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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Strategies for Developing Cooperative Children

There are lots of ways to develop cooperation in children.  Here are a few that I have found that work for my family.  Maybe they can work for your family too!

1.  Give Your Child Choices:
Allow children to make choices throughout the day.  The key is to offer a) real choices and b) choices where either option is o.k. with you.  For example:  If you want your child to eat vegetables you can ask:  Would you like to have carrots or cucumbers?  There really isn't a choice if you ask:  Do you want to eat your vegetables or go to time-out?

2.  Build Intrinsic Value for Positive Behavior:
External motivators have a time and place.  Every parent (at least every parent I know) uses bribery every now and then.  And that's ok.  But, I think it will serve your child better in the long run if you connect feelings to behavior.  For example:  "Child" do you see your brother crying?  He feels sad because you hit him.  How does it make you feel when you see your brother crying?

3.  Connect your Child to Something Greater than Himself:  I think its human nature to place ourselves at the center of our lives.  Even though I Love Jesus with my whole heart, I have to remind myself to place HIM in the center.  Children also need a connection to something greater than themselves.  For Example:  "Child" you know what the right thing to do is in this situation.  We love Jesus so we do the right thing even when we don't want to. (I would probably follow up with:  How did it make you feel to do the right thing?)  You can also connect your child to your family - You're a (family name) and (family name) does the right thing.

4.  Acknowledge your Child's Feelings:  Little people have BIG feelings.   A lot of times they just want to have their feelings recognized.  They often don't even need them validated.  Kids are quick to move on if they think they've been heard.  For example:  As the child comes screaming and crying to mom - Mom can simply ask:  Why are you crying?  Or, Are you sad?  What happened?  Do you feel better now?  Most of the time, the child will be better in seconds. :)

5.  Practice Self-Control:  Explain to your child the definition of self-control.  (Not doing something when you really want to do it).  Practice self-control when everyone is in a really good easy-going mood. For example:  I like to practice when we're walking into a store, library, playland etc...  I explain to my children that I know that they want to run, but we are going to walk and hold hands in order to practice our self-control.  I give lots of praise when they do a good job.

6.  Develop Gratitude:  I think the happiest people are ones that are thankful for what they have.  I think its important to develop this trait in children. 1.  So, I try to state out loud all day long things that I am thankful for.  For example:  When I walk out of the store and the sun is shining I would say:  I am so thankful for the sun.  It feels so good on my face.  Or if it is raining, I might say:  I am so thankful I have tennis shoes and wore them today.  Now I can run really fast to the car and not get too wet.  2.  Have your children state a few things they are thankful for each night.  We do this when we say our prayers.

7.  Make Children Aware of the Consequences for their Behavior:  If a person knows what the consequence is for a certain behavior he may choose to behave differently.  For example:  "Child" do you understand that if you continue to cry at the store we are going to have leave the store to take a nap?  Or, do you understand that if you both continue to fight over that toy I am going to take it away?  Or, do you understand that if you don't wear your helmet I am going to take all the "wheels" away for the rest of the day?  Repeat until the child responds with "yes".

This list is just a beginning.  There are a lot of ways to help your children learn to willingly cooperate with you and the rest of the world.  What strategies do you use?

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