How to Get Your Child to Collaborate With You

It isn't easy to get a child's attention, give them instructions, or making sure they pay attention to you. In this article, we give you four helpful guidelines.
How to Get Your Child to Collaborate With You
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 20 November, 2022

For any parent, it’s often exasperating to try and get their child’s attention, especially when they find themselves competing with a computer screen. They often have to repeat the same message several times or start a discussion with their child on unpleasant terms.

“Everything would be so much easier if they listened to me and did what I asked the first time, but it seems that they only understand when I raise my voice or threaten them”. Have you ever found yourself thinking along these lines? If so, you’ll be interested in our tips to get your child to collaborate with you without the need for you to lose your temper.

These kinds of difficulties are often caused by a lack of understanding of how a child’s mind works. As a parent, you might set expectations that could be unrealistic. You might not know what strategies to use. This makes interactions frustrating for both parties and constant power struggles may break out. Fortunately, there are some alternatives.

Mother talking to her daughter
For a child to collaborate, they must reflect and draw their own conclusions.

Keys necessary for a child to collaborate

Getting a child to listen to you, pay attention to your guidelines, and collaborate with you is no fleeting matter. You must forge a solid relationship with them and establish healthy and positive dynamics that predispose them to develop a positive attitude.

When you want to ask something of your child or correct their behavior, you must ensure that the following elements are present:

1. Connection

When it comes to communicating with your child, you need to connect with them, not just launch orders at them. They must feel safe in the situation and in front of you as their reference figure. If you yell and threaten them, it generates a state of alert in their body that prevents you from connecting and makes it difficult for any learning to occur.

We’re all more willing to listen to someone we know loves us and wants the best for us rather than someone who treats us harshly and disrespectfully. Children are exactly the same. For this reason, you must address them calmly and with empathy.

In addition, you need to validate your child’s emotions. So, before you start correcting their behavior, take a second to show them that you understand why they’re behaving the way they are. For example, tell them “I know you’re having a lot of fun playing with the ball inside the house”.

2. Reflection

Next, you must allow your child to reach the conclusions that you want to convey to them. Instead of giving them a lecture (which won’t really sink in), get them to think for themselves. For instance, say: “What might happen if you play with the ball in the living room? Do you think it’s safe?”

Invite them to search for solutions. As a rule, you probably prevent them from doing what they’re doing but don’t offer alternatives. However, by involving them in the search for options, you encourage them to participate in the solution. For example, say “Where do you think you can play ball without breaking anything?” or “What other games can we play here at home that are safe?”.

3. Firmness

Educating from love and respect doesn’t imply being permissive or weak. Nor does it mean giving in. That said, boundaries are necessary and you need to know how to establish and maintain them. Thus, following on from the previous example, you must remain firm in your rule that ball games aren’t allowed in the living room, even if, at first, your child doesn’t collaborate.

If you allow the boundary to be crossed, your child will be confused and you’ll lose your authority. Standing firm doesn’t mean yelling, losing your temper, or getting angry. It simply means not changing the rules that you’ve established. You understand your child’s frustration, but you lead the way.

4. Repetition

Finally, you must bear in mind that all learning requires repetition. This works in several ways. On the one hand, you may have to repeat the rule several times before your child accepts it. Indeed, it’s perfectly natural that they’ll initially be reluctant and frustrated. They might even cry or try to change your mind.

What’s more important is to maintain this dynamic and repeat it in different situations of everyday life. The goal is for the process of connection-reflection-firmness to become a habit for both of you and for it to be increasingly easier to implement. For this reason, you must persevere and take advantage of every opportunity to reinforce these guidelines.

Father talking to his son
To get a child to collaborate, repetition is necessary.

Getting a child to collaborate means promoting their autonomy

Getting a child to cooperate is extremely different from getting them to obey. The process we’ve described here (although it may require time and commitment, and be tricky to implement) actually imparts critical learning and skills to your child.

First of all, it makes them feel respected and validated by their reference figures. This promotes good self-esteem and emotional management. Secondly, it encourages them to reflect, understand the reasons for the boundaries, and question their behavior. This is much more useful since it allows your child to learn to self-regulate without the need for you to constantly correct them.

Thirdly, it favors a healthy relationship between you. This will prevent arguments from occurring on a daily basis at home. So, make sure you include the above elements in your interactions with your children, and you’ll soon see how they begin to collaborate with you.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Arnal, L. H., Flinker, A., Kleinschmidt, A., Giraud, A. L., & Poeppel, D. (2015). Human screams occupy a privileged niche in the communication soundscape. Current Biology25(15), 2051-2056.
  • Nelsen, J., Foster, S., & Raphael, A. (2011). Positive discipline for children with special needs: Raising and teaching all children to become resilient, responsible, and respectful. Harmony.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.