How do I just get my child to do what I want them to do? – now!

It’s so frustrating!  You just want your child to pick up their stuff from the living room floor!  You just want them to hurry up and brush their teeth so you can leave for school on time!  And you want them to do it NOW without you having to repeat yourself for the 10th time!

Well truthfully we can’t MAKE any other human being do what we want them to do!

Not unless we’re willing to threaten some sort of consequence or punishment, and that just results in them dragging their feet and making your life miserable with their bad mood and arguments!  Getting into a power struggle doesn’t work and damages the relationship.  But the good news is:

There are LOTS of great ways to get our children to co-operate cheerfully.

Here are some ideas:

1.       CONNECT WITH THEM before you ask them to do something.

Stop what you are doing, take a big breath to calm yourself, go over to them and find out what they are doing.  See if you can attune to them and how much fun they are having right now.  “Wow you’re really engrossed in that book! What’s happening?”  They are probably absorbed in their world and not aware of your needs for a tidy living room or to leave on time.


Ultimately it’s hearing about the other person’s feelings that really motivates us to change our behaviour and kids are no different.  Telling them how we feel in a non-judgemental, non-blaming way helps them to care about our feelings.  “Honey I feel frustrated when I see your stuff all over the floor when I have just tidied up!”


Sometimes we parents talk too much!  Kids often know our expectations already.  A simple short description can sometimes be enough.  “We need to leave in 5 minutes.”  “The lego goes in the box when you are finished playing.”


No one likes being told what to do, children need to feel they have some autonomy and control over their lives.  Offer choices you are happy with.  “Do you want me to help you put your toys away or can you do it all by yourself?”  “We have to leave now, do you want to skip or run to the car!”

You can also give the child a choice about WHEN they do something rather than insisting on “right now”.  “Do you want to have your shower before dinner or after?”  I will often ask my son “when you get to a good place to stop can you please come and put the dishes away?”  This is simply respectful.


Invite your child into a joint problem solving process.  You can try this in the moment, but it’s also really great to bring up the problem at a different time.  “Honey, you know how when you get home from school you just want to drop your stuff on the floor and play, and I really like having a tidy living room, what do you think we can do to solve this problem?”  Brainstorming different ideas together can be fun and when kids have a say in the solution they are usually much more committed to carrying it out.

6.   PLAY

Everything is easier if it’s fun!  A playful attitude will go a long way towards getting your child to co-operate and avoid power struggles.  Laughter and fun build the connection between the two of you instead of eroding it.


Ultimately the level of co-operation you get from your kids is directly related to how connected to you they feel.  Kids WANT to co-operate when they feel connected to us.  Listen to them when they have a problem, empathise with their big emotions, spend time with them just loving them.   So much of our communication with our children is asking them to “do something”, remember to just appreciate your child or tell them how much you love them.  Take some time to play, laugh and just be together.