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Sarah Rosensweet: How to create “win-win solutions” when dealing with your children

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 Sarah Rosensweet, a peaceful parenting coach, speaker, and educator, we talk about several Peaceful Parenting tools that you can use to get your child to cooperate without yelling.

The strategies that Sarah shares will help calm you down, and calm your children down.

Tags: Sarah Rosensweet

Also in this interview:

About Sarah Rosensweet

Sarah Rosensweet is a certified peaceful parenting coach, speaker, and educator. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three big kids (ages 15, 18, and 21).

Peaceful parenting is a non-punitive, connection-based approach that uses firm limits with lots of empathy.

Sarah works one-on-one virtually with parents all over the world to help them go from frustrated and overwhelmed to, “We’ve got this!”

Read more at her website,, or listen to her top-rated parenting podcast, The Peaceful Parenting Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts!

Sarah offers a free short parenting consultation here.

You can also download a free 21 Day “How to Stop Yelling At Your Kids” e-course that Sarah created here.

Why getting your child’s attention is the first step to getting cooperation

Sue Meintjes: What is your favorite technique or strategy that is working well for you or your clients, for getting kids to listen, or increasing the chances of them cooperating?

Sarah Rosensweet: The first problem we have as parents is that we start off by not getting their attention in an effective way.

They might be engrossed in what they’re doing, and so they don’t actually hear us. They might be too busy playing, and we’re not going over and getting in their face (in a friendly way) and letting them know what our request is.

We want to make sure that we’re going over and getting their attention in a friendly way, and not just calling out from downstairs, or from across the room.

So, it starts with that.

Sometimes they might hear us, but they might ignore us because they want to keep playing. They don’t want to come and get ready for a bath, or they don’t want to come and get ready for school.

Either way we want to start out by making sure that we’re getting their attention in an effective way.

How to create a “win-win solution”, so that you get what you want while your children get what they want

Sarah shares why it is important to understand that your agenda is different from your child’s agenda, and how understanding what you child wants can help getting them to cooperate.

Sarah Rosensweet: What I say to people in my community, or my clients, is that 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.

For example, when one of my sons was little, he loved monkeys. So, I would pretend he was a baby monkey, and climb on mama monkey’s back, and we’re going to go into the bathroom, or we’re going to go up to the monkey house or whatever. Anytime I could engage monkeys into play, because that’s what he loved, he would be much more cooperative.

Or, my other son, he loved this show that was popular when he was little, called Blues Clues. And in the show, they ran around looking for clues on things. So, you could say to him like, “Look for a clue over on the garbage can and go put this in the garbage.” And he would run over because there was a pretend clue on the garbage can.

So, think about what your child’s interests are and try to engage them in play. So that they can keep doing what they love, which is playing, while they’re doing what you want them to do, which is come and get ready for bed, or take a bath, or whatever.

How to stay playful and calm when interacting with your child

Why understanding that your child is doing the best they can and is not trying to give you are hard time can help you feel better and be more compassionate towards your children.

Sue Meintjes: That makes so much sense, thanks. What can we do from a Peaceful Parenting perspective when we are stressed, and it feels like it is difficult to be playful?

Sarah Rosensweet: I think the first thing that you want to do is remind yourself that you know your child is doing the best they can. That they’re not giving you a hard time, they’re having a hard time. They just really want to keep playing, and that they don’t share your same perspective that it’s important to get to bed, or it’s important to get ready for school. And that they do want to be good.

And so, I think it can really help us when we can shift our perspective to not feeling like a victim, or that they’re giving us a hard time, when we can just remind ourselves that they’re acting like children because they are children. The important thing to them is to play. That helps us to shift to be much more compassionate and patient.

How to use the “Stop, Drop and Breathe” technique to calm down when you feel stressed or annoyed with your children

And then, even before that, once you feel that you’re starting to feel annoyed, you might want to just do what we call a “Stop, Drop and Breathe.”

You stop what you’re doing. Drop your agenda. Your agenda might be to try and get them to come to the table for dinner. Put your hand to your heart and breathe, and then maybe you introduce the mindset shift at that point.

“They’re not giving me a hard time; they’re having a hard time. They want to keep playing, and that’s normal.” And then you can introduce the win-win solution.

How to remind yourself to keep calm, even when you are feeling stressed or upset

Sue Meintjes: That sounds good. Part of the difficulty I’ve found is just reminding yourself to do this. I imagine it is just practice - the more you practice the easier it gets.

Sarah Rosensweet: Yeah, it is helpful to practice. And it’s helpful to even put up some signs around your house. Put up some cards or post-it notes or something, just with some of those mantras to remind yourself.

Why sometimes “giving up” is the best parenting strategy

Sarah shares why getting into the habit of asking yourself “How can I say yes to this?” can help your child trust you more, and make them more likely to listen to you when you really need to say no.

