How to Get your Preschooler to Cooperate with You

Posted by in No-Cry Discipline

It’s no secret that preschoolers crave independence—from picking out an outfit to choosing a snack, convincing your self-appointed “big kid” to cooperate can be a challenge. Learning and using a variety of kid-friendly methods, you can bring about some happy cooperation.

Try some of these options:

  • Offer choices. Allowing your little one to select one of many options can be a win-win situation. By having several options to choose from, your child will feel empowered, increasing the chances they’ll select one and be happy with the decision. For example, lay out several parent-approved outfits in the morning, and have your kid choose a favorite. 
  • Playing to win. Nearly any task can be turned into a game with little effort. Some games can be a one-time fix, while others can become part of your regular routine. Instead of echoing standard “too-serious” parent instructions (that often lead to tantrums), reword your request in a playful manner. Don’t command, “Pick up your toys and put them in the box.” Try this, “I bet I can pick up all the blue cars before you pick up the red cars!” By transforming a mundane task into a game, you’re guaranteed to pique your child’s interest—and even have fun in the process!
  • Engage the imagination. Capitalize on your preschooler’s vivid imagination as a way to thwart negative emotions. Pretend to find a trail of caterpillars on the way to the store, hop to the car like a bunny, or imagine a carrot gives you magic powers as you eat it. Kids love to pretend, and by entering your child’s world and playing along you can prevent daily skirmishes. Make bedtime more exciting with a magical talking toothbrush, or “watch” the toy soldiers march in a parade to the toy box during clean up time. Open your mind to the endless possibilities, and you’ll discover that almost any event can be sweetened with a little imagination.
  • Sing a song. Even if you can’t carry a tune, using a song can bring happy cooperation. Wash your child up to, “This is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands.” Even just humming familiar melodies will lift the mood during a yawn-inducing task. Or, create a particular song to be used as a cue to certain tasks—such as a “clean up song” to belt out when the toys are picked up and put away. The joy singing spreads is contagious so don’t be surprised if your spirits are also lifted during a sing-along with your tot.
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  • Tell a story. Tales can be used to teach a lesson, ward off boredom, or keep your child focused on the task at hand. Share a story with your little one before a big event to let her know what’s about to happen—and to prevent any fussing during said event. Tell a tale about a girl who says “please” and “thank you” at grandma’s house for dinner, and emphasize how proud this makes grandma and grandpa. This is in preparation for an actual visit, of course!

Create a story about a puppy who goes to the doctor for a checkup or a Tyrannosaurus Rex who visits the dentist. Use the story format to teach important lessons about sharing, being kind, being patient or any other life skill you are attempting to pass on to your child.

  • Be silly. Not only does laughter reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and boost your immune system; it makes you feel happy, encourages your child to cooperate with you, and ends fussy moods. Kids don’t require a scripted comedy show for entertainment—any light-hearted banter will do the job. Physical humor, such as pretending to fall, exaggerated speech, or funny accents, often elicits peals of laughter. Being silly—like putting your child’s sock on his hand instead of his foot—will make him giggle and give you the cooperation you desire. Plus, acting silly for your child’s benefit will lighten your spirits as well.

Once you’ve discovered the ease and joy of these many ways to engage your toddler’s cooperation you’ll find your days are filled with a bit more happiness and peacefulness. In addition, you’ll be building a foundation for the relationship between you for years to come.

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