Creative Child

Phrases that Encourage Your Child to Cooperate

by Rebecca Eanes

It’s so frustrating when we have to tell our kids to do something multiple times. What often ends up happening is we get frustrated, raise our voice to deliver a threat, then the child becomes defiant, and the situation escalates. There is, of course, no surefire way to gain 100% cooperation as children are humans with fluctuating moods and emotions, but our language and approach can certainly help or hinder cooperation. 

When we bark orders, try to coerce our kids, or boss them around, we activate their counterwill instinct. Author Deborah MacNamara describes it like this: “Counterwill refers to the instinct to resist, counter, and oppose when feeling controlled or coerced. It isn’t a mistake or a flaw in human nature, and, like all instincts, serves an important function.” This instinct is beneficial when a child is being coerced by a stranger or controlled by a bully, but it’s frustrating when it comes to doing their chores!

There are a couple of ways around activating this instinct. The first is to develop and maintain a strong connection with your child. Dr. MacNamara says, “Children are designed to be directed by people they are attached to.” If there is a lack of attachment or connection, the child will be more resistant. Therefore one of the simplest ways to increase cooperation is to increase connection. Here are 10 ways to do that:

  1. Let go of distractions and give your undivided attention.
  2. Speak their love language.
  3. Show interest in their interests.
  4. Be an active listener.
  5. Play together.
  6. Take part in family traditions and rituals.
  7. Tell them stories from your childhood.
  8. Laugh together.
  9. Make family night a regular.
  10. Use positive, respectful discipline.


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