35 Phrases For Encouraging Cooperation Between Child and Parent

35 Phrases For Encouraging Cooperation Between Child and Parent

Positive Parenting focuses on cooperation and solutions.  The following phrases encourages your child and you to work together.

Bonus: The more cooperation, the less likely you are to encounter power struggles with your child.

One component of encouraging cooperation is attuning ourselves to the needs and ideas of our children and finding ways to incorporate these needs into daily tasks.

Especially young children have a strong need to feel involved in decisions.

Allowing space for children to make small decisions also means they will be more likely to listen and follow your guidance when they can’t make a choice.

Just this morning my two year old was washing her hands.

 The water had been running for almost a minute and I really wanted it turned off.

I was really tempted to just shut the water. Yet, knowing just how engaged and happy she was washing her hands and investigating the soap, I asked a few quick questions instead:

“Are you enjoying washing your hands?”  “YES!” “Well,the water has been running for a while.

How about turning it off? Who is going to do it, me or You?

“I do it Self!” came the answer and promptly.

She turned off the water and moved onto drying her hands.  Would it have been faster to just say “Shut off the water!”, well, faster possibly, but likely to disrupt her investigative process and lead to some tears of protest.

This way, with three quick questions we stayed connected, she made her own decision and the water was turned off, which is what I wanted – win, win!

Encouraging a Child To Say YES!

Rephrasing requests of “Because I said so” and “Do it NOW!” with phrases that show interest and encourage a child to participate means you are more likely to gain your child’s genuine cooperation.

Here are 35 Phrases that encourage parent-child cooperation:

  • How can we solve this together?
  • What do you think the problem is?
  • Last time when we did this, what worked? Should we do it the same way?
  • Do you have a way you want to do it?
  • What way would you fix it?
  • Let’s try team work!
  • Can you show me a different way to do that?
  • Do you have any ideas how to solve this?
  • What can we do together to move forward?

phrases for kids to listen

  • I understand. How would you do it then?
  • Can you tell me more about your ideas?
  • Can you tell me more about what you think about this?
  • If we could start over, what would you want me to do differently?
  • If we could start over, what could you try differently?
  • What would you like to do differently?
  • Let’s rewind and try again.
  • Would you like to help me?
  • I see. Now what should be our next step?
  • May I help you?
  • Let’s try this again, this time together.
  • Let’s try this again, can you show me your way?
  • Let’s try this again. This time I will follow you, then you can follow me.
  • How about we take turns?
  • Can you think of a solution?

phrases for kids

  • Would you like to hear my idea?
  • I would love to hear your ideas.
  • Do you have any ideas you want to share?
  • Let’s work together!
  • That might work. Shall we try it then?
  • Anyone want to pitch in?
  • This isn’t working, but maybe together we can think of way that will work.
  • Can you show me how?
  • What if we did this in a different way?
  • What if you tried it like this?
  • Would you like a helping hand?

Additional resources for encouraging cooperation

How To Discipline A Child That Breaks The Rules And Doesn’t Listen

How and When Children Develop Emotional Intelligence and Self-Control

The Most Powerful And Punishment Free Way To Better Behavior

Peace & Be Well,


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Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a Masters in Psychology and is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator. She lives on top of a beautiful mountain with her family, and one cuddly dog.

23 Responses to 35 Phrases For Encouraging Cooperation Between Child and Parent

  1. I have used that question many times. Now my 3 year old’s answer to “who is going to do it, me or you?” is “No one!”. What do you do next with that kind of response?

  2. Hi Amanda,
    if No One! is the answer then I would move into being kind but firm with my request. In the case of the water, “I see you are having so much fun. The water needs to be turned off. So, either I do it, or you. What do you choose?”…hopefully that does it. (For us 99% of the time it does) But, If another NO or no one, refusal comes about, then it’s time to state the limit and follow through. I would use my child’s name to make the connection gently. “Billy, The Water will need to be turned off. I see it’s so much fun but since you did not choose, I will do it now.” Then I would comfort my child in their disappointment. I hope that helps. It’s great to seek cooperation but stating a limit and following through is also perfectly alright – the idea is to stay positive and kind! thank you for stopping by!!

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  4. I have been doing this type of thing since my kids were born. They are now 12 & almost 15. I seldom hear stories of success with tweens and especially *teens*. The changes in the teen years combined with the brain developmental “lack of seeing logic” stage does not mean these things always work or even work most of the time. Things change so much in the 12-14 years and I thought all the attachment parenting and homeschooling and gentle parenting would help us avoid the teen craziness but it does not. Maybe it’s less than what others deal with, and we so far do not have issues with even experimenting with drugs, alcohol, smoking, and sex but wow, parenting a teen is hard stuff. I wish more articles that talk about this would have examples of older kids and teens. However I think they don’t because we parents of teens are just plain worn out by this point. And just when I’m happy that things are going so great something happens that makes me think I shouldn’t have felt so smug.

  5. All of these phases are great!! I have a very independent daughter and have learned to rephrase my parental requests. It takes a lot of practice until it becomes a part of your everyday vocabulary but it works wonders. You have given me some new ones to try, thank you 🙂

  6. Christine,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Parenting teens/tweens is a challenging time in life. It looks as though you have successfully dodged many of the common challenges that teen parents face with problems surrounding smoking, alcohol, etc…That in itself is fantastic, sure tiring and a lot of hard work but give yourself some credit! The Positive Discipline series has a book for Parenting Teens that is very good. Aha!Parenting also has some good articles too. Do you have any specific scenarios in mind that you would like to discuss? please feel free to reply here or email info @ positiveparentingconnection DOT net!!

