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Parental Encouragement

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My six-year-old son won't participate in anything without a fight. We try to get him to pass a ball and he will put up a fight not to do it. We signed him up for t-ball last year and it was like pulling teeth to get him to participate. We now have him in Cub Scouts, which we thought would be fun for him, but he's not participating in that, either. He wouldn't even have his picture taken with the group.

When he doesn't want to do something he'll just sit down with his arms around his legs and won't move. It seems whenever we try to do fun things with him, he gives us a hard time. We just can't seem to please him. Is this normal behavior for a six-year-old? We are tired of fighting with him every time we try to do something!

A: Does this attitude occur in all situations? If he reacts this way at school when the teacher asks him to do something, or at dinnertime when you are serving something he doesn't want, he would appear to be a very strong-willed child who wants everything his way.

If he only does this when you are encouraging him to be involved in activities you think will be fun, he may just want to control the things he is involved in or to do other things instead, such as work on the computer.

Either way, this is not a typical reaction to fun activities for a six-year-old. Try to figure out why he is choosing to do battle with you over these things. Ask your son's teacher if he or she has observed this attitude at school.

Try to focus on the positive. Let your son know that his good behavior and appropriate participation can earn him special treats, like doing an art project with you or having a sleep-over, etc.

Is it possible that your son is trying to tell you that he is feeling stressed at being involved in too many things? If so, then you may want to consider scaling back.

You could also talk with the school counselor. He or she may be able to give your son some individual time or include him in a small group.

If this attitude occurs in all settings or continues for a long period of time, you may want to get additional help. The school counselor or your pediatrician can refer you to a therapist in your community.

More on: Expert Advice

Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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