Kid Cooperation Questions and Answers

In my house, my father had a belt hanging on a hook in the kitchen. It was a visible reminder to be good or to be put over his knee. We were all afraid of that belt. One day, my father couldn’t find it. Eventually it was found — in the trashcan. My little sister, then age six, had decided the garbage would be a better place for it! She was due for a spanking and was trying to avoid it.

Once discovered, she knew her spanking would be worse than ever. When my father put her over his knee, he noticed that her little rear end had been replaced by a large lumpy surface: wadded-up towels in her underpants! Boy did he get angry! He pulled out the towels, pulled down her pants, and proceeded to hit her. I can still remember the welts on her bottom after her bare skin was hit with that belt. As a mother with four children of my own, the memory brings tears to my eyes.

The odd thing is that both my sister and I remember the spanking, but neither of us can recall what the behavior was that caused it. We know that our father must have been trying to teach a lesson. The lesson, however, has been lost. The memory of the spanking is all that remains.

Our parents punished us the same way in which they were punished. And their parents punished them the same way in which our grandparents were punished as children. After all, we learn what we live. We tend to parent the way we were parented. Somewhere along the line, parents need to stop the pattern. They need to evaluate their child-rearing methods, especially checking for those destructive practices that they may be following simply out of habit. Parents need to research the current data, analyze their current parenting results, and continually look for better answers.

I have four children. They are respectful, responsible, well-behaved, and just plain great kids. I don’t believe in spanking, and have used only positive, loving discipline with them. Parents often ask me whether they should spank their children or not. When looking at the issue of spanking, I urge them to consider the following:

  • Spanking does nothing to teach a child to develop inner discipline. A child’s focus is on the spanking itself, not on a review of the behavior that led to it. After a spanking, a child does not sit in his room and think, “Gee, I sure goofed. But I really learned something. Next time I’ll behave.” Instead a child is typically thinking, “It’s not fair! She doesn’t understand! I hate her.”
  • Spanking is seen as punishment for a crime, payment for a debt. In other words, once paid, they have a clean slate. Spanking gets in the way of allowing a child to develop a conscience. The guilt that follows misbehavior is a prime motivator for change. Spanking takes away the guilt, because the crime has been paid for.
  • Spanking makes the parent feel better. When we get angry, we move into the “fight or flight” mode. Our adrenaline surges, and we have a primitive need to strike out. Hitting releases this negative energy and helps us feel better. But even a minor spanking can escalate into major abuse. Parents have reported that, in the heat of the moment, it’s hard to stop hitting; some say that they don’t even realize how hard they’ve hit until they see the bruise.
  • Parents who spank sometimes come to rely on it as their primary source of discipline. If you give yourself permission to spank, it becomes a quick fix for all kinds of problems; it blocks off the effective use of other more productive methods.
  • Spanking gets in the way of a healthy parent-child relationship. Children look up to their parents as protectors, teachers, and guides. When a parent breaks that pattern by hitting a child, the relationship suffers.
  • Spanking is not an effective form of discipline. Hitting a child typically stops a behavior at that point because of shock, fear, or pain. But most children turn around and repeat the same behavior — sometimes even the same day!
  • Spanking is not humane or Christian behavior. I know many Christian families who believe in spanking. They often quote to me from the Bible, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Now, I am not an expert on the Bible, but I am a Christian, and from that position only do I give you this opinion. I believe that the “rod” as referred to here means a tool of discipline. In the days of the Bible, a shepherd used a “rod” to guide his sheep — he did not hit them with it. His rod was seen as a symbol of his authority over the animals, not a tool to cause them pain.
  • I also ask you these questions: If God walked into your home today and saw your child misbehave, would He hit your child? I would say, definitely not! Would He discipline your child? Would He teach your child? Would He guide your child? I would say yes, absolutely!
  • Spanking does teach a lesson. The lesson is: “When you don’t know what else to do — hit!” Or, “When you’re bigger, you can hit.” Or, “When you’re really angry, you can get your way by hitting.” It’s common knowledge that children who are frequently hit are more likely to accept the use of violence and are more likely to hit other children. It only makes sense, because, after all, children learn what they live. Children who are spanked often have more resentment and anger, and lower self-esteem.
  • Spanking is illogical. I’ve read several articles that address the issue of spanking in which the writer says it’s okay to spank if the child is in danger — for instance, if a toddler is running into the street, or reaching out to touch a hot burner on the stove. They suggest that, at these times, a few pops on the rear end are okay. I must admit this naïve mindset baffles me. Why in the world would we want to teach our children about safety by hurting them? Does you ski instructor jab you with his ski pole to teach you not to jump off the chairlift?

