I get so frustrated, I really don't know what to do. Help!"

This is the number one complaint of parents around the globe. It's a biggie - purely because there are so many things we must get our kids to do (or not do!). If you're waiting for your child to start cooperating of his own free will - you might want to pack a lunch. Things won't change on their own. It takes consistent, effective parenting skills to change your children's behavior and to encourage your children to cooperate, willingly, on a regular basis. It will take practice, patience and persistence on your part. Once you've made a few changes in your approach, you'll find that you're no longer praying for bedtime, but actually enjoying your children.

Be specific: Don't make general comments that hint at what you would like done, such as, "It would be nice if somebody helped me clean up." Don't make it sound as if compliance is optional by starting your sentence with "Will you? Could you? Would you?" or ending your sentence with, "Okay?" Make your request clear, short and specific, "Please put your dishes in the sink and wash the table." or "It's six o'clock. Gather your homework and come to the table." Practice making clear statements that clearly identify what you need or that describe the problem without elaboration and lecturing.

Set Priorities: Use the "When/Then" technique, also known as Grandma's Rule. This method simply lets your child know the sequence of his priorities. Work first/Play second. This also prevents the battles that occur when you specify the Work first part, without including the Play second part! So change the directive, "No! You can't play the computer, you have homework to do!" to the more pleasant: "When you have finished your homework, then you may play your new computer game." Instead of "Put that book down and go put on your pajamas!" to: "As soon as your pajamas are on, we'll read a book." Avoid saying, "Where are you going? Get in here and do these dishes!" to "The minute the dishes are washed, you can go out and ride your bike."

Give more choices: Offer your child a choice, "Would you like to sweep the floor or dry the dishes?" You can also use a sequence choice, such as, "What would you like to do first, put on your pajamas or brush your teeth?" Another way to use choice is the time-focused choice, "Would you like to start at 8:00 or 8:15?" If a child creates his own third option, simply say, "That wasn't one of the choices" and re-state your original statement. If a child refuses to choose, you choose for him. It's important that when you give your child a choice that he learn to live with the consequences of his decision. So if your little run is running amok in the grocery store, you can say, "You have a choice. You can walk beside me or ride in the cart." The minute he takes off you can pick him up, put him in the cart and say, "I see you've decided to ride in the cart."

Lighten up: Use humor to gain cooperation. A bit of silliness can often diffuse the tension and get your child to cooperate willingly. It also can help you feel better about your day. And it also helps you keep your perspective. So many of the daily issues between parent and child don't warrant a major battle, many can be handled in a more cheerful way with better results.

Stay calm: Avoid letting your emotions take control. Don't yell, threaten, criticize or belittle. Instead, ask yourself a question, "What is the problem?" Then, make a statement of fact, such as, "There are dirty dishes and snack wrappers in the TV room." Pause. Be silent. And stare at your children. It's amazing that kids will know exactly what you're thinking. Most often, they'll respond by cleaning up. If not, back up your approach with one of the other solutions.

Use knowledge and skills: Read parenting books and learn new skills. Raising children is a complicated job. There are times when every parent and caregiver can use some help. There are many books available to parents to help get through the day-to-day issues you face with your children. In the vast assortment of books and articles about parenting, you should be able to find ideas for just about any problem or issue you are currently dealing with. Every child is different, and every parent is different. Because of this, there are no cookie-cutter solutions that will work for everyone. I suggest that you review all the solutions you discover and take a few quiet minutes to think about them. Modify the suggestions to best suit your family, and don't be afraid to try out more than one until you discover your best answer.

Excerpted with permission by NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group Inc. from Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips by Elizabeth Pantley, copyright 1999

 

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