Answering a question from a reader of “When Good Kids Do Bad Things.” You write, “…you get nowhere until you learn how to gain your child’s cooperation. What are the keys to gaining a child’s cooperation?”
Cooperation is defined as a “A voluntary arrangement in which two or more entities engage in a mutually beneficial exchange instead of competing.”
The key words are mutually beneficial exchange. You buy cooperation. It is that simple, but you don’t use money, at least not initially. It starts with the caring, the comforting of hunger pangs and other pain, the keeping dry and warm, the cuddling, the back and forth smiles and games. You nurture your baby and baby invests you with power. By the time he or she becomes a toddler you are viewed as the source of much good. Then come the terrible twos and that marks the beginning of some very human behavior–the desire for the power to do what one wants. Temper tantrums are sometimes cries of frustration and then comfort is in order; but if it is a tantrum of defiance you have two tasks.
WHAT IS A PARENT TO DO?
Task number one: Hold to the major rules. As I note often these are safety and respect for both self and others, caring for property, and obeying reasonable laws. The younger the child, the more you have to supervise and enforce the first two. By the time the child is eight, he or she should have enough self control to stay safe and not hurt others.
Task number two: Reward the behavior you want, ignore or punish the behavior you don’t want. Again the younger the child verbal praise is usually the most effective reward; time out can start at about age two. Follow Super Nanny’s time out rules and read One, Two, Three Magic for giving the child an opportunity to elect to behave. Note dangerous or hurtful behaviors and destruction of property call for an immediate time out, not allowing choice.
Try ignoring behaviors that might annoy you but that do not violate the major rules.
Task Three: From eight on up through the teen years, make allowance partially dependent of cooperation. Assign tasks and make getting a full allowance payment for doing assigned jobs. Behavior charts are useful until adolesence, then a more adult work for pay approach works best. Always give some love allowance, but make the rest depend on earning your way.
If money is a major problem, gaining additional privileges can be substituted.
Here is a quote that helps me remember what matters. It reminds me that I do not want my children to be beggars, so it is part of my responsibility to teach them to be cooperative: