Improving Cooperation with Your Preschooler

You are over-the-moon excited to find out that you are going to have a sweet little baby; then, all of a sudden, he or she turns three, four or five years old and has a mind of his or her own! What happened to that sweet little child? How do you cope? How do you get your preschooler to cooperate?

We would like to share what we have learned through our work at St. Pius X Children’s Center and through the many continuing education classes that we have attended over the years. With a teaching staff that has collectively over 160 years of early-childhood education experience, we have come up with a few “tricks” of saying what you want in a different way that will help you gain your preschooler’s cooperation.

First, make sure that you say, “Look at my eyes, so I know that you are listening.” Then try wording your requests for cooperation by following the examples below.

  • Instead of saying: Put on your jacket.
  • Try saying: Are you going to put on your jacket by the front door or in the kitchen?
  • Instead of: Drink your milk.
  • Try: Do you want half of a glass of milk or a whole glass today?
  • Instead of: You have five minutes, and then we’re leaving.
  • Try: We’re leaving in five minutes. Do you want to go down the slide three more times or would you like to swing before we go?
  • Instead of: You need to practice your piano.
  • Try: What’s going to work best for you this evening: practicing piano before or after dinner?
  • Instead of: Eat your green beans.
  • Try, before sitting down: Do you want six beans or ten for dinner?
  • Instead of: Oh, stop crying—that didn’t hurt.
  • Try: That must have frightened you.  You’ll stop crying now. Let’s get a cold cloth.
  • Instead of: Stop jumping on the sofa!
  • Try: Sofas are for sitting quietly. Make a good choice now, or the sofa will be closed to you today.


These tricks do not work all of the time, but you can be spared some moments of grief if you think about “wording” what you want differently. Good Luck!


Source: Benedict, Mary, and Sharon Miller. “How Do I Get Cooperation from My Preschool Child?” Connections 2 (Feb. 2016): 3. Print.
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