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Child Refusal - Tips for Parents

Many children at some point in their life will display refusal behaviour, whether that’s refusal to follow instructions such as refusal to brush their teeth or refusal to go to school. 


Refusal behaviour is part of a child’s development and allows them to learn about what they do and don’t like and also learn about boundaries and rules for example, how far to push them, how to negotiate what they want, to gain control and learn about independence.


Unfortunately, for a lot of parents refusal behaviour can cause a negative impact in the home, at school and during leisure times. This impact can also lead to more long term issues such as the child developing very anxious and negative behaviour.


So how can we help a child who is displaying refusal behaviour?;


  1. Firstly we need to remember that behaviour is a form of communication. Whether we use emotions, physical actions or words we are trying to communicate what we want and need.

  2. Always have clear routines, boundaries and house rules. Ensuring that they are explained to the child and used consistently (even at weekends and during school holidays if possible)

  3. Ensure that you have a system to promote positive behaviour for example a visual sticker chart or pasta reward jar. Also use positive praise consistently to reinforce the actions you wish to see

  4. Talk to your child to see why they don’t want to do an action/go out and work together to come up with a solution, i.e. can there be a compromise? What could the parent do to support the child during this time? What triggers if any are there, for example the child my not like to go from a warm house to a cold car in the mornings and will therefore refuse to go to school or a child my like to say no every time they are asked to do something may be changing the way use ask may help i.e. would you like to put on your shoes or coat first

  5. Ensure when you are giving a child an instruction or choice that you have their attention. In some cases it may be easier to talk to them once both parent and child are back to a calm state of mind. Explain to the child why they need to do the action/go out

  6. Pick your battles, is it really important at that moment that the action is done? Can it wait? For example, you are running late and you've asked your child to put on their coat, the child is refusing. You could continue the backwards and forwards communication or you could pick the coat up, put it in the car and leave the conversation until both of you are more calm.


Useful websites general refusal


Useful websites for school refusal


Useful website for pasta reward system

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