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How to use playfulness to get your child to cooperate

Why telling your child what to do creates resistance, and how to use playfulness to "side-step" this resistance and get them to cooperate.

This morning was a disaster.

Usually Sue takes the kids to school, but yesterday she asked me (Matt) if I could take them to school to give her a break.

"Sure, no problem," I said, not expecting any problems. How difficult could it be to get two kids to school?

Pretty difficult, it turns out.

"Only mom can brush my teeth!"

"Dad is useless, I want mom!"

"If mom doesn't take me, I won't go!"

Lots of screaming and tantrums.

Finally, as I was sitting next to the car, my daughter in her car seat (finally!) and my son standing behind the car, refusing to budge, I remembered something that Julie King said when we interviewed her for our book "How To Get Kids To Listen".

Julie King is the co-author of two best-selling books, How To Talk So LITTLE Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7 and How To Talk When Kids Won't Listen: Whining, Fighting, Meltdowns, Defiance, and Other Challenges of Childhood.

In the interview, Julie said:

It seems like the most efficient way to get a child to do something is to tell them directly, "Put your shoes on," "Get in the car," "Leave the cat alone." And the problem is that when we tell them something to do directly, we're working against ourselves because we create resistance.

Kids don't like to be told what to do.

Julie King

Instead of telling kids what you want them to do, Julie recommends rather to simply "be playful".

So, as we were sitting there next to the car, at an impasse, I remembered this advice. Instead of trying to convince my son to get in the car, I thought "What would he enjoy doing? What is something he can do with me that he can't do with his mom? What do I know about him, what does he enjoy?"

It clicked. I took out my phone, and told him that what I really want to do is use my phone's special macro lens to take photos of small things we find on our way to school, because it can take very detailed photos of tiny things.

I demonstrated this by taking a photo of some moss growing on the driveway.

Immediately, he was engaged. All of his reluctance to go to school with me was gone, instantly. He almost pushed me into the car in his haste to get to school so we could find tiny things to take photos of.

Finding the fun, or being playful, works like magic. The only problem is sometimes figuring out how to be playful. Luckily, in the full interview with Julie King, she shares a simple technique to use “playfulness” to get your kids to cooperate, even when you don't feel playful.

She also shares why “playfulness” is such a powerful technique to increase cooperation, and how to use playfulness to prevent tantrums before they happen.

You can find the full interview with Julie King - How to use playfulness to get your child to cooperate (even when you aren’t feeling playful) - here.

Talk soon

Matt Meintjes