What to do if your child refuses to do an activity

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Sometimes, you have a great idea of something to do with your child. Sometimes, they’ll refuse. What do you do?

Here are a number of things you can try:

  1. Don’t give them a chance to say “no”. Use phrases like “Let’s do this.“ rather than “Do you want to do this?” The second question can give them a chance to say “no”. Using “Let’s ….” is positive and inviting without being too demanding.
  2. Cite an expert or outside authority. A lot of children will respond to the idea of an outside authority – “The teacher says we’re supposed to do ten of these before tomorrow” or “The Minister of Education says …..” By citing an authority, it takes it out of your hands – “What am I supposed to do, X said we have to.”
  3. Inject your child’s favorite character from videos, books, movies. Insert the name(s) of favorite characters and use picture so them. Here’s an example maths problem where I substituted the word Pokémon for passengers:

                    There were 46 Pokémon on the bus.
                    19 Pokémon got off at the first stop.
                    15 Pokémon got off at the second stop.
                     How many Pokémon were left on the bus?

  1. Show your child how enjoyable it is. Invite your child to join you twice. If they don’t join you after two tries, go ahead and do it yourself. Make sure you show how much enjoyment you’re having—just don’t get frustrated or, at least, let them know you’re feeling frustrated.
  2. Prompt your child to correct you. While you’re doing the activity, make a mistake and wait for your child to correct you. If your child doesn’t correct you after a few seconds, correct yourself: “Oops, I meant ….”
  3. Offer your child choices about how many items they want to do or how long you’re going to practice.  You’ll notice this doesn’t give your child the choice of no items. Give your child a choice of, say, five or eight items or 15 minutes. Letting them choose will make your child feel more like they have some ‘say’ in the activity.
  4. Let your child be ’teacher’. Being ‘teacher’ puts your child in the ‘driver’s seat’. They can feel more in control of what’s done and how. Take turns with them so everyone gets a chance to be ‘teacher’.

The main ideas here are to be creative, think like your child, and don’t back yourself into a battle of wills.


Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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