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Parenting Guide Sheets
13. Thoughts on Misbehaviour

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Page 13B
3. Thinking about Co-operation

Life is about being able to co-operate with others to achieve the goals we have. Children need to learn to co-operate to be able to play with others, and to grow and live in harmony and work with others.    Cooperation means working together. This part considers how we work together with our children to help them produce behaviour that will help them through life well.

It doesn’t mean children do what adults tell them to do; it is all about learning to solve difficulties together.

How much Cooperation Can I Expect?                                                                                  

Babies are explorers, partly to find limits or boundaries.   Babies see themselves as the centre of the universe and don’t know about needs and rights of others, yet every moment you spend with your baby is a chance to show respect and cooperation.

By guiding them you show them possibilities of behaviour. Babies need adults to set limits for them that will keep them safe.

Toddlers still like to explore and are beginning to see the results of actions
                     e.g. I run – you chase / I scream – you cringe / I cry – you hug

Toddlers are beginning to understand parents’ messages about behaviour. Yet toddlers also are learning that they can control themselves – and others!
  e.g. they may refuse to do what you ask / do the opposite of what you ask / say no

Toddlers are encouraged  to cooperate by positive activities that build independence and self esteem.  Toddlers are still ruled by emotions

Preschoolers find reason starts to play a part in their behaviour and they have the ability to avoid unwanted consequences.

To encourage cooperation give clear simple rules and explain the consequences of breaking the rules.  They won’t always understand your expectations so growth in cooperation will require patience.

The more they grow, the more you may expect cooperation from them.

How can I help my Child Co-operate?

When we have a problem with our child we need to decide how to deal with the problem.  We will  consider this under the area of discipline, but here we look more behind what is going on. This involves various considerations or possibilities

Decide Who Owns the Problem

To decide this ask the following 4 questions:
- Are my rights being disrespected?
- Could anybody get hurt?
- Are someone’s belongings threatened?
- Is my child too young to be responsible for the problem

Assessing your answers:
- If the answer is “yes” to any question it is YOUR problem
- If the answer to every question is “no”, your CHILD  owns the problem

When the PARENT Owns the Problem

With babies and young toddlers parents own most of the problems
    e.g. a wet nappy on a baby is the parent’s problem, i.e. only the parent can deal with it
    e.g. a year-old cries because it is hungry. Only the parent can alleviate that.

Consider the following ‘developing’ situations that are owned by the parent and consider why is it the parent’s problem and what can they do?

e.g.1. Child and graffiti
         - 2 year old child is found colouring on the wall
e.g.2. Child hurting another
       - 3 year old child is found pulling the babies hair
e.g.3. Child refuses to get dressed in morning
       - 4 year old child then delays over breakfast. Mum is late for work.
e.g.4. Rudeness to Mum
       - 5 year old child is rude to friend about Mum. Mum feels demeaned.
e.g.5 Trouble on the Bus
       - 6 year old child is causing trouble on the school bus each day.

When the CHILD Owns the Problem

Consider the following ‘developing’ situations that are owned by the child and consider why is it the child’s problem and what  the parent can do to help?

e.g.1.  Cat makes child upset
         - 2 year old child loves the cat but the cat keeps running away and so child cries
e.g.2.  Wanting friendship
         - 3 year old child wanders into living room where older brother is studying and feeling bored demands he plays with them
e.g.3.  Toys taken
         - 4 year old child is playing with friend. Friend takes favourite toy. Child cries.
e.g.4.  Nobody likes me
         - 5 year old child declares no one likes them at school
e.g.5.  A School project
         -  7 year old child looses some pages of a school project because their room is so messy

How can I help my Child Co-operate to Solve Problems

If you own the problem you need to take action to change the situation
    i.e. you will take the initiative to direct change

If your child owns the problem you might
a) want to let your child handle it or
b) help them solve it
              i.e. you will take the initiative to help your child face the problem and where possible let them work it through

When there is a problem you might:
- Ignore the Problem
- Use Reflective Listening (see Page 19)
- Use an I-Message (see Page 18B)
-  Help see the choices and possible consequences

The way you handle the problem will probably depend on
- The child’s age (and your awareness of their developmental level)
- The type of problem
- How often the problem happens