Gaining Cooperation with Limits and Listening

About a year ago, Kira (5 at the time) was just not cooperating. Sun would ask her to do something and she’d do the opposite. At one point she just started making a big mess. She was laughing, not in a happy way, but in uncomfortable way. It appeared she was “disconnected.”

I moved in close, established eye contact, and told her it was no longer time to mess, but time to clean up. She laughed a nervous laugh and kept messing. I then picked her up and held her, gently telling her again it was clean-up time. After a few minutes of struggling against me and continuing with the nervous laugh, she started bawling. I held her for a good 15 minutes while she bawled. After she was down she sat on my lap and we had a wonderful conversation. She was great (genuinely happy, cooperative and connected) the rest of the evening.

I’ve also had many instances with Leila simply not wanting to cooperate at clean-up time. I generally use the same technique I described above with Kira — move in close, establish and maintain eye contact, and gently but firmly state the rule. As opposed to Kira, with Leila it’s often necessary to pick her up and hold her, allowing her to release some frustration through a tantrum before deciding to clean up. In each instance, after Leila releases some frustration she’s back to her usual sweet, cooperative self and helps with the cleanup.

–a father in San Francisco

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