How to get your toddler to cooperate (in any situation)?

  • Is your child starting to say “no” very often?
  • Does your child insist on something that is literally impossible to perform?
  • Is he angry whenever things do not work out as he wanted?
  • Does he want to do everything alone but looks for your closeness all the time?

If you have answered yes to two or more questions, this is a sign that your child is developing normally and moving from the baby to toddler stage.

He is beginning to realize that he is not an integral part of his parents with his own wants and needs. He is discovering new things once he could not do.

He is excited. He wants to be independent. He is working out who he is.

With all due respect to the excitement and discoveries of your child, transition and rebellion periods are not easy for parents to cope with. However, you should bear in mind that a child who is too disciplined and obedient is more likely to become an adult who is so busy pleasing people around him that he neglects to develop or listen to his own inner voice. This, of course, we do not want.

So we want to collaborate, but we do not want to harm the child’s self-confidence and development of his unique personality.

I have tried to gather here some tips that really help me with my children when they are in different stages of development (and revolt).
Here we go….

Offer your child choices whenever possible

Giving your child options and choices enables him to feel that he has control over his life and not everything is decided for him. This feeling empowers him and allows him to be more agreeable and cooperating.
“Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt?”
“Do you want to start with the swing or the slide?”
“Do you want to go to the bathroom first or should we start with cutting your nails?”

However, don’t formulate a sentence in the form of a question unless you intend to allow a choice. Example: Do you want to go into the bathroom?

If you say no then say what is possible at the same time

When you forbid your child to do something, try to tell him what he can do instead. It is very difficult for a toddler to give up an exciting activity with nothing to replace it.
“I do not allow jumping on the table. You can jump on your bed. Come show me how high you jump on your bed.”
“I do not allow you to hit your brother. Here is a pillow that you can hit and be angry at. Wow how strong you are!”
“Do not throw your car – it’s dangerous! You can throw a ball. Want to throw it to me?”
Remember: children typically find it easier to understand and internalize positive instructions than negative ounces.

Provide a brief explanation for each instruction

Children are very appreciative when we explain why we are doing this and not that, why is one thing forbidden to do and the other permissible. When the world around them is clear and understandable they cooperate more easily.
The explanation should be short and to the point.


“You should go to bed now because your body grows at night. You need enough sleep to be big and strong.”

“We bath our body to be clean. If we do not look after our body, it will be easier for bacteria to make us sick.”

“We wear shoes to avoid stepping on thorns and glass which is very painful.”

Of course, we cannot always provide an explanation but the idea is to respect and talk to them as equals. It is important to give our children the feeling that we do not treat them arbitrarily, that the instructions and prohibitions we tell them are based on logic and reasoning. You will be amazed to know how much they understand at a young age!

Instead of going head to head – use distractions

Sometimes our child insists on something for so long we are sure he will not give up. But with a little creative thinking we can succeed in directing his attention to another matter and save the day!
Suppose you say to your child that it is time to go to kindergarten or school and your child does not want to go. You have asked him several time to come with you but he just dug in his heels: “I do not feel good” or “I hate school”, “I don’t want to go ” and so on.

One option is of course to yell, threaten punishment or take the child by force.
But this is a very unpleasant start of the day for both of you.

Instead, I propose the use of distraction:
“Why don’t you take your favorite game/photo/toy (choose something specific) and show it to the children or the teacher.”
“You know that after school we’re going to a friend you love. I don’t want to be late for work so that we have time to go to your friend”
“Let’s play the disk you love in the car.”
“Want to play the new game we downloaded to my phone? I will let you play with it during travel time.”

