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4 steps to manage an unwilling child

No! I don’t want go school!

It was another one of those days. When your child acts up for unknown reasons and you are struggling to get him to wear his uniform, shoes and get out of the house.

You are on the verge of screaming or taking out something to threaten your child and get his butt moving!

That’s exactly how I felt. Fortunately I had time, so I could afford to try something different. LEAP to be exact.

  • Listen
  • Empathise
  • Alternative
  • Promise


The fact that your child is acting up is a sign that he is trying to assert his power. Instead of opposing, why not offer him power? No, I don’t mean to give in to him. In fact what he says may not be what he really wants. Listening is a very powerful tool to offer power in this power struggle before reclaiming it. Here’s what happened:

My 3-year-old insisted on watching TV. I tried several strategies, none seem to work. I sat him and talked about the show, trying to enter his world before trying to get him out. I managed to enter his world, but couldn’t get him out. I offered TV at the end of the day instead, no use. I envisioned the exciting weekend with him, no use. Finally, I was able to get him to press the power off button on the remote (I’ve been practicing this with him). But that did not mean he was ready to go to school.

So I sat down with him, hugged him and asked “How are you feeling?”

“I feel terrible”, he said.

The word “terrible” shocked me. Not because he felt that way, but where did he even learn to articulate that so well and actually know what it meant?

Anyway, this got everything started.

Can you tell me why you feel terrible?”

He started rambling in what seems to be whole sentences to him, but to me I could only pick up key words.


Picking up these key words (papa, watch TV, wear shoe, no go school), I echoed how he felt:

So you feel terrible because you don’t want to go school and you want to watch TV, but papa is making you wear shoe?”


I hugged him again and said that must feel terrible.


I saw on the table nearby, a book that he had recently been asking me to read to him. So I offered to the read the book to him on the sofa. He excitedly took it up. I put my bag, my mask and everything aside, grabbed the book, sat on the sofa and beckoned him to come.


Before reading though, I got him to promise that I would only read the book with him if he agrees to wear shoe and mask and go to school after we finished reading.


“Yes, promise”

Immediately after reading, he cooperatively walked to the door, wore his own shoe and off we went.

While I don’t think this will work all the time. It would be useful for us as parents to have a repertoire of strategies to manage such power struggles with our child.

2 thoughts on “4 steps to manage an unwilling child

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