Tips on how to encourage your child’s cooperation

As your child grows, and inches towards toddlerhood, they will develop a sense of self-awareness and begin to assert their independence. However, alongside their budding independence, they’re also likely to develop resistant behaviours, non-compliance and defiant reactions. While asserting independence is an essential phase in their growth and development, your toddler’s determination to do things their own way is bound to spark some fireworks. 


In the ensuing power struggle, the challenge for parents at this stage is how to get their child to listen and cooperate. Here are some examples on how to encourage them to do just that:

1. Identify why

There’s usually an underlying reason behind a child who’s acting out or being defiant. For example, they might be seeking attention, testing boundaries or feeling frustrated. Take the time to understand why.

2. Give your child a choice

Instead of giving a command, offer your child a choice. For example, ask them:

“Do you want the green shirt or the red one?”
“Do you want to stay here or go to your bedroom?”


Having choices can help them feel that they are in charge, which motivates them to cooperate. If your child stays quiet or can’t/ won’t choose, you can say:

“Do you want to choose, or do you want mummy to choose?”

3. Make your child part of the solution

When you and your child are faced with a problem, and they are being non-compliant, firstly try to look at the problem with them. Then, identify and state the problem out loud. For example, say, “You’ve made a mess in the living room” or, “You don’t want to eat your food.”  

Next, give them the task of finding a solution, which will give them the sense of autonomy they crave. For example, say, “It’s up to you to solve the problem, let’s think.” Listen to the solutions they have brainstormed, even silly and far-fetched ideas are welcome. Then, help them identity the pros and cons of each solution they’ve come up with, and encourage them to pick a solution.

4. Make it playful

One way to remove your child’s resistance and gain their cooperation is by making things fun and playful. You can do this by turning the task at hand into a game or race. For example, when you want your child to move quickly from point A to B, you can:

  • Race to the finish line

First, determine where the finish line is (eg. the front door or the car) and then, 1,2,3..  Go! It’s best to avoid races between children, but instead make it kids vs adults.

  • Beat the clock

Download a cute timer app (like the Parrot or Mouse Timer) on your phone and use it to set the time to encourage your child to move faster.

5. Talking toys

Rather than commanding your child by saying “Pick up your toys!”, try picking up a toy, animate it and let it speak on your behalf. For example, the toy can say, “Hey! Let’s pick up all these toys together!”


While every parent has to deal with a strong-willed child from time to time, it’s important to note that extreme and ongoing defiance is not typical among children. Should you have any concerns about your child’s willingness to cooperate, do feel free to seek professional help from one of our paediatric specialists. We are here to support you.

This article was reviewed by The Energy Source’s Director, Physiotherapist and Sensory Practitioner, Joanna Hutt.

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