Cooperation Begins with Trust

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How To Get Your Toddler To Listen and Cooperate (Positive Parenting Examples)

How To Get Your Toddler To Listen and Cooperate (Positive Parenting Examples)

Inside: Understand toddler behavior and learn positive ways to encourage cooperation. Examples of how to use positive parenting strategies to get your toddler to listen included.

One very challenging task in the early years of parenting is finding ways to encourage cooperation and listening. You might find yourself wondering how to get your toddler to listen?

Toddlers and pre-schoolers are notorious for saying “NO!” “I can’t” and “I don’t want to!” especially in moments when we would like to hear “yes mama!” and “OK”

Here’s what your toddler needs you to know:

Toddlers and preschoolers don’t mean to be making trouble.

Young children are curious by nature and even defiant by design!

But this is a good thing.

Young children that are curious, confident and energetic grow into resilient, capable beings.

Getting frustrated with growing children is normal.

There is much frustration for both parents and children in this phase of growth. As grown ups it’s easy to forget what it’s like to live in a world that moves really fast and has a lot of rules that make no sense.

Toddlers are discovering their abilities and excercising how to be themselves. Saying NO to you is all about growing. The more you try to control, the less your toddler will cooperate.

“Do as I say” is a recipe for power struggles.

It is so tempting to rush, nag and demand:

  •  “Come on, get that shoe on now. I really mean it. We have to go.”
  • “Will you please, just put your second shoe on sweet darling!”

The great news:

Yelling, bribes, prizes and constant negotiations are usually ineffective towards encouraging cooperation.

There are many positive ways to help your toddler want to listen.

Young children are wired for empathy and cooperation. Especially if you learn to make requests without resorting to using demands.

A new perspective on toddler communication and cooperation

You can’t actually get your toddler to listen. But you can certainly peak their interest and make them feel ready and able to cooperate.

One positive way to encourage cooperation is to shift your perspective and enter into your child’s world.

Have you tried seeing things as your child sees them?

Have you ever made requests from your child’s point of view?

It’s not about manipulating, bribing, or making silly promises you can’t keep.

Simply shifting your perspective, even if slightly, to frame your request with your child’s perspective in mind.  

Children love to feel capable and cooperative, and it takes just a bit of encouragement and patience on your side to shift from defiance and compliance to communication and cooperation.

One sure way of encouraging more cooperation from toddlers and preschoolers is to make your request irresistible.

One morning my four year old wanted to play a game with me, but I was in the middle of baking. I could have said “ Can’t play the game. Go play on your own for now. I have to bake a cheesecake.” But I know my son would have been disappointed.  What’s more, he would have likely found other ways to get my attention, perhaps by bothering one of his siblings.

The solution was to appeal to his point of view.

“Hey, you wanted to play a game right…Want to play smash the cookies? You can do it from this stool and you get to use MY kitchen tools.”

This was irresistible  to my four year old, and it gave me a way to bake and have some time together.

Yes, there are times  where having quick cooperation and respectful compliance is necessary.

It’s alright to have “non negotiable”  requests based on your family values and needs. Some common non negotiable requests are holding hands in the parking lot, crossing a street and taking medicine.

And here is the thing about these “non negotiable” situations.

If you are after more cooperation and tired of demanding,  and yelling, you have nothing to lose by choosing to find ways to work with your child. 

“Either we spend time meeting children’s emotional needs by filling their love cup, or we will spend time dealing with behaviors caused by their unmet needs. Either way, we spend the time.”
Pam Leo

When you work together, instead of against each other, you are teaching your child that they can count on you.

Your bond is strengthend and cooperation becomes part of your family’s way of getting things done.

These questions may help you encourage more cooperation and make your request irresistible:

  • Is there a way to help my child feel more at ease in this situation?
  • Can I ask my child to make a small choice?
  • What if anything does my child get to control about this situation?
  • How can I phrase my request to make it irresistible?

Aim to talk to your child in a way that let’s them know you have their best interest in mind.

It’s not about giving in, pampering or avoiding conflict.

It’s all about showing understanding, care and concern. You can be firm with your limits and at the same time demonstrate kindness towards your child and their feelings.

When we show our children that cooperating with us is somehow relevant to them, automatically they will be much more receptive to listening to you.

It might sound like this:

“When I finish putting away this laundry we can read the book. Are you so excited to find out what is happening in the story? Me too. Hey, want to put these towels in the bath closet so things go faster and we find out?”

Encouraging your toddler or preschooler to cooperate and listen to your requests often just starts with you being willing to see things from your child’s perspective. 

Additional Resources for Encouarging Cooperation

35 Phrases for Encouraging Cooperation between Parents and Children

Toddler Misbehavior and Defiance Improves with Positive Discipline

Child Discipline: Patience and Warmth are More Likely to Stop Misbehavior Than Threats and Anger

Peace & Be Well,


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