A parent who believes that spanking is the only effective way to teach a young child about safety issues is not giving the child enough credit.

Children — even little ones — can indeed learn about safety through our teaching them. As a matter of fact, through teaching they will learn much more, as they can absorb the reason for the rule, and over time, can learn to make good decisions on their own. I watched two friends one summer teach their toddlers not to run in the street.
Mom A give her toddler a swat on the rear every time he went into the street. Mom B picked up her toddler, looked him in the eye, and said, “NO street! Dangerous. Stay by Mommy.” By the end of the summer, both children learned to stay out of the street. Which child understood why? And which child has better communication with his mother?

Positive, respectful, consistent discipline is the real key to raising well-behaved children.

Would you like to get your kids to willingly cooperate?
Stop the daily battles?
Teach your kids valuable life skills?
If your answer is Yes! Yes! Yes! then read on . . .

There are so many things we must get our children to do and so many things me must stop them from doing! Get up. Get dressed. Don’t dawdle. Do your homework. Eat. It goes on and on. We can get our kids to cooperate and at the same time allow them to learn self discipline and develop good decision making skills. How? By offering choices.

Giving a choice is a very powerful tool that can be used with toddlers through teenagers. This is one skill that every parent should have tattooed on the back of his or her hand as a constant reminder. Parents should use this skill every day, many times a day. Giving children choices is a very effective way to enlist their cooperation because children love having the privilege of choice. It takes the pressure out of your request, and allows a child to feel in control. This makes a child more willing to comply.

Using choice is an effective way to achieve results, and when you get in the habit of offering choices you are doing your children a big favor. As children learn to make simple choices—Milk or juice?—they get the practice required to make bigger choices—Buy two class T-shirts or one sweatshirt?—which gives them the ability as they grow to make more important decisions—Save or spend? Drink beer or soda? Study or fail? Giving children choices allows them to learn to listen to their inner voice. It is a valuable skill that they will carry with them to adulthood.

You should offer choices based on your child’s age and your intent. A toddler can handle two choices, a grade-school child three or four. A teenager can be given general guidelines. Offer choices such that you would be happy with whatever option your child chooses. Otherwise, you’re not being fair. For example, a parent might say, “Either eat your peas or go to your room” but when the child gets up off his chair, the parent yells, “Sit down and eat your dinner, young man!” (So that wasn’t really a choice, was it?)
Here are some ways in which you can use choice:

  • Do you want to wear your Big Bird pajamas or your Mickey Mouse pajamas?
  • Do you want to do your homework at the kitchen table or the desk?
  • Would you rather stop at the gas station or give me the money to fill the tank?
  • Do you want to wear your coat, carry it, or put on a sweatshirt?
  • Would you prefer to let the dog out in the yard or take him for a walk?
  • Do you want to run up to bed or hop like a bunny?
  • What do you want to do first, take out the trash or dry the dishes?
  • Do you want to watch five more minutes of TV or ten?

A typical problem with choices is the child who makes up his own choice!

For example, A mother in one of my classes reported using this skill with great success at home. It was after dinner and she said to her husband, “Honey, would you like to clean up the dishes or put the kids to bed?” He responded, “Hey! You’re using that choice this in me!” (All the skills presented in my book will work with adults, too.) “Taylor, do you want to put on your pajamas first, or brush your teeth?” To which little Taylor answers, “I want to watch TV.” What to do? Just smile sweetly and say, “That wasn’t one of the choices. What do you want to do first, put on your pajamas or brush your teeth?”

If your child is still reluctant to choose from the options that you offer, then simply ask, “Would you like to choose or shall I choose for you?” If an appropriate answer is not forthcoming then you can say, “I see that you want me to choose for you.” Then follow through. Make your choice and help your child – by leading or carrying him – so that he can cooperate.

The benefits to this approach are threefold. First, your request is very specific, and thus can be understood by your child. Second, you are acknowledging your child’s wants and needs at the same time that you are stating you wants and needs. Third, you are approaching the issue in a way the invites your child to cooperate. Here’s how it works:

You may ________ after you __________.

