The Tools for Engaging Cooperation in Children:
Tool 1: Be Playful
As she said, it won’t always be the go-to tool because you can’t usually be playful when you’re just doing your best not to scream. However, it’s a really varied and useful tool when you can use it. It can include turning chores into games, making funny voices, making inanimate objects talk, and whatever else you can think of.
Tool 2: Offer A Choice
This doesn’t mean giving them a choice to listen or not, but instead within listening there are options. So instead of you choosing their outfit give them a choice between the pink shirt and the blue. Or mix it up and give playful choices. Hop to the car or run! The end result is the same; child is dressed and in the car, but they feel as if they had some control over the outcome.
Tool 3: Put The Child In Charge
Whenever possible, let the child choose or tell you when it’s time for a transition! The book has some more specific examples of how to accomplish this, but basically let your mind have a rest, give some boundaries or limitations, and let them make some decisions for themselves. That is after-all the end goal right? To have kids that turn into adults that can make decisions for themselves instead of always being told what to do?….
Tool 4: Give Information
This one is all about the emotionless facts. It’s hard to rebel against facts. You’re not directly being told what to do, but you are learning what the natural consequences would be if you don’t follow through, giving you a chance to self-correct. I also feel like it takes the pressure off you as a parent or teacher since the “rule” isn’t because you’re a big mean mommy or daddy…
Tool 5: Say It With a Word (or Gesture)
Remember KISS- Keep It Simple Silly. Too many words muddy the water. Keep the directions simple and emotionless whenever possible. So instead of “Push your chair in”, and all the emotions that come with that when they don’t immediately do what you want, you simply say chair and give them a chance to figure it out.
Tool 6: Describe What You See
Again, lack of emotions is key here. Emotions are great in many ways, but when it comes to your child following directions they can just get in the way. In this tool you literally just describe what you’re seeing. Basically for when one word isn’t enough. So when “chair” isn’t enough you can say ” I see a chair in the walkway.”
Tool 7: Describe How You Feel
Be careful with this one as it’s easy to take this to manipulation before you even realize it. It is a useful tool though and helps children navigate the vocabulary and reasoning behind certain feelings, as well as to show them how to deal with those feelings. Also, when you describe how something makes you feel, it’s hard for a child to argue with that. So instead of “You’re going to fall if you don’t sit down!”, which is emotion filled, possibly false, and easily argued with, try “I get scared watching you stand on that chair. I worry about you falling of and hitting your head.” An added benefit of this tool… it helps develop empathy.
Tool 8: Write A Note
This tool is great when you’re repeating yourself, it sucks sounding like a parrot. And for some reason kids respond better to writing than voices… even when they can’t read yet (though of course they have to be of the age where they understand what writing is).
Tool 9: Take Action Without Insult
The tool for when all else fails. The trick is to use this tool calmly and not as a forced punishment. Instead this is you hitting your limit and for everyone’s safety and emotional well-being you are not going to let something continue. It’s still good to use this tool in combination with other tools.
Tips and Tricks to remember when helping children cooperate:
“Don’t turn a choice into a threat”– All choices should be acceptable to both of you… and something you’re willing to follow through on.“Appreciate progress before describing what’s left to do”– In school we call this a positive sandwich. By pointing out what has been done right you’re setting them up to actually want to hear what comes next. it also allows them to feel like they have done something right and so aren’t a complete looser…“When expressing anger or frustration, use the word I, avoid the word you.”- This helps it be about your feelings and less about manipulation or name calling.“Express strong anger sparingly, it can feel like an attack”- Be careful about which “feelings” words you use so as to not make your child (or anyone really) feel like they’re being attacked. This would only make the other person go into defense mode and basically shut down emotionally.
How I’m Using the Tools For Engaging Cooperation with my son.
I’ll be honest, I know he’s at the stage where he wants to communicate, but can’t which is causing a lot of frustration in all of us. As he gets older of course, more of these will be useful, but for now I would say the tools I use the most are; being playful, giving information, and taking action without insult.
Being Playful to Get Him to Cooperate
Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It took pretending the rotoclippers (affiliate) were hungry and liked the taste of his fingernails twice before he just sat there letting me “eat” them. He was never scared, just more interested in the light and exploring it himself to want some magically talking machine eating his fingernails. And who knows the next time… again I just think for his age this whole chapter is a little beyond what you would expect a 1 yr old to consistently do.
Other ways I’ve tried to be playful are things like hopping with him to the bathtub, and singing the clean up song while I show him how to clean up his books and toys.
Giving Information to Get Him to Follow Instructions
I figure this one is more practice for me than an actual expectation lol. when he plays with the knobs of the stove, I let him know that leaving the gas on could make our house explode… you know the little things. It’s important for me, my husband, and you to remember the age though and what is actually expected behavior. I can give him instructions all day long, but he doesn’t yet have the awareness to know what to do with it. But by practicing now I can make it a part of our normal tools for when he does. And it satisfies my need to explain without giving in to the lecture lol.
Taking Action Without Insult
This is about managing expectations in my household. So when I give the information that leaving the gas on could cause an explosion I also have to remove him from the situation. It’s not punishment that I’m removing him from that spot in the kitchen, it’s safety. Children and adults both need to do things we don’t want. By the time we’re adults we’ve figured out how to do that, at least enough to keep our jobs and house, but children still have a long way to go. So sometimes it’s necessary to remove them from the situation. In our house this looks a variety of ways.