Sue Meintjes: I love the idea of Peaceful Parenting. Do you have any more tips for peacefully getting your kids to cooperate and listen?

Sarah Rosensweet: When there is that agenda that you’re trying to get your kids to come along to, or when you’re trying to set a limit, stop and ask yourself, “Is this really necessary? Is this just because I think it’s a good idea?” Or does my child really have to wear their coat even though they said they’re not hot? Really just be mindful of not getting into those power struggles.

Say Stop and train yourself to Stop. And if your child asks you something, “Can we do this?” or “Can I do this?” train yourself to stop and think, “Can I say yes to this?” And sometimes the answer will be no. But it should be a thoughtful no. Because a lot of times we say like a knee-jerk no, without even thinking about it.

The more we can let our child know that we are on their side, that we’re trying to be flexible, that we’re not being arbitrary or power tripping, the more trust they will have in us and the better our relationship will be. And then when there are those times when we just need to say, “You know what, I’m really sorry, but it has to be X, Y, Z,” they will have that trust in us.

It’s kind of like all the times when you’re saying yes when you can, not getting into power struggles, it’s like you’re putting goodwill into a bank account. And when that bank account is nice and juicy and full, you can make withdrawals from it.

Because they haven’t experienced you as arbitrary power tripping, and controlling, when you do have to sort of put your foot down and set a limit about something, they trust you, and they know, even if they don’t agree, that you have their best interests at heart.

How to use the “Delighting in Your Child” technique to build connecting and goodwill with your child throughout the day

I have started doing this technique every day with each of my children, and it is so helpful in creating a positive connection between me and my children.

Sue Meintjes: That sounds good, thanks. Do you have any other tips for “putting goodwill into their bank account”, to help build trust for when you need it?

Sarah Rosensweet: Yeah, for sure. I can give you something really simple, and I can give you something more high-level. The easy version and the advanced version.

So, the easy version is what we call “delighting in your child.” And it’s when you look for these micro moments of connection. Just meeting your child’s eye across the room and giving them a warm smile, or an unexpected squeeze, or a hug when you walk by, or a compliment, or just something very small. Something that just takes one second. But it’s just something you keep in your consciousness.

Tony Morrison, a late American author, says, “Let the love that you feel in your heart show on your face.” And that’s how I think of delighting in your child.

Because a lot of times we’re so busy, and we’re just kind of moving through the schedule and we’re thinking about 25 different things at once and sometimes that can kind of look like our angry face or stressed face, and it really has nothing to do with the kids. And maybe we’re not even angry or stressed. We just have a lot on our plates.

So, if we can just take those few seconds to connect and delight in our child, and just remind ourselves of that throughout the day, that’s sort of the easy low hanging fruit.

How to improve your relationship with your child in just 15 minutes a day

Sarah Rosensweet: And then the gold standard of peaceful parenting, which is harder. Take 15 minutes a day of what we call special time, and you say, “I’m all yours for the next 15 minutes, what would you like to play. Or what would you like to do?”

Ideally you do this every day, but it’s not possible for everyone in every schedule.

It’s not screens and it’s not anything too structured, but it’s just play. My older son who loved Blue’s Clues, maybe we play Blue’s Clues or something like that. Just playing for 10, 15 minutes a day.

How to stay calm and in control of yourself when dealing with your children

Sue Meintjes: Thanks for that, it is something that I am working on with my children. Do you have any tips for staying calm and in control when dealing with your children?

Sarah Rosensweet: Figure out your recipe for self-care or your recipe for calm. Figuring out what you need to show up as your best self. When my kids were little, it was making sure that I got enough sleep and exercise and time alone. I couldn’t always get all those things, but I would always try. But figuring out for you what you need for your recipe for calm and trying to make it happen.

Doing a trade with another parent, or asking for help, or accepting help when it’s offered. Maybe for another person, instead of time alone, it might be social time with a friend, to have a coffee with a girlfriend or something. But whatever it is that you need to do to take care of yourself.

I think that’s one tip for staying calm. It’s hard to stay calm when our resources are low. So just, “What do you need to keep your resources up?”

One thing that I was reading about recently was when self-care is destructive. So, one example that I see with parents is parents who stay up too late because they want that me-time, because they feel like, “Oh, you know, I’ve been doing things for the kids all day. I just need that me-time.” But then they don’t get enough sleep. And so, it’s sometimes the things that you do that feel like self-care that can actually get in the way of staying calm.

So even if it feels like a little bit of a sacrifice, maybe try to at least go to bed early every other night when the kids go to bed.

Action steps

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

  • Next time you want to ask your child to do something, first double-check that you have their attention

  • Make a list of the things your child enjoys, and then try to incorporate that next time you ask them to do something

  • Practice the “Stop, Drop, and Breathe” technique next time your child annoys you

  • Try to “Delight in your Child” at least once a day

  • Download a free 21 Day “How to Stop Yelling at Your Kids” e-course that Sarah created, 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