Cooperative Children: 5 Steps You Can Take Today
Before you insist that your child's hearing be checked (again) try some of these simple, intentional techniques to gain the attention, respect, and cooperation of your little darlings. FYI: yelling louder is not on the list.
They are so stinkin' cute and we love them so much! These adorable children are our whole world and we can't imagine our lives without them. Bless their hearts. Bless, bless, bless.
The flip side of these warm fuzzies is the frustration of gaining our little ones' cooperation or, sometimes, just getting them to notice that we are speaking to them. Children and, let's be real here, grownups have selective hearing most of the time. We, as adults, usually respond to others only when it is in our own best interest. We are attentive when we are being offered opportunities that will bring us something yummy or fun, but at other times not so much. Why would our children be different?
Be honest: how many of us pay close attention to the safety lecture on airplanes? Amber alerts on the highway? Announcements in church? Infomercials? Robo calls? Seriously. We expect our children to do things that we ourselves do not do. We want them to be able to turn away in an instant from something interesting and snap to it when we tell them it is time to put away their laundry and yet we probably wouldn't.
Can we respond in the way we expect our children to? More than can we, do we? Hmmm. Well, set that thought to one side. Unrealistic parental expectations is another blog for another day.
Today, we are discussing how to raise the cooperation level in our children. But keep this other topic in the back of your mind. Mull it over. When our children ask us for something we feel perfectly free to say, "In a minute." Or a vague "We'll see." Do we offer the same grace? Can we deliver what we demand of our children?
Anyway, back to the topic. What can parents do today to help their children live in cooperation with the family? There are chores that must be done, homework that must be completed, baths that must be taken, toys that must be put away. This is the reality of life in a home and family. Everyone doing what they can do to make life more pleasant for the whole family is an important part of creating a Harbor Home. How can we help our children learn how to respond to our directions? Let's look at a few tips.
Establish a connection before speaking. Before you give your child instructions or tell them what you expect them to do, make sure that they are paying attention. Move toward them and look at them. Get in their line of sight. Ask for eye contact if needed. Call them by name. Bring them back from their thoughts. Say calmly, "pay attention, please" or "Do you understand what I said?" is helpful. Please avoid the common question, "Okay?" Asking "Okay?" implies that you are asking for input or an opinion. Replace this with "did you understand?"
Firm but kind. Monitor your tone of voice. Do you mostly sound like a hungry drill sergeant? Are you irritated and impatient? Do you shout at the drop of a hat? How do you feel when that happens to you? How do you respond when someone barks an order at you? Think about the traffic cop that belligerently shouted at you to move your car...how did you respond? The airline employee who snapped at you to put your mask back up? Remember that the rule we call "golden" (do unto others...etc.) is for your children as well. Speak to your children in firm but kind and respectful tones. You may be surprised at the results from this single change. You might be utterly shocked.
Limit the number of steps. Remember that children recall the number of instructions based on their age and development. A child aged 2 can follow one instruction: "Put the car in the basket". A child 3-4 years can do two things: "Put the car in the basket then come to the table". The number of steps increase with age, but be mindful about the number of steps given at any one time to a person of any age. When your child gets older you can say, "put your socks away, make your bed, and then come back to me." When they come back you can say, "please sweep the front porch". A long list of unrelated items is challenging for all of us.
Avoid lengthy explanations. Your child is confused when they hear a long explanation about why they need to get a bath early tonight or why the toys need to be on the higher shelf. Explaining about tomorrow's early appointment or your co-worker's nine month old baby visiting later is confusing. Keep it short and sweet.
Use a timer for a reminder. Very often a heads up or a warning will help your child be ready to do what you ask. If chore time, bed time, meal time, homework time, or whatever is coming up, follow steps 1 and 2 and then point out that the timer will be reminding everyone when it is time to jump into action. The younger the child, the shorter the time should be. 2-3 minutes is plenty. For an older child perhaps five minutes. Any longer, and a reset is more challenging.
Children can learn to pay attention and respond appropriately when they are patiently taught to do so. A firm, low tone of voice goes a long way. Stick to these tips and remember them even when your nerves are frayed and your temper is running short. You as the grown up set the tone for your Harbor Home. Your child is watching and learning from you. Teach them well with patience and gentleness. You can do it!