It seems that defiant children and frustrated parents go together like Milk and Cookies…well maybe spoiled Milk and Cookies anyway! There are many different theories on how to best handle a disobedient child. Some call for a sensitive approach where it seems that the parent is begging and pleading with the child to listen. Others preach about the “way dad used to do it” with a firm hand to the bottom. But just exactly what is the best approach to dealing with a defiant child? Recently, I found an interesting blog post on the Huffington Post about this very topic. The blog, 7 New Ways to Navigate Defiance From Your Child points out some effective strategies that frustrated parents can use without compromising their dignity in the process.
1. Don’t ever take it personally.
Disobedient children generally behave this way because they are not feeling connected or emotionally regulated at that moment. They generally are not acting out simply to be mean to you, although it may seem that way! For example, when a defiant child refuses to get dressed in the morning before school he most likely is not acting this way because he wants you to be late for work. It is more likely due to the fact that he’s tired or hungry and just doesn’t have the maturity level to express this to you verbally.
2. Consider why they refuse.
Children, especially younger ones, are told what to do every waking moment of their lives. They generally have very little control over even the little things in their day to day lives. Disobedient children who act out are often trying to gain some control over what happens to them on a day to day basis.
3. Talk to yourself.
When you have a defiant child, power struggles dominate many of your interactions. A great way to end the power struggles and truly not take your child’s defiant behavior personally is to use positive self-talk. When your child is screaming, “I don’t want to get dressed,” and all you want to do is scream back, “”I DON’T CARE! GET DRESSED NOW!” you can keep yourself calm by using deep breathing and telling yourself to stay calm so you won’t become emotionally charged in the interaction.
4. Reflect and honor a child’s feelings and meet them where they are.
Acknowledge and validate your child’s angry feelings. Disrespectful children need to feel heard and understood. Saying something like, “You seem angry and like you’re not ready to get dressed right now. I understand you’re mad, but we have to leave for school in 15 minutes” will show the defiant child that you have understood what he was feeling but unable to use his words to express.
5. Hold boundaries on unsafe behavior only.
While you want to de-escalate power struggles, save your big guns for only unsafe behaviors, such as hitting, property damage, or other forms of aggression. Stop aggression by stating something like, “It’s not safe to hit. You may not hit others.” No matter how intense the verbal aggression, you should always treat physical aggression in a more firm way.
6. Keep a positive view of your child.
While it’s extremely hard to see through the negativity of your disobedient child, it is important to always do so. A focus on the positive will work wonders when it comes to improving the defiant child’s behaviors. While your child may be defiant most of the time, if you keep your eyes open, you will often catch him being good multiple times a day in various situations and settings. When you do, use labeled praise to point out in specific terms what he did that you are proud of or happy about. Don’t use general praise such as “Good job” which leaves the child wondering what he did right. Instead, say something like, “Great job not hitting your sister when you were mad. You came and talked to Mom like you were supposed to.”
7. Use some humor and power play.
Laughter can be the best medicine when it comes to a defiant child. This can serve to de-escalate the situation. If you don’t believe me, just try laughing and being mad at the same time. Power play enables the aggressive child to express some of his anger in a healthy way. Just like grown men go to the gym and beat up a punching bag and women enroll in kickboxing classes, children need a healthy physical outlet to release some of the pent up anger and strong emotions they have within them. Believe it or not, kickball, soccer, and other sports offer a release for some of these pent up strong emotions.
Behavior Management Coaching can help parents deal with the frustration of dealing with a defiant child by teaching concise, proven interventions to reduce childhood behavioral problems, improve the child’s self-esteem, and drastically reduce parent’s stress levels in the process. Talk to us today.