Finding it hard to get your kids to cooperate? Here’s a solution to try

Finding it hard to get your kids to cooperate? Here’s a solution to try

Have you heard the joke about the mom who declares, “My husband and I decided we don’t want to have children. We’ll be telling them tonight at dinner.”

In my work as a parent coach, I get a lot of laughs when I share that one. But for parents who are struggling, daily life is no laughing matter. Many of us are at our wits’ end trying to work at home while coping with kids who are upset, angry, bored, squabbling, demanding more game time, refusing to do schoolwork, and dropping crumbs everywhere.

So how can you get everyone to cooperate when your rules and pleas aren’t working? Look to an unexpected source of wisdom for the answer  — your children.

Your kids are better problem solvers than you may think

In the classroom, teachers encourage children to use their initiative and problem-solving skills. Students are often asked to explore a topic by coming up with their own questions about it, and finding their own answers. This technique is called inquiry-based learning. 

You can adapt this technique to get greater cooperation at home. Present your need as a topic to explore — for example you might say,  “I wonder how we can we come up with a schedule that works for everyone?”

The conversation will vary according to the age, temperament, and challenges of the individual child. But the following factors are always essential to encourage collaboration on a solution.

  • Present the problem with curiosity, and without stress.  Use “I wonder how…” and be sure to avoid “I need” or “ I want,” “I can’t tolerate”
  • Consider your tone of voice.  Tone of voice matters more than what you say.  A warm, light, encouraging tone will serve you well.
  • Show genuine openness.  Your child may suggest ideas that are silly, undesirable, even irritating.  But children take pride in their inventions.  In their mind, their ideas are valid and worthy of consideration.
  • Appreciate your child’s problem-solving attempts.  We can all relate to the horrible feeling of having our contributions dismissed.  Whether we’re 4, 14, or 40, getting our idea met with an eye-roll shuts us down.  Instead, show interest.  Then, explore together the issue that their idea presents.
  • Discuss an incentive for making the plan work.  Have everyone come up with what they see as their own personal benefits. This helps you know what to say to keep your children track.
  • Above all, prioritize humour and lightness.  Remember, we’ll be talking about family life during the pandemic for years to come.  Figuring out how to survive this time, when we’re stuck at home together, will become part of our family history.

It is important to note however, there may be times when your children, you or your partner, need outside support to get through this in the best way possible..   

Before this pandemic upended us, children had different influential relationships with adults, notably teachers, team coaches, grandparents, etc. Now their only adult relationships are with their parents.  It’s asking a lot of parents to be all things to any one child or adolescent.

If you feel your child is behaving in ways that concern you, or if you have a special needs child who appears to be regressing, it’s critical to seek help for the sake of the child and the entire family.

Cookie Walton (  BA, Bed, is a Specialist in Special Education, and Parent Coach and Advocate with Rupert Case Management (RCM).  Since 1993, RCM has been providing high-touch support to families to help their children who may have standard or highly complex special needs that impact their learning and quality of life. 

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