An uncooperative child can be a nightmare!
Be reassured, most parents and care providers have been there. Meals, getting dressed and of course above all, bedtime, can all stretch your patience as your recalcitrant child uses every trick in the book to make your life difficult.
So, here are some top tips to help.
Make sure they heard/understood
To be fair to kids, their attention focus is usually much sharper than that of an adult and they may simply not have registered what you said.
Your “time to clean your teeth now” was never going to be as likely to catch their ear as the noises they’re making playing with their toys.
Be sure to catch their eye and make your request directly.
Be clear to differentiate between a suggestion and a requirement
Most younger children will naturally defer to their parents. Yet we also all try to encourage our children to think for themselves and evaluate – where appropriate!
Do therefore distinguish between a request where they have choice such as “do you want to play with your dinosaurs” and situations where they have none. In other words, say “please go and clean your teeth now” rather than “would you like to clean your teeth now please”.
Younger kids may not have yet developed the linguistic skills to easily distinguish between polite ambiguity and a genuine instruction. So be clear.
Explain why their cooperation is in their best interests
Views here as to best practice can vary considerably, so this is our opinion only.
It can be risky to make a child’s compliance conditional upon a treat. Most specialists would therefore argue against bribery of the “take your muddy boots off now and I’ll give you a sweetie” variety.
The reason for that is simple – kids are smart. They’ll learn quickly that if they don’t do something then they’re likely to get a treat for eventually conceding and doing it. Use this one sparingly or you’ll be held hostage!
Equally though, try to avoid the “because I said so” routine, which can become authoritarian and destructive.
Instead, look for a middle ground. Try explaining at the same time as your request, why you wish the child to co-operate. You shouldn’t concede your authority but explaining why it’s in their best interests to do so often hugely helps in getting their cooperation.
Make it fun
There will be things your child wants to cooperate with and things they don’t.
For the latter category, try and make it a joke and horse around a little. Laugh and joke about bedtime, put on a special ridiculous bedtime hat and so on.
It can work wonders.
Sometimes we hear parents describing their child in the above terms, often meaning they find it a struggle to get their child’s co-operation.
In many cases, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy where the parents expect trouble and the child obligingly delivers it. For example, some children can be difficult at home but behave admirably in child care centres.
There are techniques available to help break out of this “no, I won’t” cycle and we’d welcome the chance to discuss these with you as part of our services.
In fact, in our experience genuinely and consistently un-cooperative children are found only very rarely. In such unusual cases, the support of a professional may be required and again we would discuss such recommendations with parents.
However, in the vast majority of cases, children are just waiting to co-operate. You just have to find the right buttons to push!