Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Less Complaining, More Cooperating

Positive Parenting Solutions is a newsletter I subscribe to that always seems to hit at the right times.  Whether I'm stuck in a parenting rut, have had it up to my eyeballs with discipline, or just need a reminder that I'm doing a good job, this newsletter seems to hit the spot.  

The current issue was too good not to share.  If you're a parent, you will surely appreciate the daily test of patience.  How many times do you have to tell your children to do something before they finally listen?  Do you feel like you're becoming Head Nag of Team Witch?  I sure do.  I'm anxious to try the helpful 5-steps they provide.  

Five steps for less complaining, more cooperating

We’ve all been there. You tell your kids to clean your room, and you can actually see their expressions glaze over. Remind Jacob to do his science homework, he rolls his eyes. Tell Emma to set the table, and the whining starts before you can hand her the forks.

You’re not alone if you find yourself wondering when your kids signed up for Testing Patience 101. But these misbehaviors aren’t something they picked up at school. Surprisingly, it’s our own habit of bossing our kids around that sometimes brings out frustrating actions on their part. After all, how would we respond if we had someone following us around and telling us what to do all the time?

While there are times when our kids just need to be told what to do, there is also a direct link between the amount of ordering, directing, or correcting we do and the amount of misbehavior we get. From toddler to teen, children are hard-wired with a need for independence. As a result, our well-intentioned reminders and instructions garner natural pushback as our kids attempt to retain their autonomy. The result is an unwanted power struggle between parent and child.

So what is the alternative? After all, the homework has to get done, and our kids need to learn to help out around the house. The five strategies below are designed to help eliminate the complaining and jumpstart cooperation.

Create routines for tasks that occur daily or weekly. Then stick to them. If Jacob knows that his homework must be done each night before he can play video games or watch his favorite TV show, you won’t need to give him a daily reminder.

Change your phrase by asking questions instead of giving directions. Replace “don’t forget to start your book report!” with “which book did you choose for your report?” Making the switch to a question prompts your child to think through her answer, and it also shows that you trust in her to have taken the action on her own. If she hasn’t actually started yet, it also gives her the opportunity to quickly develop a plan. Regardless of her response, you achieve the peace of mind that she is completing her report without robbing her of her independence.

Consider cooperation instead of directing, reminding, or correcting. Rather than simply telling Emma to set the table – which would be about as productive as asking the table to set itself – include her in the decision process by suggesting the action and explaining why it would be helpful. Try something such as “Emma, dinner is taking longer than expected to make. It would be a big help if you could set the table.” While this strategy might not lead to instant cooperation on their part, your kids will soon begin responding positively as you change from commands to language that supports their need for autonomy.

Clarify the consequences of your child not completing an assigned chore or task. This acknowledges that you can’t force your kids to do something, but that you can control how you respond to their action or lack thereof. Begin by deciding and explaining to them what you as the parent are going to do. For example, tell your children that you will do laundry on Mondays. If their clothes aren’t in the hamper, they will have to either wash the clothes themselves or wait for the next laundry day. If Monday comes and Ava’s smelly gym clothes are in her backpack instead of the hamper, you can bet that once she discovers her mistake just before gym glass, she’ll get it right next time.

Choose to smile as you incorporate these techniques. Even if you have to fake it, smiling changes communication completely: smiling while talking leads to calmer tone of voice and decreases the likelihood your statement will be received as a command. Need help remembering to plaster on a grin? Add a smiley face note to your mirror, the fridge, your dashboard – anywhere you’re likely to face a power struggle. You’ll be surprised how quickly this little technique improves cooperation within your family!

Changing our own behavior is the most important step in putting an end to our kids’ misbehavior. By following these five strategies, you will see fewer power struggles in your home – and that means less eye rolling, whining, and tantrums. Instead, you’ll find more cooperative kids who might even surprise you by lending a hand without being asked!

Looking for even more strategies to get kids to cooperate without nagging, reminding or yelling? Join us for a free webinar on Sunday, October 14 at 9 PM Eastern.

Click here for more information.



  1. I needed this! I'm a big bossypants, order giving, stern momma. I get eye rolls every second of the day! Thanks for sharing!

  2. We're just now having to think about how we want to discipline Anna, and it's hard! Today her teacher told me she's the kid that takes everyone's cup (milk) regardless of if she has one, what kind theirs is, etc, and asked me how we discipline her at home when she does things like that ... I just stared blankly for a few minutes because obviously she doesn't have another toddler to steal anything from at home and has never really done anything "bad" ... mostly we're just teaching her safe behaviors (don't free fall off the couch, turn around and scoot off). So, tThis is great and I'll keep it in my back pocket, I am sure I'll need it sooner rather than later! (PS - if you have any suggestion on how to keep her from being the class cup theif, e-mail me, ha .. and we're going to Boca Friday for the first leg of our weekend away before Baby : ) )

    1. I wish I had all the answers. I think the best answer will come in about 6 months! You learn from your surroundings and adapt accordingly. Her teachers at school should be reinforcing that right now and when it presents itself at home, you can address is then. Enjoy Boca! So jealous!! Love the idea of enjoying it while you can (:

  3. Great suggestions - always looking for more positive options. Yes, I often feel like the head Nag on Team Witch myself. :)