Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

Raise your hand high if you like being told what to do! As an adult, if someone tells me that I MUST do something, I instantly want to do the complete opposite. Even if there are good intentions, what is our reaction if someone offers unsolicited parenting advice? Uhm, excuse me, but I think I know how to parent my own child, thanks. Most of us don’t like being bossed around, not to mention the special sort that like to completely rebel against it. Not that I would know anything about that…


The same mentality applies to children, yet we expect these tiny human beings that are hardly capable of regulating their own thoughts and emotions to follow orders. Sure, the directions may be simple, but it’s still a command. In their little brains, “I don’t want to” is a perfectly reasonable response. Just because you asked doesn’t make it a requirement. And just because you asked nicely, still means absolutely nothing. This is something I remind my husband of regularly. “But I asked nicely!” And? I still don’t want to sit and watch you play Call of Duty. Sorry, not sorry.

Cooperation is much more effective.

Even at Hallie’s early age, I notice that I’m much more likely to get a response if I ask for cooperation rather than obedience. Whether it is helping to clean up or simply getting dressed, when I ask for her help the response is much more positive. A direct command of “clean that up” is likely to result in me chasing my toddler down the hallway as she giggles hysterically. Like “yeah right, mom.”

Redirection is also a handy tool.

Obedience is most often expected when kids are misbehaving. “Stop that” is still a command, and you’re still likely to get a blank stare. Sure, you can threaten with a timeout, but that’s not a permanent solution. As soon as your back is turned, your darling gremlin will be at it again. Redirection gives you the opportunity to discourage one behavior while positively reinforcing another. You have to replace it with something you’d actually like to see, because guess what? Your kid most likely just wants attention. Wouldn’t you rather be congratulating your child on completing a puzzle together than yelling at them to stop throwing blocks? It’s that simple.

Why is it important?

Cooperation is a better characteristic than obedience. Obedience discourages innovative thinking and independence. If your children are constantly relying on you for direction, you’ll both get tired of that quickly. Cooperation is also something that is transferable. If you’re constantly demanding something of your child, you’ll see that at daycare or school, your child will repeat what they’ve heard. They won’t ask to share a toy, they’ll demand it. But if you ask for cooperation, your child will be more than happy to help clean up or play a game with other children. It teaches give and take, and it also teaches responsibility for one’s actions.

Maybe running your house like a military base could work, but obedience is driven by fear, where cooperation is driven by selflessness. Building a support network rather than a command center encourages healthy development, and shows your kids that you’ll be there when they need you. These are skills that do need to be taught, especially when a young toddler can’t connect that they are being punished for not cleaning their room. Or they are refusing on purpose because getting a rise out of you is funny. Asking for cooperation instead of obedience inspires your child to think for themselves, and in this day and age, I can’t think of anything more important.