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

Sandi and Melissa Schwartz: The "One Minute Miracle" technique to get kids excited about cooperation

This interview is part of How To Get Kids To Listen: Leading International Parenting Experts Reveal Their Best Secrets For Getting Kids To Cooperate, an ebook containing a collection of interviews I did with parenting experts from around the world.

I asked each expert one simple question: What is your best strategy for getting kids to listen and cooperate? and then listened as they shared their best parenting tips and advice.

How To Get Kids To Listen is available for free download here

In this interview with mother-daughter team Sandi and Melissa Schwartz, parenting coaches and authors of the book Authentic Parenting Power, they share what children need to be able to listen, and how to help your child feel empowered.

Sandi also shares a simple "One Minute Miracle" technique that you can use to get your children excited about cooperation, while also building a deeper connection and respect between you.

Tags: Sandi and Melissa Schwartz

Also in this interview:

About Sandi and Melissa Schwartz

Sandi and Melissa Schwartz are a mother-daughter team, supporting educators and parents in understanding the inner world of children and what it is that they need from adults in order to thrive.

Internationally acclaimed authors, coaches and public speakers, they bring new perspective based on current research and personal experience to transform the field of child development.

Sandi received her Master Degree from Columbia University and has worked with children and families for over forty years, bringing a wide range of wisdom to her roles as educator, college professor, and radio show host.

Melissa's expertise is in helping parents and teachers make a shift in understanding children with high sensitivity and sensory processing disorder. She is a Stanford University alumna and a graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

They co-founded Leading Edge Parenting in 2007, co-authored “Authentic Parenting Power” in 2013 and each have their own thriving coaching practices supporting parents and children around the world.

Download a free copy of their book Emotionally Healthy Discipline here.

If your family has one or more highly sensitive and/or sensory children or parents, then check out their Sensitive Parenting program for tools, resources, and support.

Learn more about their work at Leading Edge Parenting

You can also follow them on Facebook.

The "One Minute Miracle" technique to get kids to cooperate without fighting

Sue Meintjes: Let's just start off by telling us more about yourself and your work with parents.

Melissa Schwartz: My mom and I are both coaches at Leading Edge Parenting, which we co-founded in 2007.

We also wrote a book together, called Authentic Parenting Power. I also wrote a children's book for highly sensitive children. So, while we both coach parents, our practices are slightly different.

My mom works with parents of all types of children to help families have more harmony, to help parents get on the same page in how they're approaching their children. She brings the background of her 30, 35-year career, where she was a classroom teacher working in a corporate environment with children.

Sandi Schwartz: Over 50 years in education.

Melissa Schwartz: And my specialty is really with children that are highly sensitive. I work with families who've got either adults or children that have more intense emotions, are a little more reactive, and feel things deeply. So, I work more specifically with the highly sensitive people and highly sensitive families.

Sue Meintjes: Awesome. Did you want to add something, Sandi?

Sandi Schwartz: I want to say that as an educator, a teacher in a classroom, we're never allowed to get really angry, punishing, or shaming. We're not allowed to use discipline strategies that parents have sort of just relaxed into using, because they didn't have to do it any other way.

And so, when I started coaching parents, what I would say to them is, "How is it that a teacher can move 30 to 40 children through a day without relying on the discipline strategies that so many parents fall into using?" There must be something that the teachers know that we need to share with parents.

But even though I knew these strategies, and used them in the classroom, as a parent, when I came home, I was tired and exhausted, and I just wanted my kids to listen to me. So even I, who knew the strategies that would work, would still use some of the “negative” strategies that parents fall into.

And really all these “negative” strategies do is cause everybody to feel disempowered and unappreciated. And it doesn't really build a safe, loving environment for children to grow up in.

So, I like to share strategies that I know work.

And then also suggest to parents that they learn how to soothe themselves. Take pauses. Get out of the thoughts in their minds that “children should listen just because I'm the parent.” It doesn't really work like that.

What we really want to do is teach children to feel their own sense of healthy empowerment, and how good it feels when they are cooperative. That they don't have to grab for power by pushing back at their parents, because they feel like you’re bossing them around.

