Do you think your child is stubborn and uncooperative? Is that making you feel flustered and angry? Read on to find out what you can do to change the situation.
By Susan Philip
A perpetually cooperative child is every parent’s dream. However, it can be a tough dream to realise; for, every child has a mind of his own. But, if we introspect on our approach towards our children and course-correct appropriately, they would be more willing to cooperate.
Let’s begin by looking at the different ways parents interact with their children. Some parents adopt an aggressive approach, where they issue orders and demand unquestioning cooperation from the child. On the other hand, some parents make a request and expect the child to fall in line. Both these approaches can give rise to problems. Being aggressive can turn the child into a rebel who acts defiantly, while being passive can embolden the child enough to ignore what the parents say. In both the cases, the child would end up being uncooperative.
Therefore, it is important for parents to deliberate upon what they should do to elicit their child’s cooperation. Here are some age-appropriate ideas on how you can help your child become more cooperative.
Children in this age group are trying to understand themselves and the world around them. They are exposed to new stimuli and experiences every day. Because of this, they usually do not have the patience to listen to lengthy and complicated instructions or explanations.
This can lead to the child ignoring what is being said or listening in bits and pieces. As a result, the child may be unable to comply with what he is being asked to do, which can make him seem uncooperative or disobedient. Some ways of overcoming this problem are:
1. Make it simple: Give short, clear directions. For example, when your child gets back from school and wants to have snacks, you can say, “Deepa, wash your hands, then have your bhajis.” This will be easy for her to understand and follow. A long explanation about germs and how they can cause illness may not seem interesting to her at that point in time. This can make her ignore every spoken word and reluctant to obey orders.
2. Make it positive: When you want your child to do something you say, do not begin the conversation using negative words. For example, instead of saying, “Don’t go out to play before you finish your homework,” you can say, “Finish your homework and then go out to play.” When you begin a conversation with a negative word like ‘don’t’, your child is more likely to insist on doing what you forbid her. So, use positive words to foster and encourage a cooperative attitude in your child.
3. Make it fun: Children are more likely to cooperate if you make any activity fun for them to do. For example, if your child is reluctant to leave the park at the end of his playtime, you can make things easier for him by saying something which sounds interesting like, “Let’s count the red cars we see on the way home.” Similarly, instead of resisting going to bed, you can make your child look forward to it by establishing a storytelling or read-aloud routine.
Tip: Young children feel intimidated when people tower over them. So, bend down to their level to look them in the eye, call them by name, wait for them to respond, and then tell them what you want them to do. When you have their attention, children are more likely to cooperate.
Your preteen is busy exploring her boundaries. Therefore, she will be less willing to cooperate with you than when she was younger. She will try to resist following your orders or directions. It’s up to you to demonstrate maturity and understanding, and get her to cooperate. Here’s what you should do to make your tween more inclined to cooperate:
4. Be focussed: However busy you may be, focus completely on your child when you ask him to do something. When you give your child your undivided attention, he will gradually get into the habit of focussing his attention on you. This will also help both of you gauge each other’s reaction and modify your behaviour accordingly
5. Be polite: Children have as much sense of dignity as adults. So, when you want your child to do something, tell her so politely. Saying ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’ works wonders. For example, saying, “Please make your bed before you leave for school,” is more likely to be obeyed than, “I’M NOT HERE TO MAKE YOUR BED FOR YOU. YOU CAN JOLLY WELL DO THAT BEFORE YOU LEAVE FOR SCHOOL.”
6. Be ready to listen: Communication is a two-way process. If you want your child to cooperate with you, he should understand that you are willing to listen to him and address his concerns. For example, if your child hates idlis , take that into consideration. Make him a couple of dosas even when everyone else is having idlis. However, tell him firmly that you’re making an exception, and that he’ll have to do his bit by eating everything else without fuss. This way, he will be more eager to do what you want him to.
7. Be willing to let your child take charge: Encourage your preteen to take charge of her own life and actions. If getting ready for school on time is the cause of tussle between the two of you, entrust her with the responsibility of keeping her schedule on track. For example, buy her an alarm clock and, initially, help her get up when the alarm goes off. Teach her to time her activities. After some time, she will be on her own and you won't need to monitor or nag her. Tweens usually feel proud when they are given a responsibility and are more than willing to live up to what is expected of them.
Tip: Develop a collaborative style. Instead of commanding your preteen, participate in activities along with him. “Leela Aunty said that she’ll be visiting us this evening. So, let’s tidy up the house,” is likely to get a better response than, “Pick up your toys RIGHT NOW!” When your child sees you putting away the newspapers and fluffing up the cushions, he’ll see the need to clear away his toys too.
A good rule of thumb is that parents should model behaviours that they want their children to imbibe. While teaching your child to cooperate may seem difficult, it certainly isn't impossible. By observing and connecting with your child, you can very well understand what will work for you and your child.
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