10 Powerful Phrases for Toddler Cooperation When They Don’t Listen

mother tidy up the toys with her daughter.

Parenting can be a challenging journey, especially when toddlers seem to have a mind of their own. Getting them to cooperate can feel like navigating a maze. However, fear not!

We’ve compiled a list of 10 powerful phrases that not only encourage cooperation but also make the process enjoyable for both parent and child.

These tactics leverage a child’s natural inclination towards play, choice, and imagination. Let’s turn the struggle into a game and make those everyday tasks a breeze!

1. Offer Choices

“Would you like to put on your shoes first or your jacket? You get to decide!”

Providing choices empowers a child by giving them a sense of control. This fosters independence and decision-making skills. When they choose between options, it transforms a mundane task into a personal decision, making them more likely to cooperate willingly.

2. Create a Challenge

“I bet you can brush your teeth even faster than I can count to ten. Ready, set, go!”

Turning a task into a challenge introduces an element of fun and competition. Children love to showcase their abilities, and by framing a task as a friendly competition, you’re tapping into their natural desire to succeed and be praised, turning the activity into a positive experience.

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3. Turn it into a Game

“Let’s see who can clean up the toys the fastest. On your mark, get set, go!”

Games make everything more exciting! By turning a task into a game, you’re not only making it enjoyable but also encouraging a child’s creativity. The focus shifts from the chore itself to the imaginative play associated with it, making cooperation a delightful adventure.

4. Use Positive Reinforcement

“Wow, I love how you put away your toys! Can you show me how fast you can tidy up the books too?”

Positive reinforcement involves acknowledging and praising a child’s efforts. By praising specific behaviors, you reinforce the idea that cooperation leads to positive outcomes. This creates a positive association with the task, making them more likely to repeat the behavior willingly.

5. Make it Exciting

“Guess what? It’s time to wash our hands and make bubbles! Who can make the most bubbles?”

Injecting excitement into routine tasks captures a child’s attention. Associating mundane activities with something thrilling, like making bubbles while washing hands, transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary, making cooperation a joyful experience.

6. Be Playful

“I need a super helper to put the groceries in the bag. Can you wear your superhero cape and help me out?”

Playfulness engages a child’s imagination. By incorporating elements of play, you’re making the task seem less like a demand and more like an opportunity for fun. This not only encourages cooperation but also strengthens the parent-child bond.

7. Offer a Timer Challenge

“I wonder if you can get ready before the timer beeps. Let’s see how fast you can be!”

Setting a timer creates a sense of urgency and adds an element of structure. This not only makes the task feel less overwhelming but also transforms it into a race against time, appealing to a child’s natural curiosity and desire to accomplish tasks quickly.

8. Turn it into a Race

“I’m going to the kitchen, and you’re going to your room. Let’s see who gets there first! Ready, set, go!”

Framing a task as a race taps into a child’s inherent desire for movement and adventure. It turns a potentially tedious activity into an exciting challenge, promoting cooperation as they eagerly participate in the “race” to completion.

9. Use Imaginary Play

“Imagine you’re a detective on a mission to find all the missing socks. Can you help me locate them?”

Children love to engage in imaginative play. By incorporating a narrative or role-playing into a task, you’re transforming it into a captivating story. This not only captures their interest but also makes the activity more enjoyable and memorable.

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10. Express Empathy

“I know it’s hard to stop playing, but we need to leave soon. Can you help me by putting your shoes on so we can go together?”

Recognizing and acknowledging a child’s feelings fosters a sense of understanding and connection. By expressing empathy, you’re showing that you value their emotions, making them more likely to cooperate out of a sense of shared understanding and mutual respect.


Parenting is an adventure filled with twists and turns, and these powerful phrases can be your secret weapon. By turning everyday tasks into opportunities for choice, play, and imagination, you’re not just getting your child to cooperate – you’re creating lasting memories and building a foundation of positive engagement. So, gear up, embrace the power of play, and turn those moments of resistance into cherished moments of connection and joy!


Picture of Nefise Sh. Dogrusozlu

Nefise Sh. Dogrusozlu

Nefise is a rewarded content creator and honored master degree clinical psychologist, specializing in CBT and EMDR therapy. She is renowned for her work with children affected by natural disasters and autism.

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