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Getting children to cooperate

By Kwach Wakhisi
Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021 00:00 | 3 mins read
Getting children to cooperate.

As a parent, you have most probably faced a situation in which you call out your children to sit and eat their meals, but they choose to concentrate on something else, or ask them to take a shower and they throw all manner of tantrums and refuse to step into the bathroom. They simply do not want to cooperate.

Well, this is something that many parents, especially with toddlers, pre-schoolers and pre-teens have to endure almost every day of their lives.

Toddlers and pre-schoolers are notorious for saying “No!” “I can’t” and “I don’t want to!” especially in moments when we would like to hear, “yes mama!” and “Ok”

Ruth Vusaka, a mother of three children aged eight, four and nine months, says getting children to cooperate is a tough task by itself, which requires a lot of patience.

“A mother’s love is unconditional. I guess children know they can break stuff or throw tantrums among other things and still expect mum will be there.

Children are likely to be uncooperative in the presence of their mothers more than anybody else,” says Vusaka.

“You have to be gentle, but firm. It’s not an easy thing to do, especially when you are tired or have to repeat instructions over and over. Mum rage could check in,” she adds.

Her eight-year-old cooperates more easily since he is a bit grown and understands rules better.

The four-year-old on the other hand is not so much cooperative and tends to copy what her big brother does.

She offers: “My children seem to cooperate better under a routine. Sometimes I have to keep on reminding them to do certain tasks, but this is normal when you are handling children and it calls for a lot of patience and gentleness. 

For some tasks, I wrote them down and pinned on their wardrobe. It’s the first thing my son sees when he wakes up and then remembers what he is supposed to do.  

Written rules

The written tasks include pull back the bed net, spread the bed, draw the curtains, brush your teeth and wash your face.

When it comes to meals, first I alert them that the food is ready. I then serve and notify them that the food is still hot and they should wait a little bit for it to cool.

It’s just a way to prepare them psychologically (especially for my second born) that they have to wind up what they are doing and eat.

I call them to the table and once they are seated, they have to pray first. My daughter has to be urged to eat, especially if it is food that she dislikes such as githeri.

Once they clear their plates, they take them to the kitchen and place them on the sink. It is a rule, which they have adhered to.”

Caroline Bongo, a mother of seven children says getting them to cooperate is a balance between when to play tough and when to lay easy.

“It is not easy to deal with the children, especially when they are much younger. You have to be patient with them,” says Bongo.

The approach

She adds that getting children to do the tasks they are required to do will also depend on the child’s temperament.

“Sometimes, you can use threats and it works like magic and there are those times you will threaten them and they face the wall like nothing happened, hence as a parent, you have to reason with them even if they are on the wrong,” explains Bongo.

According to Susan Catherine Keter, a transformational life coach, children can refuse to cooperate because of the way they are handled (parents being authoritarian, demanding compliance instead of nurturing the spirit of cooperation) like telling them ‘You have to do what I say, now now!!’

“Such an approach creates resistance and defiance.  Also, crushing the spirit of the child through harsh criticism, belittling and making unfair comparisons such as, ‘Mary cooked tasty food today, not like the tasteless food you cooked yesterday’ will only discourage cooperation among them,” says Keter.

Parent’s role

Keter says for parents to get their children to cooperate there has to be healthy communication.

“This means that the parent explains things rather than just making demands and also listens to the children. Addressing them in a calm manner is important.

For instance, ‘Food is ready. Help me to put away these shoes as I set the table so that we can all have supper’ will make the child/children see the benefits of cooperating (being able to eat as they have free time for mum to cook and serve or being able to find items easily as a result of helping to organise the room).

Other ways include use of games and fun to motivate children, doing chores together such as giving a child a pair of socks to wash as you wash clothes or baby’s vests to fold as you fold other clothes.

“It is also important to appreciate and praise children for being helpful.  Also, offer the children choices for example, ‘we need to clean up now that breakfast is over.

Would you like to clear the table or sweep the floor?’ Do not use commands, a harsh tone, criticism and complaints,” Keter says.

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