7 Parenting Techniques to Get Toddlers to Cooperate

Taming a toddler is one of the great challenges of adulthood – they sometimes don’t listen to reason, and the more you try to coax them to eat, sleep or take medicine, the more of a fight they can put up.

However, you may have to think a bit differently if you want to have less of a struggle with your little one. Experts have looked at this subject for a long time now, so here are seven tips from various sources to help you out (and preserve your sanity)…

1. Say it Out Loud

The CBC recently published an article citing a recent study that states if you can get your toddler to promise something out loud, they’re much more likely to cooperate. The research, done by Brock University in Ontario, gives examples of things kids can say – including “I promise not to repaint the walls of my room with fluorescent markers.”

The study included 99-children under the age of 5, according to the source. The kids were placed in a room and asked not to look at a stuffed animal behind them. While 80 per cent of them couldn’t resist the urge to take a look, once they made a verbal not to, to cheating rate dropped to 58 per cent. “When you say something our loud, it becomes a part of yourself and your commitment,” it notes.

2. Be Specific

Parents.com has a list of ways to make your young one more cooperative, without the use of bribes. One of the methods includes being calm and direct in your instructions to them.

For example, instead of saying, “I want to leave the house now,” which may be lost on a toddler as to what the next logical move should be, you should get down to eye level with them and calmly say, “Please put on your coat and hat,” explains the source. Don’t forget to thank them for doing so once they complete the task, it adds.

3. Outline Consequences

Penn State explains that children as young as 2-years can begin to understand “simple reasons”. With this is mind, you can tack on what will happen if they don’t follow the rules – an example given by the source is when you’re telling them to stay away from the stove, also remind them it’s hot and can burn them.

In a way, you could look at it as a way to show them the benefits so your toddler is not just hearing a demand. Another example is instead of just telling your toddler to clean up their toys, you can remind them they could trip on them and hurt themselves.

4. Relationship before Request

This technique outlined by Psychology Today explains a great way to get a toddler to cooperate is by engaging with them before issuing your request. It’s sort of like engaging in small talk with your boss before asking for a raise.

The source says there are a few ways to implement the “relationship before request” method, such as asking to join in their activity (if they’re playing a game), or asking them where they want to put their toy for the time being before you all have to go out (essentially giving them some control).

5. Give Them a Challenge

This may seem a little counterintuitive, because a challenge is essentially what you’re trying to avoid. However, this follows the principle of letting your children have some control over a situation and to be in charge, which can go a long way to encourage cooperation.

Lifehack.org says letting your little one tackle small challenges – for example putting on their shoes and climbing into the car seat by themselves – gives your toddler a chance to “prove how smart and capable” they are. You can motivate them with a little push, like questioning whether they know how to put on their shoes on and then acting surprised (and offering praise) when they accomplish it.

6. Show Empathy

Kids don’t often respond well to angry demands, and this can actually lessen the chance of them following your lead. The Natural Child Project says that a variety of elements can lead you to be short with your child – you may be stressed or tired or programmed how to respond during your own upbringing – but it’s more helpful to “step back and consider a more positive approach,” although admittedly it’s not always easy.

Instead of saying “no” to a child for the sake of saying no (because you’re the parent and you can), try to offer a “thoughtful explanation” as to why your child can’t engage in particular behavior, offers the source. For example, if your child is trying to climb on something at a store (even if there’s no real danger involved), be honest and tell them why you’re really saying no – the store staff might get annoyed with them if they don’t get down. “Respectful, empathic approaches do require more time, energy and creativity from parents, but surely our children deserve such care from us,” notes the source.

7. Only Ask Once

Lifehack.org notes that a common mistake in parenting is to repeat a request to a child several times when they don’t seem to be responding in the way you want. “Your child heard you the first time, and by repeating yourself, you’re simply training her to stop listening and wait for you to get frustrated before she acts,” notes the source.

Your child is testing you to see what makes you tick and how to get what they want, all the while when you’re trying to get them to do what you want, notes the source. “Don’t fall prey to their cunning,” warns the site. They will eventually move on to other areas of learning after they’ve failed to get around your rules, so maintain clear boundaries, it adds.

Jeff Hayward

Jeff Hayward

Jeff has more than 15 years of experience writing professionally about health, travel and the arts among other subjects. He continuously looks to improve his own overall health through exercise, diet and mindfulness. He is also a proud stay-at-home dad that loves taking photographs both professionally and as a hobby.