Short Phrases Parents Can Use
To Teach Your Child to Cooperate With Requests - Part 2
You are smarter than your preschooler.
But do you ever feel like he or she is outsmarting you? That even the simplest daily tasks can descend into power struggles?
You are not alone.
The preschool years are a time when children are learning how to express themselves and interact with others. Keep in mind that refusal to cooperate is not always a deliberate refusal to follow your directions, but may be due to other reasons. For example, your child may:
Need a 5 minute warning that play time will be over soon (give warnings).
Might be thinking about something else and not hear the request (go close to your child and touch shoulder to be sure you have attention).
Might not clearly understand your request (say what to do in very specific and concrete way).
Might be used to receiving negative attention (lots of verbal interaction and focused parental attention for negative behavior). Refusing to cooperate gets desired attention. This is HUGE, btw, and can happen in the classroom as well.
If you’ve worked through these bullet points consistently, and your preschooler is still saying “no” or ignoring your directions, here are some short phrases to try.
“First _______, then ____________.”
“First you put on your shoes, then we can go to the park.”
“First we get in the car, then you can choose what song we listen to in the car.”
“First you take a bath, then you can pick a book for me to read to you.”
The key here is that once you’ve said it, your have to maintain that expectation. Don’t back down. Take a deep breath and wait. You are smarter than your preschooler.
“Would you like to choice #1 or choice #2?
This is not about whether or not your child has to take a bath, get dressed, or turn off the tv. As the parent, you are setting and maintaining those expectations. This is about giving your preschooler small choices within your stated expectation to unlock a power struggle. It’s one way to let them “have a say” that can encourage them to get moving the desired direction.
“It’s time for dinner. Would you like the blue cup or the red cup?”
“Would you like to play quietly with your toys or help mom cook dinner?”
“Would you like to hold my hand or do you want a piggyback ride?”
“Let me show you how to do it…”
You are your child’s first and most important teacher and you always will be. Remember that you have to intentionally teach him or her what to do. If you child seems unsure of what is expected or does not understand the direction, follow your direction with, “Let me show you how to do it (said in a gentle tone of voice) and provide your child with the minimal amount of help that he need to do the activity.
As soon as you child starts to cooperate, give lots of positive attention by describing what he/she is doing: “Look at you! You are putting your toys away. I like how you are cleaning up.”