Five keys to encouraging cooperation

Some of the most challenging moments with young people have got to be the times when you ask for help with something and then you hear a loud and defiant, “No!” in response.  In times like those, you just wish you could force your kids to do your will.  Unfortunately, if you do force them when they’re little, pretty soon they grow too big to force.  So, I recommend starting out by encouraging cooperation at every opportunity, and then when your kids are big, you’ll already have established a routine of helping each other out.  Here are my top five keys to encouraging cooperation.

1) “Let’s go!”- Instead of asking your child a question that can be answered with a simple, “no,” try directing and inviting, rather than asking.  So, instead of saying, “Jane, will you please put on your shoes?” try saying “It’s time to put shoes on, c’mon let’s go!”  You can also use this technique if you need to leave a store or park, and remember, the more excited you are about leaving, the more effective it will be.

2) I Forget- Young children love to remind and teach adults things sometimes too.  You can use that to your advantage when you want your kids to brush their teeth, put away their toys, or do just about any other task.  And, by asking your child to come up with the correct answer, you’re teaching her to remember on her own in the future.  “Susie, I can’t remember what we do next!  We have our pajamas on and we’ve gone to the bathroom and I know there’s something we’re supposed to before we jump into bed for stories, but I can’t remember what it is.  Do you know?”  I am amazed at how well this can work and how excited kids can be to do chores they otherwise don’t enjoy.

3) Winding up the robot- For clean up time, pretending to be a robot can be tons of fun and can make clean up fast and easy.  Most kids like it best if you pretend they have a big wind up crank on their back.  You wind them up, and they rush through the room picking up their toys.  But don’t forget to sing the praises of the awesome new robot you bought.  The more you talk up the robot, the more likely he is to re-appear.

4)  Scavenger hunt- Want help at the grocery store or collecting the scattered pieces of a puzzle or board game?  Play scavenger hunt!  Make a word list (for readers) or a picture list (for pre-readers) of things that need to be found or collected.  Send your child out into the house with a basket and a list, and voila, you’ll be shocked at how fast they can find the missing puzzle piece.

5) Housework party- Whether it’s cooking, washing dishes, doing laundry, sweeping, washing windows, or any other household task, you can get your child to help out by making it more fun.  First, survey your child to find out what kinds of tasks sound fun and when you find one that your child is willing to help out with, turn on some music, set him up with his supplies and let him go for it!   I’ve found that children are much more willing to help with cleaning tasks when they have gear that’s the right size for their body.  So consider purchasing the best broom for child sizes and a mop, a small spray bottle (filled with water) for washing windows, and even a work smock.  For dusting, a simple dusting mitten (no need for a thumb hole) made out of flannel is fun to wear and even more fun to get dirty!

So those are my top five favorite keys to encouraging cooperation.  I’m curious whether you’ve tried these or if they’re new to you and I hope you’ll share a comment about how they work for you.


Have a super week, Shelly



  1. […] the way, what are the results you’re looking for? Are you hoping for more cooperation? Or to get kids to help clean up? Or do you want them to take more responsibility for their […]

  2. […] is approaching 3, I’ve been getting even more opportunities to help her move from defiance to cooperation. Granted, we’ve done a LOT of work to develop ongoing cooperation already, but there are times […]