What a great question about cooperation and consequences. Thanks for reaching out and asking. Perhaps it would be more useful to view your kiddo’s lack of cooperation as an inability to think clearly. We definitely do take the perspective that if a child could, they would, so if they are NOT, then there is some reason why they CAN’T. Because of the way our brains work – particularly the reasoning, choosing part of our brain (the prefrontal cortex), that part functions better when there is more connection.
This is particularly true for young developing brains. The prefrontal cortex is just beginning to come on line at about age 4, 5, 6. We are seeing the first big burst in development. So what that means is that the PFC of younger children doesn’t have as much capacity to stay on-line as say, the PFC of a 30 year old. Their PFC needs more connection to stay on-line and functioning well.
That’s why we have 4 Connection Tools or Listening Tools. It is hugely important that we are filling our kiddos Connection Cups on a regular basis. It’s just a brain-based fact that we will get more cooperation when there is more connection. Regular daily Special Time will fill their connection cup, make their PFC function better and unless there is some disappointment or hurt they are needing to offload, you are more likely to get more regular cooperation.
On our website, you’ll find tons of success stories on what a difference even 5 minutes of Special Time each day makes. Here is a good one http://www.handinhandparenting.org/2009/05/special-time-changes-our-mornings/
Strategically you can use Special Time at the times of day when they seem to be the most distracted or uncooperative. If it doesn’t work to give them each 5-10 minutes individually, you could do some good rough n tumble play time with the 3 of you before you need them to do chores or play on their own.
You are right, you don’t want to always be staylistening. Then you become the limit setting/staylistening police and your relationship is out of balance. You need Special Time and Playlistening during which you take the less powerful role and you follow their lead and you get laughter going so that they then can think and remember the rules because they feel safe and deeply connected.
Whether you think that they are disconnected or they can’t think or they are preoccupied – it doesn’t really matter what we call it – The fact that they are doing something off-track is their signal for help. Help! Help! Help! I need you! I’m off-track and can’t figure this out! The important thing to remember is that this cry for help is not conscious. It is coming from the non-verbal emotional process part of their brain – their limbic system. It’s no more conscious than our car making a ‘decision’ to turn on the oil light. That happens automatically when the engine signals us that it needs help. The same with our kids. Their off-track behavior is a signal that they need help.
So that we feel less at the mercy of their constant off-track behavior, we can step back and become the C.E.O of our family. C.E.O. stands for Chief Emotional Officer. Just like the CEO of a company looks at the day and looks at what their employees need , we can look at our day and see what our kiddos need. Where are the tough spots? Morning? After school? Bedtime? As the CEO, you can make a Connection Plan. What would that look like? 5 mins of snuggles in the morning. Rough n tumble play after school. Pillow fights before bedtime.
I hope some of all that helps, Jenna. As to your question about consequences. We say the best consequence for off-track behavior is always CONNECTION. Connection, connection and more connection.
Lastly… it is almost impossible to give our children all that connection without getting some support for ourselves. That’s why we have our parent-to-parent listening tool of Listening Partnerships. Having someone to listen to you offload your tension and exasperation can help you unload your emotional backpack (limbic system) so that you have more patience and more capacity to connect. Here’s Patty’s story on how Listening Partnerships changed her life. http://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/bad-feelings-dont-make-you-a-bad-parent/
There is more information about Listening Partnerships in the Parent Support Resource Center on this site. https://www.handinhandmembers.org/modules/this-weeks-support-over-the-edge-and-back-again/ and I know there are members here who’ve posted that they are looking for a listening partner.
This is tough work – being the Chief Emotional Officer of our family. If there is anything we can do to support you, please let us know. And when you try putting in some more Special Time and play, we’d love to know how it goes.
Peace & Smiles,
Parenting by Connection Certified Instructor
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