You may play outside after you do the dishes.

You may watch a movie after you do your homework.

We will read a story after you put your pajamas on.

As soon as you scoop the cat litter you can play your new computer game.

An added benefit to using Grandma’s Rule is that it eliminates the need to use “fighting words.” Fighting words are those that start a battle even before the rest of the sentence is heard—words such as, You can’t, Don’t, No, and Stop!

Notice how the choice of words affects the feeling conveyed by these requests:

You can’t go outside until you finish your homework.

Yes, you can go outside just as soon as you finish your homework.

Don’t eat that cookie until after your dinner.

Yes, you can have a cookie right after dinner.

No, you can’t go to Jimmy’s house.

You can go to Jimmy’s house on Saturday, after soccer practice.

As you can see, Grandma’s rule allows you to use positive communication while being very specific about what you want. And the best thing is—it works!

In my grandma’s day, it was understood that children had certain responsibilities as members of the family. They “earned” their privileges by fulfilling their responsibilities first. The idea behind this rule is that you acknowledge something the child would like to do as the second step in a process. You define the first step as a chore, action or activity that must be done before the privilege is granted.

During their growth and development, children go through many stages of self-doubt. They are always comparing themselves to others, and they often see themselves as coming up short. As parents, we can offset this natural tendency in our children by giving them the skills to think more positively. It is important that you really listen to your children, and help them overcome their negative thoughts and beliefs. This is, of course, easier to do if you practice positive thinking yourself.

Our world is so full of negative feedback. We need to arm our children with a positive attitude, so that they can stay focused in the right direction. Let’s look at some typical negative statements from children, along with some positive responses from their wise parents:

I can’t do it.
Take your time and try again. I have confidence in you.

Heather hates me.
Sounds like you’re feeling rejected by Heather, and that must hurt. I know you want Heather to like you. Remember that you’re a very lovable kid and a terrific person, no matter what Heather, or anyone else, says or does. And, you know, she may have a problem that has nothing to do with you.

I’m just no good in history.
You’ve brought up Cs before—I know you can do it again. Besides that, honey, nobody is good at everything. And look at this A in math, you’ve always done well with numbers!

I’m so clumsy. I’ll never learn to rollerblade!
It’s tough learning something new. Remember when you first tried to ski, how hard it was? But you stuck with it, and now you’re really good at skiing.

There is real value in discussing positive thinking and self-esteem with your children on a regular basis. Sadly, these subjects are not yet included in the school curriculum. There are good books written for children, as well as adults, which demonstrate the use of positive thinking. Reading a book together is a good launching pad for starting a conversation. Pointing out positive versus negative attitudes from news stories or life stories is an excellent way of showing your children just how this all works in real life, too.

A great web site for finding lots of wonderful positive messages is: www.greatday.com

Modeling a positive attitude is one of the most effective ways of teaching your children. Children learn what they live. So start presenting your thoughts in a positive way, Oh well, I burned the dinner—guess that means we get to eat cereal for dinner!

Parents always hope that their children will have a positive outlook on life, but most often how this happens is left to chance. When you take this matter into your hands, and look for ways to guide your children’s thoughts in a positive direction, you will see very exciting results.

How can I get my kids to cooperate with me? I’m constantly nagging and complaining, not that it does any good! It seems like it starts in the morning and doesn’t end until they are all asleep. I get so frustrated, I really don’t know what to do. Help!

This is the number one-complaint of parents around the globe. It’s a biggie — purely because there are so many things we must get our kids to do (or not do!). If you’re waiting for your child to start cooperating of his own free will — you might want to pack a lunch. Things won’t change on their own. It takes consistent, effective parenting skills to change your children’s behavior and to encourage your children to cooperate, willingly, on a regular basis. It will take practice, patience and persistence on your part. Once you’ve made a few changes in your approach, you’ll find that you’re no longer praying for bedtime, but actually enjoying your children.

Be specific:
Don’t make general comments that hint at what you would like done, such as, “It would be nice if somebody helped me clean up.” Don’t make it sound as if compliance is optional by starting your sentence with “Will you? Could you? Would you?” or ending your sentence with, “Okay?” Make your request clear, short and specific, “Please put your dishes in the sink and wash the table.” or “It’s six o’clock. Gather your homework and come to the table.” Practice making clear statements that clearly identify what you need or that describe the problem without elaboration and lecturing.

