Cooperation or Compliance

Frequently, I hear parents complain about how their child refuses to cooperate. One can almost see the anger and frustration wafting off of these parents in regard to their children, children whom they love, whom they currently view as defiant and disrespectful. I understand. Really, I do. There are times when I am really frustrated with my children, or at least our current situation. I am not a parenting guru. This is the point where I say that if anyone ever refers to themself as a parenting guru, you should walk away…slowly, avoiding eye contact, until you feel you are at a safe enough distance to turn and run. Certainly, there are people dedicated to researching child pysychology, realtionships, communication, and so on, who may very well be experts in their field. That is different than a guru, but I digress.

The fact is that I have never met a child, one who was healthily connected and had all needs met, who wasn’t willing to cooperate with a loved one. Yes, I actually said never. “But Mandy,” you say. “You have never met my child.” That may be true. “But Mandy,” you say. “You have met my child.” That may also be true, depending on who you are and who your child is. I stand by my statement, though. As much as we may like to think of our children as unique little snowflakes, there are some things which are just human nature. Working together is a fundamental survival skill.

So that brings us to two points. If your child is, in fact, not cooperating, I challenge you to ask yourself why. People, children included, don’t do anything without reason. We may not always examine our reasons, or perhaps we don’t recognize the reasons, but they exist none-the-less. Is your child feeling connected with you? If not, maybe they need to spend more, or more mindful, time with you. Are all of their needs being fully met? If not, rectify that. Make certain your child’s needs are met. If there is a want mingling in there, explore a little more and see what underlying need is behind the want. You can’t help fix a problem if you don’t know what the true problem is.

Secondly, and one that frequently casts a shadow to the forefront, is that the parent is confusing a lack of compliance with cooperation. When many parents say their child is not cooperating, what they really mean is that their child is being non-compliant, i.e. the child is not doing what the parent wants.  Again, I challenge you to ask yourself why. Except, this time, I challenge you to look at yourself. Are you feeling connected with your child? Are all of your needs being met? As a parent, if is often easy to overlook our own needs, but that can actually be detrimental to our families. We aren’t functioning at our best when we have needs being left unmet.

Of course, the other scenario is a compilation of the two. Perhaps neither the parent nor the child is feeling connected. Perhaps everyone has needs which aren’t being met. If one person has unmet needs, it isn’t so far-fetched to think that an underlying cause may be preventing other family members from having their needs met, too. Regardless of what is going on, let go of the negative thoughts and instead, take a second to mentally explore options, connect or meet needs, andcommunicate with your child. They may just have some ideas to help everyone out.

photo credit: mcdlee via photopin cc

Growing Children

Photo by Rev Stan

When we grow plants, we give them what they need to grow and be successful: sunlight, water, supports, fertilizer, and other nutrients. If they are having trouble growing, we look to see what else they may need or what we need to change. We don’t blame them when they fail. Instead we look at what we need to change. Hurting the plant or putting it away and ignoring would be pointless. We look to what we can change to help the plant thrive. Our success as a gardener is dependent upon whether or not the plant is thriving.

Growing children is not so different. Punishing them doesn’t help them to be better. Hitting only hurts them and our relationship. Putting them away in time out doesn’t address the situation or help them to be better. Growing children have needs that must be met: sunlight, water, nutrients, support, and love. When their needs are met, they thrive and we get to watch them develop and unfurl into the wonderful people they are.
If there is a problem, rather than blaming the child and punishing him, we need to look at what needs are not being met and work with him to help him grow.