No to baking, building and books:

How to engage with children who always reject your ideas

By Kylie Dawson

There are some children who seem to jump and get excited at the ideas and suggestions that come their way; yes, of course they want to bake cookies with you, and oh my gosh, they absolutely want to help you plant seedlings in the garden, and, most definitely I want to read this book right now! But, some children don’t respond or react in the way we hoped when we suggest what we think are great ideas. It can feel like they reject every suggestion we put to them; so how can we engage with these children?

Firstly, it is important that we don’t generalise; every person is unique with their own personality, background, and temperament. Do be sure to take the suggestions below as ideas that you might try out, knowing they may or may not work for your unique little person.  One idea that is important no matter the individual, is to really observe your child, try to step into their world and see the world through their eyes. This can help to give you insights into what is going on for them, how they like to engage with the world, what their strengths are, and what they are challenged by. 



Some children who reject everything put to them do so because of anxiety.  When you are challenged by anxiety you often see every new experience, or experiences that are out of your routine, as something to avoid, as they are unfamiliar and unknown and can increase those yucky feelings that come along with anxiety.  Rather than their first thought being “Yay, let’s bake some cookies” it might be “I’ve never done that, maybe I won’t be good at it”.  Or instead of being excited about planting in the garden, the child might think “What if there are biting insects, and what if I do the wrong thing and ruin the plants?”  I know it can be hard at times for adults to imagine that little people would think these thoughts, but some of our little people do struggle with anxiety and over-worried thinking.  If you think that your little one might be challenged with anxiety, I encourage you to:

  • Jump online and check out the amazing and FREE course developed by the University of Queensland called “The BRAVE program”. It is an award-winning course that guides and supports both parents and children through the world of anxiety.  It helps both parent and child build their knowledge and develop skills and techniques that help overcome anxiety. 
  • Source books such as “Hey Warrior” to give your children a language to discuss their feelings and worries, and an opportunity to learn about their brain, anxious feelings, and ways they can help themselves. 
  • Speak to your GP and where needed, a professional child counsellor or psychologist.



Some children who reject ideas do so because they like to have the idea, they want to be a leader, not a follower.  Instead of asking “Would you like to help me bake cookies?”, you could try placing the cookie mix on the kitchen bench for the child to see; they are more likely to then ask you “Hey can we make these cookies?”.  Or take them on a wander through your local nursery or plant market and they will probably point out the plants they would like to get.  If you had a specific lot of plants you wanted to get, then you could let your child choose a set number of plants, and then you can gather the plants you wanted.  If you have a child who is more of a leader than a follower, it is great to support this part of their personality, and alongside this support we can encourage their ability to listen to others and recognise that other people have ideas they want to execute as well.  



And lastly, maybe the things you are suggesting to your child are just not their jam.  It is normal that we want our children to enjoy the things we enjoy doing, but we also need to take notice of what our child really enjoys and see if we can find opportunities to enjoy it with them too.  Maybe instead of baking, building a garden, or reading books, they love kicking balls, drawing, painting, or running really fast.  And maybe kicking balls isn’t really your jam either, but five minutes of kicking a ball, of showing that you “get” your child and are keen to step into their world, is definitely worth those five minutes.