All parents what their kids to do what they ask them to and to have family cooperation. When chores are done, there’s more time for play and quality family time.
But how do we get this when our children seem to resist everything we say?
“Co-operation is a two way street”
Family cooperation means working together. Children don’t blindly obey our orders. We aren’t always shouting orders and telling them what to do. It is a different way of thinking about parenting and it often starts when our kids are young.
How do we change a family that doesn’t cooperate or work together? What can we as parents do to make everyone happier?
The 4 Parts of Family Cooperation
- Mutual Respect
- Active Listening
- Realistic Expectations
- Follow Through
If we want respect from our kids, then we need to demonstrate it to them. Many believe that kids have to respect their elders because they are just that, their elders. Think about it like this…
Children don’t always like their parents, especially if they are in trouble. And there are definitely times that parents might not like their children, especially when their behaviour is challenging, they feel overwhelmed or exhausted. However, respect does not mean liking.
When we demonstrate respect to our kids we speak kindly to them and respond to their unique needs. We keep them in mind when making decisions and involve them when possible. When disagreements occur we work together with our children to come to a solution that whenever possible satisfies everyone involved.
Why do we do this? Because if we treat our children with respect when they are young and learning to how to act in part of a family and society, then they learn how to respect us by copying our behaviour.
“If parents respect their children, children will respect their parents.”
This is very valuable when it comes to the difficult teenage years. Play the long game!
A child who feels respected won’t be fighting against their parents. Family cooperation does not happen in parents and children are constantly arguing and feeling as if one is better than the other.
Active listening is a skill that children can learn and it is a skill that parents can teach their children.
When we actively listen to our children we give them our full attention. We decrease the number of distractions, be physically present when possible and listen not only to the words but listen to hear the underlying meaning:
“I can hear that you don’t want to pick up your toys and I know you are having fun playing. Let’s play together for a few minutes and then we can pack it up together.”
“It sounds like you’re really upset about what happened at school at recess, how can I help you?
“I can understand why you are angry at your sister. I would feel upset too if someone destroyed the puzzle I’m putting together. How about I help you fix it and then I’ll help you talk to your sister about how you’re feeling.
These are just three examples of statements that reflect active listening. They may seem a bit clunky but when you start to speak this way, it gets easier and more natural with the words and phrases you use.
The key to active listening is that there is no assumptions about understanding. We paraphrase what we understand or guess about what is going on for our child and let them correct us if needed.
Teaching our children how to do this means encouraging them to use paraphrasing with us:
“I asked you to do something right now, can you repeat back to me what I said?”
“Do you understand what I meant when I asked you to tidy your room?”
What does listening have to do with family cooperation? In order to have our child cooperate with us, we need to talk to them which means we need them to listen and need to listen to them! Children listen to those who listen to them. Teach your children the behaviour you want them to demonstrate to you and see the benefits as you all begin to work together.
When we talk about creating an environment of family cooperation we have to remember to have realistic expectations of our children, and of ourselves.
This includes the developmental and individual abilities of our children. No matter how much we would like our toddler to pick up their toys without our help, this isn’t always possible. Little kids especially need multiple reminders and assistance. This is normal.
We also have to have realistic expectations for ourselves, and that especially relates to time. We can’t do too much at once. While getting everyone to work together can alleviate the stress upon ourselves, trying to do too much in too little time adds to stress. When we are stressed it is difficult to teach respect and active listening.
As you begin to implement these four components of family cooperation, don’t try and get everything right. You cannot change everything all at once. Choose one thing to focus on, gain mastery on that and then move on. It can take time to change a family environment, but I know that if you keep going you will get there!
Following through with what we say we will do, gives our children a sense of security in their relationship with us. They might not like it. When we are consistent, including with discipline, our children trust us.
We want to cooperate with people who we trust and we feel safe with. Consistency isn’t always easy, our kids might not like it, and we might forget sometimes but if we do our best it will make the difference to the levels of family cooperation.
Remember that family cooperation is also about having fun! Families who cooperate and work together enjoy time together. This could be time at home playing games, going to the park or cooking in the kitchen. Or it could be going on holidays, special outings or surprise picnics in the park.
An environment of cooperation between parent and child creates a foundation for setting up family rules that everyone agrees on. In the second part of this article series I’ll talk about setting up family rules. Setting up family rules relies on family cooperation.
Keep an eye out for the next article!
Do you have a cooperative family? Are you wishing to create one? Put these four steps into your family and let me know how they go. Comment below and share your experiences.