Dealing with Defiant Children

Whatever the reason may be for a child’s defiance, it can be extremely frustrating for the child’s parents. A parent’s reaction can also fuel the defiance, creating a vicious cycle. Dealing with defiance can be a challenge, but practicing a few techniques can not only make the child more cooperative but make your life easier as well.

Give Choices

Whether your child has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), is bipolar, or is simply pushing your buttons, there is usually a reason for the defiance. Sometimes the child feels out of control and wants to display some independence.  For example, they might be in the middle of playing with a toy when you tell them that it is time to get dressed. When they hear, “Time to get dressed,” they become frustrated because they can no longer play with their toy. They feel out of control in the decision making process. Try giving them a choice instead. Say something like, “It is time to go now. Would you like to put your shoes on first or put your clothes on first?” This gives them something to think about besides the toy. Also, try showing them a couple outfits instead of giving them one. Kids start to show their independence at an early age, so letting them chose their clothes can make them feel special even if they may look slightly ridiculous.

Give Enough Notice of Change

Using the same example as getting dressed when the child is playing with a toy, it is silly for us to expect them to jump up and say, “Okay mom! I will stop playing with my toy so that I can get dressed!” Getting dressed is boring to them. Why would they want to stop playing? But if you give them notice, their brain starts processing the task of getting dressed and it does not come as such a shock. Try this in public as well, to avoid embarrassing temper tantrums. Warn them that you will be leaving the park soon so that they can start to process the task. With younger toddlers, try saying, “It is almost time to go. Say goodbye to your friends now.”

Ignore Tantrums

When a child throws a temper tantrum, they are doing it to get your attention. Catering to them just fuels the tantrum because they realize that they are getting your attention. Calmly look away from them without speaking until they calm down. Try telling them that you will listen when they calm down and you can discuss the matter then, but you cannot listen when he or she is yelling and throwing a fit. While you may be ignoring the tantrum, make sure that you always keep the child in sight and that they are not hurting themselves. The tantrum should not last more than a few minutes. When they are ready to listen, explain to them that you understand why they are upset but that there is a reason for your rules. If it does last longer and the tantrums occur often, speak with your pediatrician.

Your child will not love you less if you stand your ground and show that you are the one in charge. Sometimes they can actually feel more secure if they see that you are in control. Never lose your temper as difficult as it may seem. You will eventually win your battles and the child will learn to respect you.

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