  7. Angela, thank you for sharing your experience! I totally agree, the more we practice the more it becomes a more natural, automatic mode of thinking!

  8. Another thing I have found that works is to compromise. If they said “No one!” I might say “You are having so much fun with that water, but when it goes down the drain for a long time it gets wasted. Would you like to put some water in some bowls outside?” Then I would put water with food coloring in bowls with funnels, scooper, ect to continue the play. Or just plug up the ink and tell hem when the sink is filled water is getting turned of so it doesn’t overflow.

  9. Hmm, I often get the child-created third choice from my daughter (are you going to wear the blue or pink shirt? and she answers, “purple.”)… asking questions has always opened the door for a verbal battle. Surely there are some kids who just do better with direct yet pleasantly phrased commands? If I ever do the, “since you did not choose, I will do it now,” my kids would be rushing to try to do it ahead of me, grabbing for the faucets to turn them off now that they know I’m going to do it. Especially for my oldest, it’s always been about her wanting to be in control, not only of being the one who makes the choice, but of what the options are as well. I know of a few other people with kids like this, and it is exhausting, and I wish there was more positive discipline info on these kinds of kids, because more talk equals disaster with them.

  10. Erin,
    Thank you for sharing your experience here. There are certainly many children that very determined and would rather make their own choices. In the case you mentioned with the shirt, what about answering “Ok, Purple it is, please dress, meet you at the breakfast table in 5!” Since this choice does not create harm or delay to anyone else? Now, if the purple shirt is washing, missing, or truly not available then i would turn to setting a limit. “You can choose from what is clean. I will give you 1 minute to decide and be right back.” I would leave and come back in a minute. Still nothing? Then don’t engage in the struggle. For that moment in order to keep the day going I would use this great positive discipline tool which is to use 10 words or less “I understand you don’t want to, but please do.” THis means you empathize with their feelings but you still state and keep your limit. Does that help?

  11. I love these ideas and will post them up at home to remind me. I had issues With needing to force dd 2year old into car seat and still do. I tried will you hop in car seat by yourself or mummy helps you in… It worked the first time, but now “I do it” is the reply and then she stalls and walks all over the back seat of the car. I understand I need to set a limit but what should that be? And when?

  12. Ariadne,
    I have the same situation as Erin. My oldest is very stubborn and determined, which makes it very challenging most of the time. Unfortunately, when she’s not in the mood, and obviously it’s unpredictable, solutions you described with the shirt don’t work. More so, when I’d say “I understand…but please do”, the answer I get is “No” with laying on the floor, or couch or her bed. This becomes so frustrating especially when we’re tight on time to get to daycare (she’s 3.2 y.o.) that unfortunately I lose it and then eat myself up with guilt. As Erin said, definitely need more positive discipline targeted specifically for these kinds of kids.

  13. Aliya, word press doesn’t give me the space to answer below your post – I hope you see this!
    I hear you 100%, I know there are times when will against will especially when time is short can be very difficult, tiring and let’s face it – annoying 🙂 Often when children are reacting this way they are feeling disconnected – not just in that moment but in general, maybe days have been rushed, maybe something hurt their feelings and they haven’t had a chance to express it. tools that help re-regulate connection are scheduling a time to be together to do somethingthe child chooses (their idea, their terms as long as it is safe for about 10 minutes to an hour depending on how much time you can) another idea is to meet and talk about expectations. this MAY lead to a tantrum or tears or “I don’t want to talk about it!” – many parents find it helpful to insist on this conversation – it’s helpful to know that it may lead to a meltdown, so it’s important to do it when you TRULY have the time to go through all the emotion from disconnected to mad, to sad, to relieved to finally able to connect and listen to each other. Of course these are just ideas and tools, each family will need to decide if they work for them and so on. I know this is a common concern so I will add to my list of things to write about to make a post of parenting tools for “stubborn” moments 🙂

  14. I just wrote these on my windows as a way to get some of them instinctual in my responses. Hoping they will help me with the negativity my almost 4 year old expresses daily (“I can’t do anything. This is all that it can do. “)

  15. My 12 year son is completely out of control! ! My fiance and I have tried so many different ways to get through to him and he continues to walk all over us! ! He does what he wants when he wants! ! Punishments are a joke to him. He’s not supposed to leave the house, walks right out the door! Stealing, lying, smoking, talk back, he just doesn’t care!!! What do I do? Myfiance is completely done. Wants my son to live somewhere else. My parents can’t take all this on!! Help…

  16. Amy, children tend to rebel against punishment and disconnect from their parents because punishment makes them feel badly about themselves but doesn’t teach them the right thing to do. This isn’t a quick fix, it takes times to rebuild the connection and trust between you and your child, but the effort is certainly worth it. If you want to see big changes, I suggest you stop punishing and threatening and try to focus on solutions. Have a meeting with your son, tell him you want to enlist his help to make things better at home. Start small, solve one problem at a time. Take time to do fun things with your son, even if he is 12, spending quality time with you matters. Finding a parenting class or signing up for individual coaching can help you learn the tools you need to connect with your son and provide him the guidance he needs. Wishing you all the best in your efforts.

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