How To Get Kids To Do Something They Don’t Want To Do...And Why Push Them?

Homework is a daily battle. She won’t eat her broccoli. He doesn’t want to go to practice (or to Garage Strength). How do you get kids to do something they don’t want to do, and why should we push them?

Your homework is your responsibility. 

I regularly have battles with my first grader to get his homework done. Sometimes a short assignment drags on for 1-2 hours with some work getting done, but lots of playing and crying are thrown in the mix. Recently my son asked me to cut out part of his homework because, “You will probably do it faster than I will”. While this is true, I believe that helping, when help is not needed, sends the wrong message. 

Set a timer 

Setting a timer can be an effective way to encourage focused work. If an assignment should take 20 minutes, set a timer for 25 and let the child know that the assignment needs to finish in the allotted time. If he can’t finish the assignment, he can explain that to the teacher tomorrow. The work my child brings home is not too challenging for him, he simply doesn’t want to do it. He welcomes any distraction that comes his way and then ends up spending way too much time at the kitchen table. It’s a different story if the child is struggling and needs assistance. However, in our scenario a race against the clock works wonders. 

Break it up

If the quantity of work is going to take longer than 20 minutes it can be helpful for children and parents to separate the work into chunks. For example, reading needs to be done before dinner, but we will save math for after dinner. This way it is clear to everyone that all assignments need to be completed in their designated time slot.

Send them on their own

Homework should be a reinforcement for learning that has already taken place. Ideally the child already knows how to do the work, he or she just needs help with motivation and encouragement. If the child needs little assistance, send him to a quiet place to work independently and free from distractions. Permit the child to come ask questions when the assignment is 75% completed. This method allows for more focused work and (hopefully) less fightin and less overall time spent.

Food Battles

There is no amount of bribery that will get my picky eater to consume and entire meal. He does not make good food choices, but we still need him to eat nutritional food. Here are two strategies for winning the food battles with younger kids. 

The illusion of choice

You can eat two bites of broccoli or 3 baby carrots. Your kid gets to make a choice, but he still has to eat something that is good for him. If the child tosses out another option, (what about an apple?!) do not give in. He needs to choose between the items you offered. Unless he wants fermented vegetables, (sauerkraut, kimchee, etc.) then by all means let him. The gut healing properties outweighs the psychological food battle.

Put him on the spot

I recently tried this: https://youtu.be/s-PcM7zGDzg after reading it on Jordan Page’s Blog: Fun, Cheap or Free. It has worked great for our picky eater! This simple trick can really bring my kid out of a funk and make him laugh. Once he gets over his stubbornness he is usually willing to comply and at least try something. 

Start by announcing to the table that “child’s name” needs to take a bite. Everyone at the table chants the child’s name until he takes the bite. Then, cheer like he scored a goal in a soccer match and praise him for eating his food. It’s excessive, I know. But it really takes the tension out of a stressful situation, and if the child gives in and eats something nourishing then really it’s a win-win.

Take a risk

Whether this be at the playground or in a sporting event, a piano recital or dance concert. Children need to be exposed to uncomfortable situations, and they need to be pushed to overcome the stress involved in these situations. Why? Because they come out with a sense of accomplishment. 

One of my absolute favorite accomplishments for young kids

He has worked on his swimming skills for weeks or months (or years). He has jumped off the side of the pool and learned how to swim to the surface, but the diving board is a whole knew level of fear. That extra foot in the air and the outstretch of the board can be seriously panic inducing for a preschool aged kid. The first time a child goes off the diving board is such a cool thing to witness.

When he makes that jump for the first time, and he swims to the side of the pool and climbs out, the child is just beaming with pride. It’s such a proud moment for the child, the parent, (and the swim teacher!).

Sometimes it takes a little pushing, encouragement, to get the child to take that jump, but it’s worth it! He or she learns a new skill and the thrill and excitement from this learning experience.

When a child accomplishes something new

They learn they have the power to do something they didn’t realize they could do. This feeling of accomplishment transcends to other difficult tasks, and this is really the beautiful part of parenting. Raising a child who believes he or she can do things. Someone who is competent and capable, caring and compassionate. A child who believes in himself. 

Is it possible to push your child too hard?

Yes. Every parent needs to respect the limitations that come with age and maturity. But should we always push our children to be better, work harder, and make healthy choices? Absolutely.

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