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Overcoming Resistance

by Kim Jaworski, Homeschool Resource Specialist


Sooner or later, even the most agreeable child plants his/her feet and tries not to budge. Some strategies for dealing with this might be counter-intuitive, but my favorite option was to put the child in charge. Not at that moment, but in the next day or 2.  Here are a couple examples.

When my oldest was refusing to wear a coat or give up his summer sandals as the weather turned chilly, I put him in charge of deciding on appropriate clothes for the whole family. Each morning for about 2 weeks, he stepped out on the back deck and then came back inside to give his recommendation. He’d step out in his pajamas and bare feet and then hop back inside and announce that it was too cold for sandals and we would all need jackets. He took his responsibility to the family very seriously. And it ended our previous struggles. He even created a chart that listed temperature ranges and appropriate level of outerwear.

Likewise, when my youngest was refusing to eat vegetables, he was put in charge of choosing dinners and healthy snacks. He went along on the grocery shopping trip and helped select the fruits and vegetables for the upcoming meals. At first he only wanted canned corn with each meal, but by the end of the shopping trip he had also chosen broccoli, baby carrots, peas and green beans. The next spring we planted a small garden and the boys picked what we should plant. When they had some ownership in the care and harvest, they were more interested in eating them. We also browsed magazines and cookbooks from the library for recipe ideas they might like. When they picked the recipe and helped cook, it was no longer a battle.

This type of strategy can also be used with homeschooling. If there is resistance to a topic being studied, try putting a variety of topics in a basket and letting the kids choose what will be studied next. Or ask for their input on how to practice math skills. Every child can put forth an idea, and each idea can be tried. Another strategy is to put the child’s work for the day into a checklist format. Explain that each item must be completed before suppertime (or some other deadline for the day) but the child can choose what to do first, second and third until everything is checked off.

It's also possible to set something aside for a few weeks until you can come up with a more interesting approach to the topic. If they are tired of worksheets and flashcards, try a different format for learning… a contest (who can do 10 math problems correctly in the fastest time?) or a game (a variation of ‘The Price is Right’ with math problems posed verbally from the game show host. How many boxes of this Mac& Cheese could I buy for $10 without going over?) or an activity (set up a mock store and have the kids practice adding up totals or even calculating tax). See my article on math games or word games for more ideas.

A great book for strategies to gain cooperation is “how to talk so kids will listen, and listen so kids will talk”. It’s the best parenting book I’ve ever read. And its strategies can be used with any family member or even co-workers. Pick up a copy at your library and see what you think. And check out my article on Reverse Psychology. You’ll find a few more tips there.

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