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Getting a Child to Cooperate with Requests

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In today’s newsletter, I would like to write about a topic that many teachers and parents are faced with every day when dealing with young children. This topic I will call helping a child learn how to cooperate with requests. These requests, that are usually made by adults,  and therefore have adult expectations, often have to do with the performance of simple chores such as picking up toys, dressing and undressing, washing self in bathtub, brushing teeth, putting clothes away, washing hands,  making the bed, watering plants, helping adults with chores, etc.

As adults, we often take on the assumption that doing chores is a basic necessity of life, and oftentimes we cannot understand when young children refuse to cooperate with simple requests. We have been known to get frustrated when children do not cooperate and we sometimes take on the belief that our child is deliberately refusing to follow our directions, or we take the opposite stance, and we do all the chores ourselves to avoid this type of resistance from children. It might be of interest to find out why a child is refusing to cooperate before taking  on the former or even the  latter stance. The preschool and toddler years are a time when children are learning how to express themselves and interact with others. Their refusal to cooperate is not always a deliberate refusal to follow our directions, but may be due to other reasons. I have seen children ignore requests to do simple chores because:

  1. They have not been given a warning that the adult expects them to stop an activity to comply with the request given. A five minute warning is often good. Then a two minute, then a one minute warning. Transitions are often very challenging for children, and preparation for them often helps immensely.

2. The child might be thinking about something else, and may be immersed in their own egocentric  and/ or imaginative world, and they might have not heard you, or if they did, your voice was quickly ignored. If this is the case, respect their little world, and change your tone, so as not to jolt the child from their reality. Sometimes it is helpful to get down on their level, put a gentle hand on them, establish eye contact and physically connect with them to show you are understanding their need to be in their world, and to show you are also wanting them to do the task at hand.

3.The child might not have understood your request. Sometimes adults forget that children are children and they talk to them and make requests of them as if they were adults, or at best, children who are much older. Try to make your requests as simple as possible, and always on their developmental level.

4. For whatever reason, and sometimes this happens in families, the child might be used to receiving negative attention in the form of scolding or voice raising, and they might connect chores with negativity. If this is the case with your child, the first thing is to examine the general quality of interactions you have with your child, and try to change the negative into positives. This is a good rule of thumb for most every situation in life, really. Being negative has a tendency to darken a person’s outlook on life for children as well as adults.

When giving out a chore, delivery is key. It is important to state clearly what you want your child to do. Keep your phrasing in the positive. Rather than state what you do not want to have happen, state what you do want and where do you want it. Gently and kindly showing a child how to do something is always a good way to demonstrate what the direction is. Remember, though, to provide the minimal amount of help that your child needs in order for them to master the activity on their own. A child derives great satisfaction with their own independence, and in remembering this, you need to not do things for your child, but just give them the assistance they need in order for them to be self competent.

It is important to remember to praise children for their competence in doing chores, even the tiniest ones. This praise needs to be action specific, rather than just “good job”, which is more vague in content and does not necessarily address what the child has truly accomplished.

Be prepared for clumsiness. When your child is first learning an activity, their efforts might not meet your expectations. If you discourage or reprimand your child because it was not done “right”, they may be less eager to try that activity again.

Sometimes children throw tantrums when it is time to do  a chore.  Or they want control of the situation and they want to do it their way. Or they take two hours to do something when you are rushed and need to get out the door in five minutes. Take a deep breath in these situations, so you can remain calm, remember to pick your battles wisely, remain firm and yet kind, acknowledge their feelings, like I wrote about in a previous newsletter, give the child a few choices, praise your child for what they are doing, give them some slack for what they cannot, take another deep breath, and remember that chores are only a small part of life, being patient and loving your child are far more important.

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 So here at Peacock, how has the week been?

In our Infant Room, we welcome one of our infants back from her long vacation. Her happy loving smile was a delight to us all, and especially to our other infant, who was awaiting her return….finally another baby to play with!

In our Toddler Room activities abound filled the rooms. The waddlers’ move down the hallway has been a great success  and has allowed the children much more movement possibilities as well as immediate access to the outdoors space. The children have been sorting and playing with pom poms, scooping and pouring rice and beans, making hand prints that have turned into lobsters, making yellow play dough, practicing holding hands while walking, making jelly fish with dabber pens, reading Eric Carle’s book of colors and singing colors of the rainbow song, playing I spy yellow things, practicing waiting in line, and of course, dancing and dancing and dancing…

In our Green Room the children have been making monsters of one kind and another–stick monsters and monsters that move and scary monsters and downright delightful and friendly monsters. They went to the library this week and read with their reading buddies, and came back happy and bearing stickers that proved they had now big kid friends who read to them. The children have been in major picking mode this week: beans and tomatoes and strawberries and blackberries. They just can’t get enough of reaping the rewards of this bountiful summer sun and popping the tasty morsels in their mouth…

In our Blue Room, K has been for king and kites and keys and kindergarten and kindness. The children made a keys for kindness board, and they painted a sky and  made kites flying in their make believe wind. They made butterflies that flew on the walls, and they created a rocket ship salad and designed their own pizza for lunch. Some of their anxiety and fear of going to kindergarten has been manifested in their social play and the teachers have been wonderful in helping to identify why it is that sometimes when we are afraid of something in our lives, or when a change is about to happen we sometimes need to cling to others more, or get into arguments more or become more moody and sad more or we don’t sleep as much as we need or we don’t eat all our food or we get tummy aches more than normal– These normalizations of behavior have helped immensely to the children who at this time in their lives are needing this calm reassurance that everything will be okay, that change is good and that growing up is not only wonderful, but a natural part of all of our lives.

So, on this note, enjoy your weekends, one and all…

 

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