Engaging Cooperation with our Children

By Abby Bordner

Have you ever noticed that when we, as parents, are patient and balanced life with our children goes smoother? Did you know that 60% of what our children hear from us is TO DO something or NOT TO DO something? Get your shoes on. Come here. Eat. Brush your teeth. Don’t hit your sister. Don’t interrupt. Wait. Clean up. Feed the dog. Put that away. Each request is a possible battle.

It sounds like we are asking a lot of our children! Parents often say they struggle with getting their children to respond when they ask them to do something. Here are some tips for giving our kids directions.

  1. Notice what your child is doing before making a request. When you are interrupted doing something you enjoy, how easy is it to drop everything and reply? Instead of announcing, “It’s time to go” when your child is busy playing with cars and trucks on the floor, sit for a moment and notice how much your child is enjoying the trucks. Then, in a calm voice you say “Let’s park the trucks on the rug before we go.”
  2. Only request what is important to you. Some parents get in the trap of a continuous stream of requests: Don’t touch that. Come here. Be careful. No throwing. Eat some more. Don’t pull on the dog. Stop it. Go get it. Come here. Try to isolate the requests that are most important to you and commit to helping your child follow through.
  3. Be specific. Try not to give vague requests that your child may not understand: Be careful. Don’t be a pest. Be clear and polite: “Please put the blocks in this container.” and commit to helping your child follow through.
  4. Don’t make it a question. Only ask a question if you’re prepared for your child to make his/her own choice: “Do you want to put your coat on now?” “Are you ready to go?” This includes the tendency some parents have to put “Okay?” at the end of a request: “Time to go. Okay?” “Go brush your teeth now. Okay?” This can be confusing to kids about whether the request is optional. When you have a clear request, say it as a statement.
  5. Assist your child until the task is complete. This is an important step for your child to learn to respond when you make a request. Most of the time, young children will need some assistance completing a request. Be patient! When cleaning up, you’ll need to stay close and help. When getting ready to go, you’ll need to participate in the steps of getting ready. Talk to your child about what you are doing. Make it fun. Be kind. Be honest and tell your child if you’re in a hurry or feeling frustrated.
  6. Thank them for working with you to complete your requests. Even if it took a lot of support, your child enjoys knowing it makes you feel good when he respects your wishes.
  7. Help your child make requests of their own. Model for your children that they can ask for help if they need it. Prompt them to be polite, “Mom, can you please help me?” instead of “MOM. MOM. MOM!! Now!!”

Be kind. Be clear. Be helpful. When parents do this, we are teaching valuable lessons.

Leave A Reply (2 comments so far)


  1. Katherine
    2 years ago

    Your ideas are motivational and are inspiring.