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How to use anticipation to get your kids to cooperate

Why anticipation and expectations are powerful tools you can use to get your kids to cooperate.

My husband Matt told me this slightly sad story from his childhood recently:

You see, in his family they had a tradition that on birthdays the whole family would come together, wake up the birthday kid, and sing happy birthday to him or her.

But one birthday, when Matt turned 10 or so, this didn't happen.

He woke up on his birthday, and lay in bed, waiting for the singing...but no-one came.

Finally, he got up and went downstairs. Everyone was awake. They said good morning...and then went on with their normal morning routine.

"They must be planning a big surprise," he thought.

But then his dad left for work. "He's probably coming back with a big gift," he thought.

But when his mom dropped him off at school, he had to accept the truth: his family had forgotten his birthday!

This day left a big impression on him. Even though they finally remembered later that day, and made a big fuss about it, he still remembers that broken expectation. The feeling of anticipation, expecting to be woken up with birthday song, and then the disappointment.

The thing is that anticipation and expectation are a very important part of any child's life. Children rely on the traditions and routines of your family to know what to expect. And when those routines aren't followed, or when the expectations are broken, it can lead to lots of negative emotions and bad behavior.

But that also means that anticipation is an important tool that we parents can use to get our kids to cooperate.

In my recent interview with Elisabeth Stitt, an ex-teacher with 25 years of experience in education, she shared how to use anticipation to get your kids to cooperate.

She explained how you can use routines and checklists to set your children's expectations to make it much easier to get them to cooperate, especially in those difficult transition periods, like getting ready for school or getting them to bed.

She also showed how you can use anticipation to link certain triggers (like an alarm clock or Amazon Alexa) to physical habits (like teaching your kids to clap) to automatically move their brains out of what they are currently doing (playing) to what you need them to do (getting dressed).

I also appreciated that she shared how to use anticipation when things don't go well, by engaging your kids to come up with their own ideas for making problem transitions easier (which makes it much more likely that they'll actually participate in the solution you come up with).