Write me: rebecca@positive-parents.org

Life would be so much smoother if our children would just cooperate, wouldn’t it? If they’d just listen to us about bedtime, mealtime, chores, etc., and happily comply with our requests, we’d all get along just fine. After all, how hard can it be to eat your vegetables, pick up your toys, brush your teeth, and go to bed? Right?

Unfortunately, the common ways in which we try to force cooperation, such as punishment (or the threat of punishment), nagging, and yelling, actually drive our kids further from wanting to cooperate. Which is why it seems like the more we yell and nag, the more we have to yell and nag.
And while nothing is going to guarantee 100% compliance, there are some things you can do that will greatly increase the likelihood that your child will listen more and want to cooperate with you.
I call these the 3 C’s of cooperation:

1. Connection:
Our relationship with our children is the secret to cooperation. It’s what gives them a desire to please us. Children who feel securely attached are more likely to cooperate simply because they feel close to us. They respect us, look up to us, and want to please us out of that genuine love and respect they feel. I write a lot about connection as I believe it is the single most important key to parenting. If you want to raise cooperation levels, raise your connection levels!

More of my articles on connection:
10 Ways to Connect with Your Child
Connection-Based Discipline
Creating Connection Through Correction
50 Ways to Love a Child

2. Consistency:
There is a calm but firm way to enforce your limits and follow through with your requests. This is not the same as threatening, but rather it is simply taking leadership action. Here are 3 positive follow through options to try:

Positive Follow Through Option 1:
For very young children, I recommend you gently guide them to the toys and point to the mess and then to the bins. This simple directive is easy for young tots to understand.
Stay close and ensure the task is complete, and then thank them! Say phrases like “I appreciate you putting your toys away.” or “That was so helpful. Thank you!”

Positive Follow Through Option 2:
Add a bit of fun to the routine by playing music, making up a song, or asking your child to beat the timer. The more play you can add in your day, the more cooperative your child will become because play is a great way to help them feel connected.

Again, when it’s done, let them know you appreciate their work.

Positive Follow Through Option 3:
My children are getting older now, so when I find toys laying around, I drop them into a marked bin. My bin reads “Put this away please!” There’s no ransom to pay to get it back.
I did say this to my kids: “Whatever I find laying around, I will put in this box for you. Before bed, I need you to please empty the box and put everything where it goes.”

That was it, and they have cleaned out the bin every night.
I’ve also noticed that each day, I’m having to put less and less in the bin. My expectations grow as they do, so when they’re a little older, they’ll be responsible for putting things away quicker, but I’m decades older and still don’t put all my things away as soon as I’m finished. So until I master it, I won’t expect them to. Tidy, not perfect, is my mantra!

However you choose to handle it, be consistent. Don’t ask multiple times. Get up and take a positive leadership action every time after asking once or twice, and it won’t take long for them to get the point.

3. Capability:
Make sure what you’re expecting of your child is something he or she is developmentally capable of doing.

Expecting a 14-month-old toddler to sit through a 30-minute meal and clean her plate is unreasonable. Wanting a 2-year-old to keep his toys cleared away, his room tidy, and the pets fed may be asking a bit much. I’ve seen the chore charts for toddlers on Pinterest! I know some of you are wishing your kids would happily check off their lists, too, but I’m betting the cute and colorful chart doesn’t really inspire any tot.

I once read an article from a mother whose children completed an impressive list of chores each day and I admit it left me feeling envious.

Don’t compare to compete; it’s a trap! Know what your child’s capabilities are and expect no more or less than that.

Once again, I’ve gathered the best posts from my parenting expert and educator friends to help you encourage cooperation from your child, just in case my advice isn’t helpful for your situation or you didn’t find specifically what you were looking for above.

General Cooperation:
What to Do When a Child Won’t Listen by Andrea Nair

35 Phrases for Encouraging Cooperation Between Child and Parent by Ariadne Brill

Why Threats and Bribes Don’t Lead to Cooperation and What to Try Instead by Ariadne Brill

The Secret Art of Playfulness by Andy Smithson

How to Stop Sounding Like an Owl and Create a Blame-Free Home by Prana Boost

Mealtime Cooperation:
15 Transformative Phrases to Use with Your Fussy Eaters by Sarah Remmer

Getting Kids to Eat What the Family Eats Without Battles or Tantrums by Amy McCready

End the Mealtime Battles Once and For All by Nicole Schwarz

Bedtime Cooperation:
This Simple Chart Will Make Your Kid Sleep Through the Night by Kelly Holmes

Head Back to School and Make Bedtime Smarter by Alanna McGinn

Overcoming Bedtime Hassles by Positive Discipline

Cleaning Up Cooperation:
One Tip to Get Your Kids Helping Around the House by Nicole Schwarz

Children, Chores, and Drudgery by Hand in Hand Parenting

Still feeling like an overwhelmed parent? Read this article to chase away the parenting blues!

**This post was originally published at Creative Child Magazine. For more of my positive parenting articles at Creative Child, click here.