How to get kids to cooperate - 3 tips for frazzled parents

As a parent, how often have you thrown your hands in the air and grumbled through clench teeth, "how can I get these kids to cooperate?"

We can try to be all cool, calm and collected, but there’d be few parents who haven’t succumbed to yelling at their kids at some point.  I once read somewhere that shouting at kids to behave, is like steering a car with a horn.  A I think you get the picture. 

Being a parent is one of life’s greatest joys.  But there are those times when parenting can almost drive of us to the brink.  Especially when we are faced with siblings  constantly stirring each other up, being stroppy, getting over-tired and being downright stubborn.  And, if that’s become your everyday battle, the chances are high that your mental health and relationships are feeling the strain.  

Therefore, if parenting is leaving you frazzled and frayed at the edges, and while there is no magic wand or a Mary Poppins to step in and help, there are these 3 simple tips which parents can use as a way to encourage kids to be more cooperative…      

  1. Avoid beginning an instruction with the word “DON’T”:  It takes discipline to eliminate this one from parenting vocabulary!  Just think how often you’ve heard yourself say things like…   “Don’t run”, or “Don’t touch”, or “Don’t leave your clothes on the floor”.  When we make those demands, the mind’s tendency is to only register the last action in the phrase.  So the part that the child hears, is… “run, touch, leave clothes on the floor”.   Tell them “don’t run through the house”, and for a moment they may stop, then next minute they’re off running again.  As an alternative, focus on the positive action that you want your child to take.  For example, instead of “don’t run” simply say, “WALK”.  So improve cooperation by mastering this positive communication skill.
  1. When you discover your child is up to mischief:  Depending on the severity of how your child is misbehaving, you may initially over-react, instantly get upset, and perhaps, even act a little unhinged.  As an alternative, give yourself a moment to step back, compose yourself, and then follow behavioural specialist William Glasser’s suggested approach:  ask the following three questions in a calm, even-toned and measured way (allowing your child time to respond to each question) …  a) ‘What are you doing?’;  ‘What should you be doing?’; and, ‘What are you going to do?’.  This allows your child to reflect and choose consequences for their behaviour.  It encourages and empowers your child to cooperate.  Give it a go, be consistent, and watch whether it works a treat for you.
  1. Offer reasoning with your requests:  Explain to your child the ‘why’ for doing what is asked.  Giving a reason improves the likelihood of your child engaging and cooperating.  For example, apply these types of approaches…   “Let’s turn the TV down so it will be quieter for daddy to have more sleep before he goes to work”; or “Can you help me carry these groceries inside as that will save extra trips back to the car?”; or “Let’s do the dishes together and then we’ll have time for a game outside before it gets too dark”.  Getting kids to cooperate by developing this technique can help you reduce parenting frazzle.

As all parents soon discover, effective parenting is demanding on time, energy and emotions.  Of course, everyone’s situation is  also unique, be that family dynamics, work pressures, or levels of financial and emotional support.  These factors contribute to our feelings of how well, or not so well, we think we’re doing as a parent. 

If you find yourself struggling with parenting, you needn’t journey alone.  Reach out to a professional therapist so you’ll feel supported, and learn skills, strategies and solutions for effective parenting.  That way, you can begin enjoying more of the real joy and blessing that comes with being a parent.

ROHAN WATSON is a member of the Australian Counselling Association and a general member of the International Association of Applied Neuroscience.  He holds graduate and post-graduate qualifications in Psychology, Counselling and Education from Monash University and USQ, including a Master of Counselling (Advanced Practice) degree awarded with Distinction.

As a Psychotherapist, Counsellor and Mental Health Researcher, Rohan is dedicated to helping unlock the potential in people to live happily and more purposefully.  His Toowoomba Counselling & Coaching service helps people from all walks and seasons of life.

Rohan has facilitated and delivered mental health programs across rural and remote Australia.  He provides professional psychotherapy services to employees at all levels nationally through EAP based services, is a highly sought-after Marriage Counsellor and Relationship Counselling specialist, and has a special interest in the online delivery of mental wellness programs.  Rohan’s current research is focusing on early intervention mental wellbeing in the workplaces of Australian SMEs.  Learn more.

About GO-TO Counsellor Rohan Watson | Counselling & Coaching