Parenting Vivian | 25 May 2011 08:26 am

How to Get Your Child to Cooperate

Parents are basically like the captains of any ship; they are the guiding forces that dictate what happens, when, and by whom, in order to keep things running smoothly. This system works like a well-oiled machine most of the time, except when there’s mutiny. You know what I’m talking about. A parental decree has been given, and your child is steadfastly refusing to get with the program. And, as a parent who knows that you must think fast on your feet, you will find yourself wondering how can I possibly get my child to cooperate?

The problem is a matter of free will, which can be both a blessing and a curse, especially as a parent dealing with a child, who, like it or not, is a completely separate entity. We all know that forcing an issue is not going to get us anywhere, and may, in fact, make the problem even worse. If we go the route of pushing too hard, we can pretty much expect that the child will probably dig their feet in and push right back.

There is another option: consensus. Finding a way to create an agreement that is decided upon together will get you on the road to cooperation in short order. Asking for input from your child will ensure that they not only understand the reasons why a particular course of action needs to happen, but also how they can help. Children like to be helpful, and really do want to please. Plus, once they give their word, they are invested, and it is virtually impossible fro them to go back on their word.

For instance, suppose that bedtime is an issue in your house. Your children put up a fuss every night, and by the time you get them into their bed, you feel ready to get into bed and sleep it off yourself. It’s time to create consensus. Set aside some time at a different point in the day (long before bedtime) and sit down with your child, pen and paper in hand. Let them know what the problem is, and tell them you would like their help in creating a solution. Tell them, clearly and concisely, what the desired behavior is, and ask them what would help them to make this happen. Next, have your child decide what the consequences will be if they do not behave the way that you both have agreed. You may be surprised by how creative and harsh their punishments can be!

Once you have reached consensus an all the details of your agreement, it’s time to write it all down. Either you or your child can draft the agreement, but make sure it is written down. Everyone involved should sign at the bottom of the agreement to make it official. Finally, post the agreement somewhere prominent to serve as a reminder.

Now that you know how to elicit cooperation from your child, the two of you can reach consensus on any issue that might arise, and both move forward with smiles on your faces. Bedtime- and everything else- just got a whole lot easier.

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