Set Priorities:
Use the “When/Then” technique, also known as Grandma’s Rule. This method simply lets your child know the sequence of his priorities. Work first/Play second. “When you have finished your homework, then you may play your new computer game.” “As soon as your pajamas are on, we’ll read a book.” “The minute the dishes are washed, you can go out and ride your bike.”

Give more choices:
Offer your child a choice, “Would you like to sweep the floor or dry the dishes?” You can also use a sequence choice, such as, “What would you like to do first, put on your pajamas or brush your teeth?” Another way to use choice is the time-focused choice, “Would you like to start at 8:00 or 8:15?” If a child creates a third option, simply say, “That wasn’t one of the choices” and re-state your original statement. If a child refuses to choose, you choose for him. It’s important that when you give your child a choice that he learn to live with the consequences of his decision. So if your little run is running amok in the grocery store, you can say, “You have a choice. You can walk beside me or ride in the cart.” The minute he takes off, you can pick him up, put him in the cart and say, “I see you’ve decided to ride in the cart.”

Lighten up:
Use humor to gain cooperation. A bit of silliness can often diffuse the tension and get your child to cooperate willingly. It also can help you feel better about your day.

Stay calm:
Avoid letting your emotions take control. Don’t yell, threaten, criticize or belittle. Instead, ask yourself a question, “What is the problem?” Then, make a statement of fact, such as, “There are dirty dishes and snack wrappers in the TV room.” Pause. Be silent. And stare at your children. It’s amazing that kids will know exactly what you’re thinking. Most often, they’ll respond by cleaning up. If not, back up your approach with one of the other solutions.

Use knowledge and skills:
Read parenting books and learn new skills. Raising children is a complicated job. There are times when every parent and caregiver can use some help. There are many books available to parents to help get through the day-to-day issues you face with your children. In the vast assortment of books and articles about parenting, you should be able to find ideas for just about any problem or issue you are currently dealing with. Every child is different, and every parent is different.

Because of this, there are no cookie-cutter solutions that will work for everyone. I suggest that you review all the solutions you discover and take a few quiet minutes to think about them. Modify the suggestions to best suit your family, and don’t be afraid to try out more than one until you discover your best answer. For example, my book, Kid Cooperation (How to Stop Yelling, Nagging and Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate), has lots more suggestions and practical ideas.

During their growth and development, children go through many stages of self-doubt. They are always comparing themselves to others, and they often see themselves as coming up short. As parents, we can offset this natural tendency in our children by giving them the skills to think more positively. It is important that you really listen to your children, and help them overcome their negative thoughts and beliefs. This is, of course, easier to do if you practice positive thinking yourself.

Our world is so full of negative feedback. We need to arm our children with a positive attitude, so that they can stay focused in the right direction. Let’s look at some typical negative statements from children, along with some positive responses from their wise parents:

I can’t do it.
Take your time and try again. I have confidence in you.

Heather hates me.
Sounds like you’re feeling rejected by Heather, and that must hurt. I know you want Heather to like you. Remember that you’re a very lovable kid and a terrific person, no matter what Heather, or anyone else, says or does. And, you know, she may have a problem that has nothing to do with you.

I’m just no good in history.
You’ve brought up Cs before—I know you can do it again. Besides that, honey, nobody is good at everything. And look at this A in math, you’ve always done well with numbers!

I’m so clumsy. I’ll never learn to rollerblade!
It’s tough learning something new. Remember when you first tried to ski, how hard it was? But you stuck with it, and now you’re really good at skiing.

There is real value in discussing positive thinking and self-esteem with your children on a regular basis. Sadly, these subjects are not yet included in the school curriculum. There are good books written for children, as well as adults, that demonstrate the use of positive thinking. Reading a book together is a good launching pad for starting a conversation. Pointing out positive versus negative attitudes from news stories or life stories is an excellent way of showing your children just how this all works in real life, too.

You can find lots of wonderful positive messages here www.greatday.com

Modeling a positive attitude is one of the most effective ways of teaching your children. Children learn what they live. So start presenting your thoughts in a positive way: “Oh well, I burned the dinner — guess that means we get to eat cereal tonight!”

Parents always hope that their children will have a positive outlook on life, but most often how this happens is left to chance. When you take this matter into your hands, and look for ways to guide your children’s thoughts in a positive direction, you will see very exciting results.