How to Foster Cooperation from Our Kids

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gilabrown110BY GILA BROWN

After teaching in the classroom for many years, I came to see that I was able to effect more change when working with individual families versus an entire classroom of thirty-two 13-year olds.  Having left teaching almost 3 years ago, I now focus my efforts on helping individual parents take the struggle out of parenting.  Wherever there is a struggle for power, there is always a winner and a loser.  Sometimes parents win; sometimes kids do.  However, by using more effective ways of communicating with our kids, we are able to raise more compassionate, responsible and cooperative kids.   Moreover, we can enjoy our time with them so much more.

Recently, a mom complained that her kids wouldn’t clean their rooms without a fight.  Mom said she was dealing with her own stress, as well.  Her living arrangement and marriage were both in flux and she was starting a new business, to boot.  Coming home to a mess and having to argue to get it cleaned up was more than she could bear.  I asked if she had shared her feelings with her daughters.  The look on her face told me that she had not.

The truth is, kids of all ages want to be helpful.  They want to contribute because it gives them a healthy sense of worth.  It makes them feel powerful to know that they have something of value to offer.  They can also be very compassionate and understanding when they are compelled to be.

The real question is not how to get kids to comply with our requests, but rather why our requests are irrelevant to them.  If we want them to be compassionate towards us, we have to be willing to share our feelings and needs with them.  We also have to be willing to accept it if they are not ready to help us in the way we want them to.  While a clean room will likely make us feel better, the same may not be true for them.

So, how do we talk to kids so that what we have to say is relevant to them?

  • Be honest and vulnerable–   If you need support from your kids, be honest with them.  “Listen, I’m having a really hard time today.  I am feeling very stressed.  If you would be willing to _________, it would really help me out a lot.”
  • Listen– Know that your needs are going to be different than theirs.  In addition to honestly sharing where you are and what you need, encourage them to do the same.  If they’ve had a difficult day or are feeling hurt, lonely or angry, they are likely not going to be in a position to help you.  Take the time to listen and validate where they are.
  • Be willing to accept a ‘no’ answer– If kids can trust that it is OK for them not to be willing to help you, then they will feel validated and accepted.  Ironically, having this freedom will make them more likely to want to give back when you need it.

Taking the struggle out of parenting is just that.  Step away from the power struggle because there is a better way.  Talk to your kids.  Engage them.  Share your feelings with them and give them the opportunity to help you, to be compassionate and understanding – not because you’ve instructed them to be, but because they want to be.  They will surprise you if you give them the chance.

Gila Brown, M.A. is a Child Development Expert and Parent Coach, with over 10 years of teaching experience.  She specializes in parenting school-age children with grace, using principles of attachment parenting, positive disciple and effective communication.   Visit to sign up for a free newsletter.   Print

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.