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6 Secrets to Getting Kids to Cooperate

6 Secrets to Getting Kids to Cooperate

As the parent of a preschooler, I often notice myself feeling frustrated and asking myself, “Why won’t she cooperate?!” If you have a young child at home, I know you understand. There are times when I’m tired or hungry or in a rush and I just want my daughter to do exactly as I say instantly without questioning, avoiding, or delaying. What I’ve noticed is that as soon as I get attached to things going a certain way, my daughter has different ideas. I can understand why.

Nobody likes to be forced to do anything.

Not even young kids. Or maybe especially not young kids. I mean, toddlers and preschoolers are just developing their will and learning to act independently of us. So, of course they’re going to push back when we thrust our will upon them.

As a preschool teacher and now as a mom, I’ve discovered that there are certain things I can do that greatly increase the chances that kids will cooperate with me. Here are the 6 secrets to getting kids to cooperate that have worked like a charm for me:

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1. Invite, don’t demand.

We all want our children to “ask nicely,” but the truth is, that’s easier said than done. My question is, where do you think they learned to be demanding and inflexible? Oh yeah, from us! If we want our kids to cooperate, then we’ve got to be the bigger, more mature ones and lead by example. Contrary to popular belief, asking nicely, inviting, and working together to find a solution to a problem doesn’t teach children to be more defiant or disobedient, instead, by doing these things you’re laying a foundation of trust and teamwork that your kids will soon learn to rely on.

Use this quick test to figure out whether your request is actually a demand. Ask yourself, “Would it be OK if they answered ‘no’ to this request?” If not, then you’re not actually inviting or asking, you’re demanding or requiring a specific behavior. That’s OK some of the time, especially if safety is an issue, but remember, the more demands you make on your kids, the less true, internally motivated cooperation you’re likely to get.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t have expectations of your children. It’s just that when those expectations aren’t met, it’s helpful to see that as an opportunity to problem solve together, rather than an excuse to punish them into submission.

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2. Turn it into a game.

Kids love to play. When you can make something fun, they’re far more likely to get on board. This does require some creativity and spontaneity on your part. When your child refuses to leave the park, can you find a way to make getting to the car more fun? Maybe you’ll pretend you’re firefighters and you have to jump into the firetruck to go put out the fire. Or perhaps you’ll race, or hop like a bunny, or offer a ride on your shoulders. Making things more fun isn’t just a great way to gain your child’s cooperation, it’s also a way to enjoy your time with them more. I mean, which would you prefer, a power struggle where you force your child kicking and screaming into his car seat or a fun game in which he climbs in willingly?

If you’re not sure what kind of a game will work best, tune in to your child’s interests. If she loves princesses, then you’ll be her knight in shining armor or her trusty steed. If he’s into trucks, you can ask if he wants to be fork-lifted into the car. Or maybe you’ve just read a story about a friendly fish, so try acting it out! If you just can’t seem to come up with an idea, ask your child what to play. Most kids are more than ready with a suggestion for a fun game or activity that you can alter slightly to fit your agenda.

3. Stop repeating yourself.

This is a mistake we all make, especially when we’re not getting the results we want. Trust me that repeating yourself is the last thing you want to do if you’re trying to foster cooperation. Your child heard you the first time, and by repeating yourself, you’re simply training her to stop listening and wait for you to get frustrated before she acts.

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Children are discovering all sorts of things about the world around them, including vast amounts of information about social/emotional dynamics. When they throw you off your game or induce you to get frustrated or upset, they’re gathering very interesting data about how to get what they want and what might cause you to reconsider your position. Don’t fall prey to their cunning.

When you can keep your cool and maintain clear boundaries, your kids will still test you, but after they’ve tested all their theories about how to get around your rule with no success, they will find other areas far more interesting and emotionally rich.

4. Be forgetful.

But what about when you’ve asked once and they’re not responding? Instead of asking again, take a different tack. Be forgetful and invite them to remind you what you said a moment ago. “Wait, I forget, didn’t I just ask you to do something? What was that? I think we were getting ready to go somewhere, but can you please remind me where?”

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This allows the kids to be the smarter ones and if there’s one thing children love, it’s being smarter and more capable than adults.

5. Let them be in charge.

That’s why you’ll get a lot more cooperation when you allow them to be in charge. No need to constantly corral them, just put one child in charge of getting everyone ready and out the door and you’ll be surprised how quickly it will happen. This works especially well with my daughter when I underestimate her abilities and she gets to prove how smart and capable she is. “You don’t know how to do that all by yourself, do you?” And then when she has her shoes on and is climbing into her car seat, “Wow, you knew exactly what to do to get ready to go and you did know how to do it!”

