15 Techniques to use with children which invite cooperation
1. Give children valid, appropriate and limited choices. Limit use of commands. Offering options gives
the child a sense of empowerment. This works especially well with children who are strong willed and
in need of a great deal of control. Giving choices eliminates power struggles and “NO” answers.
ie: Do you want your milk poured into the green cup or the blue cup?
ie: You may walk to get your diaper changed or I can carry you. (either way, the diaper is getting
ie: Say “It’s naptime” rather than “Do you want to take a nap?” which offers the child the chance to
refuse. Don’t confuse the child by offering choices when the choices should be yours.
2. Build children’s competence and self-esteem. Help them develop responsibility. Allow them to do
small, achievable things to boost their self-confidence and learn the necessary life and social skills.
3. Respect the child and make him/her feel valued and special. Whenever your child misbehaves, the
message you communicate needs to remain the same – “I like you but I do not like your behavior.”
Make sure they understand that they are accepted and loved, but their behavior is not.
4. Use your voice as a tool; speak respectfully, firmly, but gently. Use your “strong” voice…which is a
firm, but low voice, and physically get down on the child’s (eye) level when talking to him/her.
5. State directions, instructions and suggestions in a positive manner. Avoid overusing the word
“no.” Say “No” by saying “Yes.” For example, if a child asks for a cookie too close to lunch time, say
“Yes, you may have a cookie right after we finish lunch.” Another example “Put games on the shelf
when you are done” will be more effective than saying “Don’t leave games on the table.”
Guiding Young Children
Strategies for Communicating with Children in the Classroom and at Home
Compiled by Michelle Moen
6. Give boundaries and stand firm. Children need to know boundaries and that the parent/teacher is in
charge; otherwise s/he will try to manipulate every time. Rules should be enforced consistently.
7. Using language of care and compassion, not blame and shame. Avoid shaming or bribing children.
Do not threaten your child. There is a difference between threatening and offering a consequence. A
consequence is an action which is the result of your child’s behavior. “If you dump all of the toys out of
the box, you will be responsible to pick them up.” Help your child understand that behaviors and choices
8. Have natural and logical consequences. They can be powerful teaching tools. Gently point out what
happened and why. “If you break your toy, you have no toy.” “We must not use marker pens on the
wall. Let’s get some soap and water and I’ll show you how to get the marks off. Then you can color on
paper at the table.” Another example “Oh, oh, an accident. Here’s a paper towel so you can wipe up the
9. Give a limited task. Describe only what needs to be done. It may seem overwhelming to ask a child to
“clean up your room” or “clean up the carpeted area.” It is more effective to assign limited tasks, such
as “Pick up the blocks, please.”
10. Acknowledge appropriate behavior. Use positive reinforcement. Catch your child doing things right!
“I really liked the way you listened. Good listener!” “Thanks for helping me. You’re a great helper.”
11. Forewarn before making a request. Children are generally more cooperative when they are given a
few minutes to finish what they are doing. “In five minutes it will be time to clean up the toys.” Or
“We will leave to go to the grocery store when the next commercial comes on the television. So please
have your shoes on.”
12. Provide interesting, fun and challenging activities and materials. Sometimes children “act out”
because they are bored.
13. Watch out for praise and rewards. Remember there’s a difference between praise and
14. Active listening (affirming what you have heard instead of reacting to what was said.)
ie: “You really want to eat a cookie before dinner.” (affirming) VRS. “Why do you always ask for
cookies before we eat dinner?” (reacting). Reflect the child’s feelings. Be permissive with feelings, but
not with behavior. Say “I understand how mad you feel when Nick grabs the shovel without asking, but
you may not push him out of the sandbox.” Or “I WANT you to have a turn with that toy, but it’s time
to eat right now. You can play with it right after we eat.”
15. End the day on a positive note. Regardless of your child’s behavior during the day, be sure to let your
child know that he/she is special and loved by you. Bedtime is not a good time to rehash the bad events
of the day but rather a time to set up positive, loving communication.
Highly recommended books/resources for adults to read:
How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Siblings Without Rivalry; How to help your children live together so you can live too by Adele Faber
and Elaine Mazlish
Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn
The Natural Child Project: An Urgent Message To Our Readers. Ten Ways We Misunderstand our
Children by Jan Hunt (Search for this excellent article online)
Sometimes I’m Bombaloo by Rachel Vail
When Sophie Gets Angry--Really, Really, Angry by Molly Bang
Mean Soup by Betsy Everitt
References (Excerpts from the following articles):
“Five Strategies to Try Instead of Yelling, Bribing, Threatening, Criticizing, and Punishing: In the Heat
of the Moment (with 2-6 year olds).” By Gail Reichlin in the Parents Resource Network, c. 2003.
“Positive Parenting” by Elizabeth Peterson, published in the magazine EARLY CHILDHOOD NEWS.
Positive Discipline: Appropriate Guidance for your Child brochure by Children’s Home Society of
California .c. 2001.
5 Ways to Set Limits by Eleanor Reynolds