Tag Archives: Super Nanny


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.


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:

Only strength can cooperate. Weakness can only beg.

                                                                                                                                             Dwight Eisenhower


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Two things make my advice better then most.  I’ve been there and done that. Many bloggers without professional credentials, who are or have  raised a child or two dispense tea, sympathy, and advice, but also lack a deeper awareness of many problems. Some professionals have dealt with numerous children in their offices or other places of business, but don’t really understand the complexities of being a parent in today’s world.

My advice is better than either because I am both a trained clinician and I have lived with, loved, hated, feared, fed, cleaned up after, wiped tears, punished, praised and worried about hundreds of kids.  Two were my own; three hundred and sixty-six were foster children, mostly teens and all in trouble with the law in one way or another.

Some would think me psychotic to have opened my home to so many others.  Certainly, it was out of the norm, but I assure you I am not certifiable, nor is my husband.  We are more normal than not which means we quarrel, we get down, we love, we hate, we make mistakes, but we function;  we do what has to be done, we keep moving ahead, we keep love alive, we take reasonable care of our health, we are responsible citizens. More proof our sanity: our two sons talk to us and have forgiven our blunders as we have forgiven theirs.  Both depend on us to help raise their sons.

We both left the work world to be special need foster parents, so we could both be part of raising our children.  When we stopped being foster parents, I returned to my profession.  I ran two  group homes and then directed mental health teams aimed to keep kids out of jail and out of psychiatric placement.

Both experiences lead to my personal theory about about theories and advice. Most theories that gain support apply to many people much of the time.  No  theory applies to all the people all the time. Because some apply, some of the time,  none should be thrown out.

I also have developed a super sensitivity to parent bashing.  Most often it is done by offering easy answers to hard problems.  The book Siblings Without Rivalry is my chief example of how parents are held accountable for more than they can be expected to control.  The only way to have siblings without rivalry is not to have a second child and then you will be bashed for having only one child.

I love Super Nanny, but to bring about change, she goes and lives with the troubled parents she seeks to help.  Moreover, I am willing to bet, some families she visits don’t get promoted on her show.  Parenting is hard work, parents do not control all, some advice works for some parents some of the time, but nothing works for all parents all the time.  My professional training means I have lots of different ideas about what might work.  It also means I know when more than good parenting is needed.

What’s a parent to do:  The best advice builds on what you already do that is working, but when what you are doing isn’t working, time to experiment.  Try something new, but also allow some time for it too work.

It also helps to know what is expected behavior for  age and stage of life and to tailor your response to unacceptable behavior accordingly.

Parent Effectiveness Training, one of the best selling parent advice books harmed many as far as I am concerned.  The author promoted the idea that parents should behave like therapists and rely on natural consequences to teach right from wrong.  Here’s the kicker: that only works well for teenagers providing parents have laid the proper foundation.

The short version of  age and stage rules for disciplining are:

  1. Don’t discipline babies.
  2. Keep toddlers safe.
  3. Might makes right once the terrible twos set in and proper use of time-out works best.
  4. Once a child can read, “Lets make a deal” is a good approach–an allowance and other rewards for good behavior.  Loss of privileges, and time in your room for unaccpetable behavior.
  5. For teens, Parent Effectiveness Training’s ideas generally work well.

One other tip, when nothing seems to work, it is probably time to seek professional help and that means starting with a professional evaluation of the child worrying you.