Offer him a ladder to climb down from the tree

When your child refuses to cooperate with you and creates a struggle, you should try to provide him an option to withdraw without losing his dignity.
Sounds silly, but you will not believe how it works.
Your child screams: “I don’t want to go for a walk now! I don’t care that you are at the door holding a heavy bag!”
After you have been arguing for fifteen minutes, and your child is covered with tears and does not even remember why he did not want to go in the first place, you have to put your ego aside and help him get out of the hysterics he has created. You need him to agree to join you whilst believing that he did not give up his “principles”.
Try this line of action: “As you do not want to go for a walk, we won’t go. We will just have a picnic in the park.” (This may have been the purpose of your outing in the first place).
“I’ll go towards you. We will not walk but only go on the bike.”
“Lets go for a walk in 5 minutes after you finish watching this program/playing this game/reading your book?”
Of course sometimes nothing helps and then the choice in your hands:
– Take him and go without further argument.
– Or give up.
“We will not go for the walk I had planned because you do not agree to come. But remember, that in future, I may not want to do things you ask me to do for you.”

Inform in advance of transitions (shower time, sleep time, meal time, time out)

For most children transition from one activity to another or from one place to another is not easy. Children are very focused on the present and therefore any disruption to what they’re doing right now creates automatic resistance.
The solution is simple. Give advance warning.
“In 10 minutes we will have a shower.” Remind him after five minutes. “Five minutes have passed so you have another five minutes to play.”
“Are you enjoying your sandwich? Good. As soon as you finish it we will do homework.”

Respect his desire to try to do things on his own

Maybe he does not know quite how to do it. Maybe, it is not for his age. And sometimes it’s messy. But you have to allow him to try doing things alone if he wants to. Allow him to be wrong. Allow him to fail. This is the only way he can learn.

Choose wisely the limits you impose on your child. Choose your battles!

You cannot comment on every action, nor tell him “no” more then “yes”.
A child who always gets negative comments will be frightened and insecure of himself. Therefore pick your battles wisely.
Is it really important that he puts on his sandals and not his shoes?
Is it really terrible that the blanket and pillow are on the floor right now because your child decided to build a house with them?
Can you clean the stain from his face after he finishes playing his game?
Does he have to ask forgiveness from his sister this instant, even though she is already playing happily with the next game?
Let it go. Everything is fine.

Demonstrate cause and effect of his behavior

Instead of threatening with punishment, explain the direct result of his actions.

“If you do not brush your teeth, the bacteria will remain there and spoil them and you will not be able to eat sweets and other treats.”

“If you do not help me arrange your room now, I’ll have to arrange your games by myself and I will be too tired to play with you/take you to the playground.”

“If you will not share your games with your friend when he comes to visit, he will come back home and play with his own games.”

Give your child roles with personal responsibility

It is very important to empower your child and give him the feeling that he is able and that we believe in his ability. When a child receives these messages he will be more willing to cooperate and show us that we can really count on him.
Children love to take part in household tasks.
Let your child take part in the dinner preparations. Let him wash the vegetables, cut them if he is old enough, spice the salad, mix the eggs.
Give him a mission to find matching socks in the wash.
At the supermarket, give him tasks like finding the sugar or choosing the best tomatoes.
He will be so proud of himself and so much more positive.

Be a role model for your child

You cannot say that he is watching too much television or playing too much with the tablet, if you yourself are constantly on the phone.
The most significant education of our children occurs whilst we are unaware of it.
Our children imitate us in everything. So if you ask them to share their games, you cannot refuse daddy when he wants to have a bite from your tiny sandwich…

Use humor as much as possible

Humor is an excellent medicine for many situations, also in our relationships with adults.
Your child is hysterical? He cannot remember why he angry? He is cross with you? It’s time for a little humor on your part.
“Maybe if I tickle a bit here and there …. my stubborn bear will show me a little smile.”
“Sure you do not want to wear these pants? Then maybe I’ll use them as a hat on my head? Is it nice on me? What so you think?”

Tell him every day how much you love him and how much he is special to you

It sounds basic, and maybe even a little forced, but it’s vitally important.

It is not enough that your child knows you love him. He needs to hear it.
A lot.
You want him to be positive and cooperate with you?
Make him feel positive. Remind him how much he is loved and special.
Do not be embarrassed to say “I love you. You are special and unique. You are the greatest gift I’ve ever had”.
He deserves to know the truth, doesn’t he?

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