Getting kids to follow directions can be…well, ridiculously hard. It’s one of those unending dramas that depletes your energy and leaves you feeling stressed and frustrated at day’s end.

Are you tired of the daily power struggle? So are we. That’s why we turned to a few child development experts to get some sound advice.

Here are their top six strategies to end the power struggle and inspire kids to cooperate.

There’s some serious wisdom here that any exasperated parent can put to good use.


End The Power Struggle and Get Kids To Cooperate


1. Don’t Ask, Tell

You might think you’ll get a better response from your little one if you ask them politely to do something, but this isn’t the case.

Unlike adults, children simply do not understand that a polite question actually means “I want you to do this!”

So instead of saying, “can you please pick up your toys?” You’ll get a lot more traction by saying “it’s time to put away your toys now.”

Research backs this up. A study of 3-7 year olds found that suggestions like “can you get dressed please?” do not get the same results as clear directions such as, “put your shirt on now.”


2. Be Silly

Toddlers are much more likely to give in to a parent’s wishes when they are being funny.

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If you’re trying to wipe your little one’s face and they are fighting, wiggling, and making it near impossible…try being silly.

Sing a song about wiping a dirty puppy’s face, or tell a story about how all princesses need to be clean to go to the castle.

You’ll find the power struggle stops and your child goes along with the fun.


3. Command Their Attention

Just like your kid will yell “look at me!’ and require you to focus your attention their way before they do a cartwheel, you need to command your child’s attention if you expect them to listen.

If your child hasn’t brushed their teeth after you’ve told them a gazillion times, it’s entirely possible they’re not paying attention and didn’t know you’ve been talking to them.

Research shows that the likelihood of a kid cooperating depends on what they are doing when a parent makes the request. If they are actively looking at you, the chances of their cooperation goes way up.

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So next time you need a task done, be sure your child isn’t engaged in some other activity, make eye contact, and speak directly to your child.

Give a warm up direction, “it’s almost time for bed” and then once they make eye contact give the actual instruction, “it’s time for you to go brush your teeth now.”

In this scenario you know you’ve got your child’s full attention, which makes them a lot more likely to cooperate.


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4. The Choice Trick

There are times when kids do NOT want to be told what to do. It doesn’t matter what the direction is, they just aren’t having it.

That’s where the choice strategy comes in.

Instead of telling your child flat out to do something, give them two options that ultimately end in whatever you want your child to do. This let’s your kid feel like they have some say in the process, and still gets you the result you want.

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For example, if you want your child to get dressed, you can ask “do you want to wear the red sweater or the blue one?”

Usually they’ll pick one and you can move on.

If they refuse to make a choice, that’s your cue to say “then mommy will pick for you.”

Kids usually jump in at this point because having you choose seems like an even worse option. Sneaky, but it works!


5. Have Patience

Kids are a lot more likely to cooperate if they don’t feel rushed. So even though it might feel excruciating to go at the speed of toddler, it will most likely get you better results.

Studies show that children have a hard time with transitions. It is difficult for them to switch from one task to another.

If you expect them to stop playing immediately and move on to something else, you will likely be met with a power struggle.

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However, if you go a little slower and allow a five minute transition period between tasks…your child will respond more positively.

So if you need to leave the house at noon, start your child transitioning ten minutes prior.

Kids like to know what to expect. If you tell them what needs to happen, then don’t rush them and allow them time to move to the next task – they’ll be much more cooperative about the whole thing.


6. Give Specific Praise

Kids want to please you. It’s hardwired into their little brains to try and make you happy.

When they do something well, point out the success and make the praise specific.

A general “you did so good” isn’t going to be enough for them to make the connection between their cooperative action and your compliment.

To be more specific you might say, “ I see you brushed your teeth and put on your pajamas. I’m so proud you did that without me having to ask.”

Kids love meeting their parents expectations. This type of praise will make them a lot more likely to repeat the task in the future.


Practice these six strategies and you should notice the daily power struggle in relationships diminish.

Kids want to please you. They just need a little positive parenting nudge to get them to be more cooperative.


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