Refusals and Relationships

refusalsIf you have done any formal schooling with your kids for a reasonable length of time, you will likely run into a child who refuses to do a school task. I know that has happened around here.

Strong relationships are important in our homeschool and in our life.  When refusals to do schoolwork come, I believe the parent-child relationship can remain strong.

Parenting approaches will change how one deals with the issue of refusals.  For a point of reference, my parenting approach tends to be firm, but loving.  I do expect my children to do what I ask them to do.  I’m a fan of natural consequences and try to avoid punishments of any kind.  I’ve adopted many strategies from Love and Logic.  That said, I’m listing some tips that have worked in our household.

6 Tips to Dealing with Refusals

1.  Refusals are best dealt with early on.

I’ve dealt with refusals in a couple of ways.  Sometimes I’ve had my child go to a boring place like the stair steps or to their bed until they are ready to do as requested.  Other times I’ve let them know that they are free to do                                 (insert favorite activity here) when their schoolwork is done.  If they haven’t done as requested and have spent a bunch of time not doing as requested, they may run out of time and not be able to do their favorite activity.

Actually, I’ve found that the easiest ways to handle refusals are before the child is school-age.  When the child refuses to do something, it works best to be consistent with what you requested the child to do.  When my boys were little and they were supposed to clean up, I would tell them they were free to keep what they cleaned up.  After a while I would help them finish cleaning up with a garbage bag in my hands.

Refusals have happened during the early years of school, but I’ve found if they are dealt with during the early years of schooling (age 5 and up), it doesn’t happen much later on.  I should note that any formal schooling that my kids have done before the age of 5 has been entirely optional.

2.  Consider why the refusal is happening

There is usually a reason for the refusal.  Maybe the task is too boring, too easy, too hard, too much, or the child is in the middle of something they don’t want to stop.

When my child refuses, I don’t typically change what I originally requested, but I do make a mental note to help me figure out what to change for next time.

3.  Listen to your kids

Talk to your kids and listen to what they have to say.  Sometimes they have some pretty good ideas about what to do different.  I ask for their input and we come up with a plan to approach things differently next time.

4.  Be reasonable

Taking a “my way or the highway” approach may be alienating your child and hurting your relationship.  Children’s opinions are valid.  I am not perfect.  I’ve told my kids that if they don’t think something is fair to come and talk to me and try to convince me otherwise.  Many times they have made a valid point or showed me something that I didn’t see before.  As a result, I have changed to something we both feel is fair.

5.  Involve the child in school planning

Children have preferences.  Imagine if you could have had a conference with your teacher to plan out school days that suited you best.  When children have input into the plan, they are more cooperative.

6.  Have a good chunk of the school day spent in enjoyable activities.

This has been part of our homeschool approach from the beginning.  We spent a chunk of time on school even during the early elementary years, but a good amount of that time was spent in educational activities the child enjoyed.  In short, school time contained some unenjoyable activities as well as plenty of enjoyable activities.

Refusals will happen.  I believe they can be dealt with while still allowing the child-parent relationship to remain strong.

I’d love to hear how you deal with refusals.  Please share in the comments.

One Comment:

  1. It’s a hard line to walk between being firm but still considering their feelings. My kids have never flat out refused but they do give me a hard time about things sometimes. There are days I insist it get done, but others if I know they’re tired, or I’m moody, or they’re not feeling 100% I’ll let them skip it but make sure they understand they’ll be completing it sometime soon.
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