3 ways to get children to cooperate: cues to better behaviour

There is nothing more frustrating than a toddler or young child that put ups the same arguments, procrastinations, tantrums and refusals in order to avoid doing a certain task or behaving in a certain way. Often these should be relatively simple tasks that need to be done on a daily basis but at the first sign of gesticulation, they quickly escalate into World War 3, causing tempers, voices and stress levels to all rise in one sweaty, heart palpitating, ear piercing unison.

As I am firmly entrenched in the midst of guiding a 4th child through toddlerhood and not far off dealing with the same challenges for a 5th and final time, I have had to come up with a few strategies to ensure tasks are performed with minimal of fuss so that one can move on to all the other gazillion tasks that lie in wait. I have learnt that kids love routine. They love knowing what is coming next and they love being able to predict things. Whilst they will probably not admit it anytime soon, they also love boundaries and having these boundaries enforced. But kids also love the feeling that they are in control and that their decision-making plays a part in their daily tasks. As a result of these observations, there are 3 cues that can be used to ensure that we can accommodate these needs whilst maintaining relative peace and a less stressful transition from one task to another.

1. Warn

By preparing a child for what is about to happen, we are not only giving them time to adjust to the idea, but we are giving them a greater sense of predictability. So use statements such as:

“At the end of this program we will be going to bed”

“We can have 3 more turns on the slide, then we need to go home”

 2. Remind

By reminding a child the order of things or the way in which tasks need to be performed we are reinforcing a sense of routine, again giving them predictability and a sense of security. For example :

“Remember how we brush our teeth every night before our story”

“Remember how we must wait until the other children have finished on the swing before we have our turn”

3. Ask Questions

Asking questions about what is happening and how tasks need to be performed helps to give them a sense of control, thus ensuring they are far more likely to cooperate. Kids also love getting the answers right, so it is helpful to have them believe that they instigated an activity.

“What’s the first thing we do before we go to bed?”

What happens when we have finished playing with our toys?”

So remember that language and putting a postive spin on words in order to accommodate the needs of our children can help increase the likelihood of cooperation, keep the stress levels under control and ensure we get back to enjoying our families.

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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Great points! We’re currently battling with 2 toddlers (3 2/3 and 2 1/2) and I often wonder if the tactics we’re using are the right ones, whether we’re doing the right thing at all or getting it horribly wrong. Reading this, we’re doing the right thing because we do all 3 of these things! Even when we get the silly questions like “Whats that Mummy?” pointing at something they know darn well, we reply and say “What do you think?” and they’ll then give us the right answer and we get to praise them for getting it right. Sometimes I think they’re fishing for compliments, but who am I to deny them what they obviously need?! Hopefully we get 2 well balanced children out of it. 🙂

    1. The fact that you are aware of these things shows that you are definately in tune with what your kids need at the moment and are on the right track. There are no quick fixes or magic remedies, but it is important that when you find something that you believe will work then you should stick with it. There will always be challenges in parenting, particularly toddlers, so if you get it right most of the time you will more than likely be left with well balanced children.

  2. Am living the endless cycle of arguments over every little thing as we speak. While I do already do the warning of upcoming events and constant reminders, I see it can be better followed by the asking of questions, to help empower them. Many thanks for sharing this timely advice!

    1. Thanks Donna, it is very frustrating. Getting into little arguments is usually another thing kids enjoy as again it gives them that power and control. So yes it can be helpful to try with the questions rather than getting roped into a usually pretty futile argument! Best of luck 🙂

  3. could not have read this at a better time… and perhaps I need to use this on myself… I need to be reminded again and again of this stuff!

    1. Thanks Kate….and we all need reminding of things sometimes…myself included which is why I write some of these posts! 🙂

  4. I’m with Katepickle about the timing. The kids went back to daycare today after 5 weeks at home full time. I am at the end of my tether and now we’re having to re-establish routines on otp of that. I’m a very cranky mumma! A nice reminder, thanks Martine 🙂

  5. Simply and easy, just the way I need things under pressure!

  6. Great points. I use all of these with my toddler. It comes pretty naturally now, as she is my third, but it would have been very handy to know these things when my first child was a toddler – I definitely learnt by trial and error! I am glad that my little girl is my third, as she is my wild child, and I wouldn’t have coped well at all if she was my 1st!
    xx Sannah

  7. Some great techniques. Thanks for sharing. I’m now following your lovely blog and am about to check out your facebook page too! Please come say hi at Just For Daisy!

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