You are tired and frazzled but have managed to get supper ready. The kids have scattered toys, papers, coats, and shoes from one end of the house to the other. You’ve instructed them to pick up and help set the table. They are not responding like you want. What can you do?
Getting children to complete chores can easily turn into a battle of nagging. We tend to get into the habit of nagging when children act as if they haven’t heard us, or we feel a reasonable time has elapsed to complete the still undone job. We can find ourselves spouting orders and feeling like a drill sergeant, or falling into other negative patterns such as yelling, blaming, threatening, lecturing, or name calling.
Skills To Gain Cooperation:Faber and Mazlish* outline the following five strategies:
- Describe what you see or describe the problem: “The toys need put away”
- Give information: “Toys left out can get broken or lost”
- Say it with a word: “Toys”
- Describe what you feel: “I don’t like seeing toys left out”
- Write a note or picture: “Put toys away, after play”. -- Mom
- Offer a choice. “You can pick up toys now or before supper”.
- Use humor. “Toys, what are you still doing out?” Have you lost your way? Billy, the toys need your help to get back to their shelf.”
- Use playful voice: Robot: “All—toys--books--coats--shoes—must be picked up after play.
- Make it a game: “How fast can you pick up? I’ll time you!”
- Play music, sing, dance, and tell stories while you work.
- Credit accomplishments. “You are such a help to me. Thank you.” Give hugs and rewards. “Let’s have 2 stories tonight”.
Acknowledging emotions can help a child feel understood and more cooperative. Children can feel manipulated by any strategy when their feelings are disregarded or the relationship is reduced to a formula (I say this, now you respond).
Building time to enjoy each other can keep a relationship strong. Research indicates that positive experiences with parents enable children to better handle stress and negative emotions.
These components can help us nurture an emotional atmosphere where cooperation can grow and flourish.
Author: Patricia Faughn, M.Ed
University of Illinois Extension
*Source: A. Faber, E. Mazlish. How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, 1980.