Mandy Stopard

Child behaviour specialist

Child Behaviour Blog

‘When…. then…..’: a positive way of gaining cooperation

Gaming video games concept, excited boy playing football game with joystick and headphones, enjoying win while sitting on sofa in living room at home

The ‘when…then….’ strategy is a way of gaining cooperation from your child. When they have done as asked they get something they want. It’s a positive consequence for cooperative behaviour and works more effectively than taking something away in a negative fashion.

The child might be refusing to move on from a nice activity to something which they don’t see as pleasant, a task you want them to do. ‘When…then….’ is about making it worth their while and letting them know there will be something nice happening when they take that dreadful ‘doing as asked’ step! Keeping things ‘light’ in this way, rather than threatening to take something away or using some kind of isolation such as ‘the naughty step’ allows us to maintain a positive atmosphere, which is essential for making progress with children’s behaviour.

So before you communicate a ‘when…then….’ you will want to assess what they are after. Do they want your attention? Attention is a major driver for many children. What do they want to/like to do? What’s their current agenda, or what’s going to appeal to them in a short while?

During attempts to gain cooperation with the ‘when…then…’ statement, it is normally advisable to simultaneously gently and firmly ‘make it happen’ and promptly ‘follow-through’; this no-nonsense, calm approach works with most children when they get used to the idea of more parental leadership and stronger boundaries. A good dose of distraction and fun can also help here.

In some circumstances, with older children or those who are very strong-willed, parents can sometimes choose to walk away from conflict, wait a while and take the attention away whilst the child ‘thinks about it’ or comes up with their next demand. It is usual for children to want something from their parents, so when the demand is made we can say, ‘Of course you can….. when you have ….. (done the thing you asked of them in the first place)…….’

More about all of this and other helpful strategies in ‘Naughty Step Alternatives’ by Mandy Stopard and Kent Tayler. This illustrated guide to improving behaviour is available on this website or from Amazon.

Here are some ‘when…then….’ statements:

  • ‘When you have had tea you may go back to your game for 10 minutes’
  • ‘When you have your pyjamas on we will read a story’
  • ‘When you have picked up your toys we will play that game you like’
  • ‘When you are calm we will go out and play on your trampoline’
  • ‘When you have brushed your teeth and put your lunchbox in your school bag you can watch TV until it’s time to leave for school’
  • ‘When you stop arguing on the back seat you can take it in turns to choose some music ’
  • ‘When you can walk safely on the pavement I will let go of your hand’
  • ‘When you stop asking for sweets you can help me choose some fruit’
  • ‘When you stop jumping up and down I will help you put your pyjamas on’
  • ‘When you have put that shoe on I’ll help you put the other on’
  • ‘When you have done your homework I’ll take you to meet your friends at the park’
  • ‘When you can be calm in the shop we wll go back in and spend your pocket money’
  • ‘When you can be calm around your friends we will go back into the party’
  • ‘When you stop whining we will talk about that……’
  • ‘When you stop being rude to me I will transfer your allowance into your bank account’

Does this post resonate with you?

Contact me today, I have a proven track record of gaining success in changing behaviour. I have a wealth of experience, and my advice is based on positive and respectful management of children with appropriate boundary setting.
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