Are We Setting Our Kids Up to Be Uncooperative?

Parents can get in ruts. That’s true for me and I’m pretty sure it is for you, too.

One rut that is familiar to many is the hurried race out the door because “we’re going to be late!!” Or how about the chaos of bedtime and the barking of orders that can consistently ensue? In our house lately it’s the questioning of completed homework and interrogating of my kids’ screens that is especially exasperating to all involved.

If we were to video ourselves at these times and watch it through the eyes of our kids, what would we see?

We may see a raging maniac or a special operations commando. Although this isn’t our intent, it certainly can be how they receive our efforts.

Our kids, much like us as parents, will not cooperate well with someone who is demanding — at least not for very long. For a child that is more likely to do what they’re told, we may get compliance while their heart and mind are not motivated or engaged. For a child that is more strong-willed, we will most likely get defiance as they sense they have no power at all. This child is most likely to get in trouble and have extra consequences, which often drives a deep emotional wedge between them and the parent.

So how can we engage their minds and their hearts and give them a healthy sense of power and ownership within the boundaries we set? How can we help kids own the process and become more cooperative participants in family life?

  • Plan ahead. Interestingly, most parents act surprised by the daily struggles of family life, even though they are largely predictable (bedtime, waking up, meals, homework, etc.). If we take time to be thoughtful, we can already anticipate 90% of the issues that may occur.
  • Speak calmly. Many times our kids get triggered by our stress and anxiety. Coming into a situation calmly sets your kids up to receive your words in a less threatening way. It also gives them a good model for communicating respectfully, even when they’re stressed out.
  • Ask questions. When we ask our kids questions it engages their brains. Rather than speaking in a demanding tone, ask in a gentle way, “Do you remember the 5 things that happen before bedtime? What do you want to do first to get ready for bed?” Or, “What do you need to do to be successful with homework tonight? Do you want a snack first or do you want to dive right in?”

There is a wide variety of directions the conversation could go from there! That being said, many parents have reported that developing a new pattern of interaction with their kids has made an amazing difference over time. (Yes, it takes time!)

P.S. One of the best ways parents can gain cooperation in the family is by implementing consistent family meetings. You can find more about the power of family meetings here.

Apply It Now

  • What are common areas where your kids struggle to cooperate?
  • If you were to record yourself during these times, what would you see when you played it back? (You can imagine, or try it in real life like this mom did.)
  • Pick one scenario you know is often a trouble spot. What can you do to plan ahead, speak calmly, and ask questions?

Frustrated by constant discipline challenges? Take 15 minutes to read our free ebook When Your Child Misbehaves – Four Strategies for Lasting Change.

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