What children need to be able to cooperate and listen

Sue Meintjes: That sounds really good. So, what is your favorite strategy or technique that's working really well for you or your clients to get kids to listen and cooperate?

Melissa Schwartz: My first suggestion would be to encourage parents to actually reframe the question. Rather than “how to get their kids to listen,” I prefer to think about it as “what helps kids listen” or “what do children need to be able to listen?”

Because really what we see is that children, first of all, have to feel empowered.

If they feel like they're being bossed around or told what to do, or there's a grown-up who doesn't get it, who's making them do something they don't want to do, they are going to push back because they want to feel power.

What we want to do is help children feel healthy power, not this combative power with the adults in their lives.

In order for kids to be able to listen, there are a few general suggestions I'd like to offer, and then I think my mom will give a really nice specific technique that parents can use as a takeaway.

How to stop kids from pushing back when you need them to cooperate

So, when we want children to listen, what tends to work best is if we have really consistent routines.

When children know what to expect, when their day-to-day requests are predictable and consistent, they're much less likely to push back.

For example, if they know that after dinner, they take a shower or a bath, and then brush their teeth and then put on pajamas, and then they read a book and get into bed and cuddle, they're not as likely to push back against the brushing of the teeth because it's part of the routine that they expect to have every night.

Another thing that can be really helpful is to have really clear boundaries with children so that if they do push back, they sort of know how far they can push before there's a consequence. A loving consequence that's tied to the pushing back, tied to the behavior, makes sense to the child, ideally known in advance, and age appropriate.

And that can all be thought of in advance by the parents as well.

Why routines and predictability are so important for kids

Another piece that goes hand in hand with that is that when kids know what's to come, they're much more likely to be cooperative. So again, when it feels predictable, it won't turn into this power struggle, where they don't want to comply because they're looking to feel their own power.

So really the main takeaway I think that's going to help children be able to listen is helping them to feel empowered, so that they don't have to push back against you to feel their power.

Especially with sensitive and strong-willed children, if they aren't feeling empowered in their life, when we ask them to do something, they're going to look for their power by pushing back and saying No. And we can shift that dynamic by setting up these pieces in advance.

In general, when we've got routines that can be in place to help them be more cooperative, they will naturally listen because they're in on it with us.

How to help your kids feel seen and heard to avoid power struggles

Sandi Schwartz: The second half is, now that we have established that children will listen more when they feel self-empowered, and they feel seen and heard, here is a specific example of how a parent can make that happen:

In most homes, one of the big issues can be "It's time for dinner. Stop doing what you're doing and come to the dinner table."

That often creates a power struggle. Parents just want the kids to listen because the parent has worked hard, is exhausted, got healthy food, made a good dinner, and “the least you could do is come over to the table when I tell you to!”

But we want to get away from that thinking and emotional hysteria, which makes us yell at them, and realize that in order for them to be more cooperative, they need to be seen and heard first. That will make them cooperative.

The "One Minute Miracle" technique to get kids to cooperate without fighting

Here's how you do it: say your child is in his bedroom. Instead of shouting across the house from the kitchen, “It's time for dinner. Get off your computer and come into the kitchen now!” which sounds very bossy and not empowering or being seen at all, take one minute to do the following.

Because this one minute will create a miracle for you.

As long as it's safe to leave the food on the stove or whatever you're doing, walk into the room where your child is. In a soft, loving voice, say, “I came in to tell you that dinner will be on the table in five minutes.”

So, first you state what you want them to know. But it's not about, “Stop what you're doing!” You just state what's important to you: "Dinner's on the table in five minutes."

The next thing, which is really important, is to acknowledge that your child is involved in something that's important to them. You can articulate it by saying something like this:

"You look busy. Can I watch you for a minute and see what you're doing?"

Most of the time, depending on their age, I mean, teenagers may not want you to see what they're doing, but most of the time kids will say, "Look, mommy, look mommy, look what I did. I did this, I did that. I did!"

So, the second step is to acknowledge that your child is doing and showing interest, for just one minute.

And then after the minute, the third piece of the strategy is, after you have connected with them by showing legitimate interest, you connect it with what you need to happen.

