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Cooperating With Children

Shifting a bright kid's sense of belonging will take some time. First, consider how you can improve your own relationship with him. One father decided to play half an hour of computer games every day with his son. A mother took on the project of letting everyone in her family know that they were loved.
Cooperating With Children

There's an old saying: if you do the same thing you've always done, you'll wind up with the same results you've always had. Having an extraordinary family begins with you doing something extraordinary to build a great relationship with your bright
kid. Think about something your bright kid would enjoy doing with you, and do it. It needs to be something out of the ordinary. Set aside at least 20 minutes of unadulterated "you" time without demands, and do something fun where they take the lead and enjoy having you all to themselves. Here are a few ideas.
Some activities to build belonging 
  • Cooking together
  • Having them teach you a computer game  
  • Learning a musical instrument
  • Exercise
  • Watching sports together
  • Watching a TV show
  • Walking
  • Playing cards
  • Playing chess, dominoes, backgammon
  • Caring for pets
  • Camping
  • Collecting things
  • Joining a sports team
  • Scouts/Cubs

Create a culture of cooperation
Parents of bright kids often report feeling that there are times when their family operates on the lowest common denominator. This is surviving, not thriving. Expectations are well and truly lowered. Hopes of an agreeable, cooperative family life have vanished: those wishes have been obliterated by conflict, disagreements, and hostility. This happens to all families from time to time.

Mrs. Harmon described her tyrannical daughter, Emily: "We started to live a walking-on-eggshells lifestyle. Any time we asked her to do anything, we would have a full-scale war. Torrents of abuse, stand-over tactics, the whole bit. Eventually it seemed easier not to ask her to do or be involved in anything. After some time we really had as little to do with one another as possible. The family was miserable and she was too."
Ask for cooperation
Building a culture of cooperation means raising your own expectations about what is possible in your family. The first thing to do is to increase the number of requests made in the family. People can't learn to be cooperative unless you give them opportunities to help out.

Most families with bright kids give up on making many requests. This is understandable: the likely outcome doesn't seem worth the effort. The problem is that this leads to a family atmosphere of sacrifice rather than helpfulness. Requests lead to later, greater cooperation. If you've ever been asked by someone to do something and have done it, you were probably much more likely to assist if they asked you for something else on second occasion. Bright kids often don't get asked to help people. Their parents and teachers have often given up.

Requests should always be politely asked and can be large or small, such as:
  • "Sally, could you please pass the salt?"
  • "Jack, would you please go to the store and get some butter?"
  • "Lyn, could you please help me by doing this load of laundry?" 
In families with bright kids, not every request is going to be met with an enthusiastic, "Yes, Mom [or Dad], I'll do it straight away." That's okay.

This is a two-way street that we are going to gradually travel down. Not only will you be making more requests, you're also going to try to say yes more often.

When you get a flat "No way" in response to a request, don't react negatively: Smile sweetly and murmur something like, "Oh well, thanks for considering it," and move on. Don't linger and don't get drawn into an argument. Asking them to help out is aimed at eliciting a more positive atmosphere in the home - it is not a reason to go to war! To find out more, you can check out Cooperating With Children.