Parenting can really test your skills and creativity, especially when it comes to getting your kids to cooperate and behave.
What are the strategies you’ve used?
How have those strategies worked for you?
Is she now cheerful about doing her chores? Is she suddenly cooperative?
Or is she still misbehaving and not motivated. Is she being defiant and bad-tempered?
Maybe some of these strategies worked for a few days. She was intrigued about getting stickers or willing to behave in order to avoid the boredom of a time-out, at first.
Then her curiosity of a reward or fear of a punishment disappeared. You found yourself nagging and yelling to get her to listen and comply using the same tactics.
It seems as if you have to constantly come up with new and creative ways to entice your child to clean up her mess, do her homework, or play nicely with her siblings.
This constant searching for strategies to get your child to cooperate is exhausting!
As your child gets older, the challenges evolve, too. What worked last year (“Go to your room!”) has no effect this year (“What are you doing in your room for so long?”).
You can’t keep up!
You just wish you knew why your child was being so stubborn and peevish and what you could do or say to finally get through to her.
What I tell parents when they ask me why their child just won’t behave is that the child’s behavior isn’t the problem.
They don’t believe me at first.
They say, of course the child’s behavior is the problem. They relay how many times they’ve gone around with their child about the messy room and homework and chores and how the child is obviously stubborn, willful or just “bad.”
To get them to appreciate what’s going on with their child, I ask them to imagine if they had a job where the boss wasn’t very fun to be around.
…Or didn’t understand what their job entailed.
…Or never said anything positive to them, only criticized them.
…Or never made it a point to say “hello,” check in on them, or ask anything personal in any way.
…Or nagged all the time. Did you do it yet?
…Or whined about how hard THEIR job was.
…Or constantly screamed about how the company was going out of business because of them!
And then imagine that your boss doled out bonuses as a way to get you to do things you hated, or threatened to fire you on a daily basis if your performance wasn’t up to his or her high standards.
Would you want to do a good job? Would you do your tasks in the best possible way or would you do the bare minimum to avoid getting fired?
Chances are, if you were in that kind of demoralizing situation, you’d be posting your resume online ASAP. At the very least, you certainly wouldn’t be bounding out of bed every morning, excited to go to work to be the best performing, most upbeat employee you could be.
You’d be peevish and unmotivated, too.
If you think of it that way, you can see that you need a different perspective on how to get your child to cooperate with you, too.
The boss analogy may help shift your perspective about how a child’s behavior may have more to do with their relationship with you than some sort of character flaw.
Specifically, there may be two good reasons why your child is ignoring your requests or acting out. See if either one sounds like it may apply to you:
You’re having problems because the child sees you as more hostile and unsympathetic than comforting and loving. The “acid” nature of your relationship is causing your child to act out in an attempt to get your love and attention—even negative attention.
He wants to connect with you, but doesn’t know how. So he acts out.
His misguided attempt at getting your attention with misbehavior is only adding to the acidity of your relationship and making it worse.
If this is the situation, what you need to do is neutralize the acidity with softness, sweetness, and a stronger connection to the child. Instead of trying to control his behavior, you need to step back and improve the relationship you have with him FIRST.
Unless you do that, no amount of coercion or bribery will get him to want to cooperate.
Your child isn’t motivated to cooperate because they don’t feel heard or understood.
Consider for a moment: Why might your child not want to do their homework? Clean up their toys before bed? Eat the dinner you’ve made?
Perhaps she’s tired, has had a bad day at school, or isn’t hungry. Children may have good reasons why they don’t want to do something.
Maybe adults have been telling them what to do every single minute of the day and they’re feeling rebellious and fatigued.
When you’re trying to use bribes or punishments to force their behavior, they resist because it’s the only tool they have.
That doesn’t mean you have to give in to their every whim or let them misbehave every day. You don’t and you shouldn’t.
However, when your child feels understood by you, she’ll feel more at ease. She’ll see you as a compassionate leader—a Captain—instead of a dispassionate dictator or tyrant. She’ll have less reason to resist and more reason to cooperate.
When you improve your relationship with your child, your child will want to do what pleases you and gets a smile and a hug from you. She’ll want to show off her completed homework, pick up her toys, and wash her hands before dinner.
Improving your relationship isn’t just about less nagging and yelling and more “I love you’s.” (Although those don’t hurt!)
In fact, there are practical, everyday things you can do that will bring you and your child closer the more you do them—and you’ll get these tips right in your inbox when you subscribe to Flourish’s FREE parenting newsletter.
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You’ll appreciate how practical these tools are and how good they make you feel as a parent. No more yelling, nagging, or spanking to get her to do something or stop doing something, which are all tactics that make you feel terrible afterward, anyway.
We at Flourish know you have more than enough to deal with, and we want to help make parenting life a lot less stressful and a whole lot more fun.