Expert Parenting Advice
Practical parenting tips and advice from experts around the world

Honoring your child's agenda in order to get what you want

Why honoring your child's agenda makes getting them to cooperate with you much easier.

Earlier today, I sat watching my 4-year-old daughter play with Legos.

It was fascinating.

My daughter was so engrossed in her play. She was building a farm and a shop. And then various vehicles to deliver food from the farm to the shop.

Every now and then, she'd look up, and show me her new vehicle or new expansion to her farm or shop that she had just built.

But then she'd dive right back in, focusing her complete attention on her Lego building.

Taking the time to watch her play, and seeing how focused she was in what she was doing, made me realize how futile it would be to try to get her to do something else right now.

I realized that if I was in the kitchen, and shouting at her to get ready for dinner, that there was no way that she would respond. It would require a lot to wrench her attention away from what she was busy doing, to doing what I wanted her to do.

But isn't that often what we want to do?

When we are busy with our own priorities - making dinner - and we want our kids to cooperate - sit down for dinner - we often forget that they are just as busy with their own priorities - playing their game.

And in their world, their priorities are more important than ours.

I'm interviewing Sarah Rosensweet, the host of the popular podcast The Peaceful Parenting Podcast, tomorrow about how to use playfulness to make getting kids to cooperate easier.

But when I interviewed Sarah about a year ago, she said:

It’s helpful to recognize that your agenda is different from your child’s agenda. Like your agenda is for them to get ready for school or get ready for bed. Their agenda is to keep playing.

And so, what I find works really well in terms of getting kids to listen and cooperate, is to find some way to make it fun or make it a game, or to bring play into the request. In Peaceful Parenting we call that a “win-win solution.” So, you get some of what you want, and they get some of what they want.

Sarah Rosensweet

Honoring your child's agenda, and meeting them where they are instead of trying to force them to meet you where you are, not only makes it easier to get them to cooperate, but it also builds the connection and relationship between you and your child.

In my interview with Sarah, she shares a simple way that you can get your child to cooperate, by using play to create what she calls win-win solutions - you get what you want, but in a way that your child wants.