• Paul Wade

What To Do If They Don't Want To Do Any Work?


Well, the short answer is, not an awful lot. If your kid has gone completely into NO mode, then they have shut down and you're not going to get anywhere we really want to be going.


Once a child has their heels firmly dug into 'NO' then the most likely outcome is that someone has to lose. If they lose, then they will be resentful, develop a dislike of the work, do the work less well than they might otherwise have done and probably won't benefit from the learning.


If you lose, that is a blow to your parental authority and you will end up feel irritated and out of sorts with your own kid.


Neither of these is a good thing.


So how to we avoid getting from a child not really wanting to engage with a piece of work to NUCLEAR NO?


There are a few approaches:


  • Negotiated procrastination. Just tell them they can do it later - set a specific time. Let them simmer down from their resistance and go at it again. Be breezy about it. 'Now' wasn't the thing that mattered, getting the work done was what mattered. In the interim, give them something useful but not too rewarding to do. Sorting some clean socks, helping to take out some recycling, feeding the cat etc. Once they have become sufficiently distracted and calm, have another go. This can pretty much repeat until bedtime as long as you have enough tasks to do around the house.

  • Choose the hill you want to die on (thanks to the father of my partner for that one). Which work really, really matters. Provide them with another sort of work unless this is the one thing you really, really have to get them to do. If it is an absolute must, hold your ground, don't get cross, pick a really good reason to do the work and repeat it until they get bored. Once you lose your temper - game over. Be persistent if this piece of work really is that 'hill'. And stay calm.

  • Rewards and reprimands - you should have a good balance of rewards and reprimands on tap anyway. Rewards for kids refusing work need to be some stuff that they don't ordinarily - just more TV or tablet time is the lower end. Try letting them stay up a bit later with their parents, or watching a favourite film together. Your kids love you, doing a thing with t busy parent will often do the trick more than extra TikTok. Reprimands need to be carefully thought out too. No point sending them to their room if their room contains, tablet, TV, laptop, all the books and half of their toys. Make it something specific and something that you absolutely will carry through.The key is balance. Offer only rewards and they will learn how to bleed you dry. Only reprimands and they will hate you, the work, the cat and TikTok.

  • Do they need help? - sometimes kids refuse work that they need help with. Don't ask them (they will say no), just assess the situation and dip on in if it looks tough. They might be a little resistant, but manage it well and it should work. They will also love you just that little bit more afterwards.

  • There is a NUCLEAR option to the work refusal. Just take it away and tell them they will never see it again. Sometimes, and you know your kids best, you will see that they are just not coping and this is not the day to try anything. So make the decision that it is too much for them and just move on. Use this very rarely and only when you know the next stage is NUCLEAR NO, but if you can in just ahead of that, they will probably be so surprised that the rest of the day they will do almost anything you ask.

All of the above comes with a big caveat. You know your child best, act in the way that you know works for them.


Good luck getting through those 'won't do it' moments.


Next up:

Why, Why, Why - answering the endless questions.


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