You can say “This looks so cool. You're so good at that. Well, that's really interesting. I'd love to see more. How about you show me how this works as soon as we...”

Be very specific now. State what you need them to do. For example, you can say "How about you show me how this works as soon as we clear the table after dinner."

It's a three-part strategy that is going to encourage connection, because you acknowledge that their life is important, as important as your life is, and that you are there for them.

And after dinner, you can reiterate, “Let's clean the table because I can't wait to see about that game,” or “I can't wait for you to show me what you were doing.”

And then, don't wash the dishes. Don't tidy up the kitchen. Show the child how important it is that they show you what they're doing. You say, “I got five minutes to watch you. Let's sit down. You show me what you've done.”

And really show interest. Get your head out of all your grown-up things. Really connect with your child. Show interest and appreciate it. And then after the five minutes, say, “I wish I had more time, but it's been five minutes, I'm going to have to go clean up the kitchen now.”

That is a wonderful strategy.

It works the best when you are talking about routines during the day. I'm not talking about in the park or when you go shopping or if there's an emergency. Because if there's an emergency, they have to just listen.

I'm talking about developing a relationship with your child throughout the day, during the routines of what you need to do, where you actually show your child that you care about what they're doing. It's mutual respect.

You tell them what you need from them, but you also see what they're doing and show them that that's important as well. You get much more cooperation that way.

Why connecting with your child makes them more likely to listen when you really need them to

Melissa Schwartz: I want to add one last thought because I think you just touched on something really important, which is sometimes there is an emergency and they do need to listen. "Stop!" "Don't do that!" "Come over here!" And when parents employ these strategies, most of the time children can handle an emergency "Stop, listen, don't do that. Come this way."

It's when everything in life is being given to them like an emergency. When they feel like they're being bossed around constantly, that that doesn't work.

I don't want parents to think that we are saying kids never have to listen.

There are absolutely times where they must listen, "Stop, don't run in the street" or "Look out! There's a car coming!"

And when we generally create this atmosphere of empowerment and connection, they can really handle those moments when they need to listen in the moment, because everything doesn't feel like it's an emergency. It doesn't drown out the urgency of that specific moment when they really have to listen.

Sandi Schwartz: There's so much more we have to say, but I know we have to keep it down to this one strategy.

The most important "mindset shift" parents need to make

Sue Meintjes: You've given a really good example and lots of things to think about. Is there anything else you want to add?

Sandi Schwartz: I think the biggest thing parents need to change is the attitude of "I'm the parent, therefore the child must listen."

That is the basic thing to change: "I'm the parent and I'm responsible, but I also want to, through the 15 years I have them, develop a relationship of trust and that the child believes I'm there for their best interest and that I really, really care about them and that I'm a safe place for them. I'm not just their boss. And that's a 15-year development and it gets developed every day throughout all of our interactions."

Sue Meintjes: Yeah, and I guess it helps to work on creating a strong connection with your child as well.

Sandi Schwartz: Yes. It's not just about listening; it's about creating the kind of connection so that they want to be cooperative.

Sue Meintjes: I like that. Thank you very much for your time. I'm so glad we could have a talk and you gave me lots to think about.

Action steps

Here are my action steps that I got from this interview. I hope you’ll find these useful as well:

  • Think about your mindset around your children - do you believe that they “children listen just because you're the parent?” If so, think about how you can build a relationship of trust with them instead of focusing on dominating them.

  • Where can you help make your child's life more predictable? In what areas can you make your routines more predictable and clear?

  • Instead of yelling at your child to get them to cooperate, try using the "One Minute Miracle" technique, by connecting with them in what they are doing, showing interest, and then coming back to their activity after they've cooperated.

  • Download a free copy of Sandi and Melissa's book Emotionally Healthy Discipline here.

This interview is part of How To Get Kids To Listen: Leading International Parenting Experts Reveal Their Best Secrets For Getting Kids To Cooperate, an ebook containing a collection of interviews I did with parenting experts from around the world.

I asked each expert one simple question: What is your best strategy for getting kids to listen and cooperate? and then listened as they shared their best parenting tips and advice.

How To Get Kids To Listen is available for free download here