Helping all children become happy learners
How do you deal with your child's defiance?
Defiance by its nature is difficult to manage. We manage children with their cooperation and when they choose not to cooperate things become very challenging for us. It therefore worth considering why children cooperate before considering why they are defiant. Children cooperate for a number of reasons:
because it is in their own self-interests
to please us
to avoid negative consequences
because it is their learned behaviour to comply
because it is the behaviour that others are doing
The breakdown of cooperation
Defiance occurs when the reasons for complying become outweighed by other influences. These can include:
feelings of anger or other negative emotions towards you
believing that it is in their best interests to defy you
to avoiding a more unpleasant feeling, anxiety or fear
because they lack a strategy for managing the current situation
a lack of concern about negative consequences
because they see or believe that others are being defiant
Avoid making threats
Avoid making threats and giving unenforceable ultimatums. If they're being defiant you end up sounding ridiculous!
Keep calm and carry on!
Never easy to do but worth it. Try to model calm behaviour otherwise don't expect your child to become calm and more compliant
Try to avoid using the word 'please' when giving direct instructions. Instead it is better to end the request with 'thanks' This communicates a message that you are thanking your child because you expect and believe that they will get on with your request. It also communicates finality to the discussion. This is often most successfully delivered by immediately walking away to allow your child to comply without being watched over. For example:
'Tidy your room now, thanks.'
Give time to comply
Give them time to comply. Avoid eye contact or 'watching over them'
Avoid Implied Choice
Avoid given implied choice when you don't mean it. E.g. 'Would you like to come and sit at the table and have your dinner?' Better to give a simple command. For example:
'Come and sit at the table and have your dinner, thanks.'
Use Higher authority
Try to avoid instructions being personal requests. Instead the 'authority' behind the instruction comes from rules and laws. For example:
'The house rules are - no phones or computers after 8 o'clock.'
'Yes, you are going to school, it is the law.'
Give controlled Choice
Try to give your instruction as a choice of two options both of which achieve your aim. For example:
'Do you want me to help you with your homework now or do you want to get on with it on your own?'
It is important to have clear boundaries for behaviour. There needs to be agreement between parents and other adults involved to ensure a consistent approach. Writing down clear house rules and ensuring all adults adhere to them helps to make the boundaries clear. It is also important to have agreement on any sanctions for transgressions. Make sure you are willing and able to enforce sanctions.
Oppositional Defiance Disorder
You may find it useful to look at the articles on this diagnosis and its management for further help and strategies with managing defiance.
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