6. Cooperate with kids.

There are times when even the most cooperative child just needs some extra help. This could be because they’re tired, sick, hungry, or just feeling sad and disconnected. So if nothing else seems to work, offer to help. During times like this, we like to play a game in which my daughter pretends to be a baby and I have to do everything for her. After just a few moments of this game, she is far more willing to do what I’ve asked or help me with something. That’s because she knows that when she really needs some extra support, I’m there to willingly and happily provide her with the support she needs.

Hopefully, you’re already well versed in these secrets and this has simply been a reminder of what you already know works best. But if you have any trouble, don’t hesitate to contact me, I would love to help you find strategies that are unique to your situation. If you have any experiences or stories to share, or questions about these 6 secrets please leave a comment. Have a fabulous day filled with cooperation!

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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

Assuming the public school system didn’t crush your soul, learning is a great activity. It expands your viewpoint. It gives you new knowledge you can use to improve your life. It is important for your personal growth. Even if you discount the worldly benefits, the act of learning can be a source of enjoyment.

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” — Mark Twain

But in a busy world, it can often be hard to fit in time to learn anything that isn’t essential. The only things learned are those that need to be. Everything beyond that is considered frivolous. Even those who do appreciate the practice of lifelong learning, can find it difficult to make the effort.

Here are some tips for installing the habit of continuous learning:

1. Always Have a Book

It doesn’t matter if it takes you a year or a week to read a book. Always strive to have a book that you are reading through, and take it with you so you can read it when you have time.

Just by shaving off a few minutes in-between activities in my day I can read about a book per week. That’s at least fifty each year.

2. Keep a “To-Learn” List

We all have to-do lists. These are the tasks we need to accomplish. Try to also have a “to-learn” list. On it you can write ideas for new areas of study.

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Maybe you would like to take up a new language, learn a skill or read the collective works of Shakespeare. Whatever motivates you, write it down.

3. Get More Intellectual Friends

Start spending more time with people who think. Not just people who are smart, but people who actually invest much of their time in learning new skills. Their habits will rub off on you.

Even better, they will probably share some of their knowledge with you.

4. Guided Thinking

Albert Einstein once said,

“Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

Simply studying the wisdom of others isn’t enough, you have to think through ideas yourself. Spend time journaling, meditating or contemplating over ideas you have learned.

5. Put it Into Practice

Skill based learning is useless if it isn’t applied. Reading a book on C++ isn’t the same thing as writing a program. Studying painting isn’t the same as picking up a brush.

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If your knowledge can be applied, put it into practice.

In this information age, we’re all exposed to a lot of information, it’s important to re-learn how to learn so as to put the knowledge into practice.

6. Teach Others

You learn what you teach. If you have an outlet of communicating ideas to others, you are more likely to solidify that learning.

Start a blog, mentor someone or even discuss ideas with a friend.

7. Clean Your Input

Some forms of learning are easy to digest, but often lack substance.

I make a point of regularly cleaning out my feed reader for blogs I subscribe to. Great blogs can be a powerful source of new ideas. But every few months, I realize I’m collecting posts from blogs that I am simply skimming.

Every few months, purify your input to save time and focus on what counts.

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8. Learn in Groups

Lifelong learning doesn’t mean condemning yourself to a stack of dusty textbooks. Join organizations that teach skills.

Workshops and group learning events can make educating yourself a fun, social experience.

9. Unlearn Assumptions

You can’t add water to a full cup. I always try to maintain a distance away from any idea. Too many convictions simply mean too few paths for new ideas.

Actively seek out information that contradicts your worldview.

Our minds can’t be trusted, but this is what we can do about it to be wiser.

10. Find Jobs that Encourage Learning

Pick a career that encourages continual learning. If you are in a job that doesn’t have much intellectual freedom, consider switching to one that does.

Don’t spend forty hours of your week in a job that doesn’t challenge you.

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11. Start a Project

Set out to do something you don’t know how. Forced learning in this way can be fun and challenging.

If you don’t know anything about computers, try building one. If you consider yourself a horrible artist, try a painting.

12. Follow Your Intuition

Lifelong learning is like wandering through the wilderness. You can’t be sure what to expect and there isn’t always an end goal in mind.

Letting your intuition guide you can make self-education more enjoyable. Most of our lives have been broken down to completely logical decisions, that making choices on a whim has been stamped out.

13. The Morning Fifteen

Productive people always wake up early. Use the first fifteen minutes of your morning as a period for education.

If you find yourself too groggy, you might want to wait a short time. Just don’t put it off later in the day where urgent activities will push it out of the way.

14. Reap the Rewards

Learn information you can use. Understanding the basics of programming allows me to handle projects that other people would require outside help. Meeting a situation that makes use of your educational efforts can be a source of pride.

15. Make Learning a Priority

Few external forces are going to persuade you to learn. The desire has to come from within. Once you decide you want to make lifelong learning a habit, it is up to you to make it a priority in your life.

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Featured photo credit: Paul Schafer via unsplash.com

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