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How to Deal with Defiant Children - Tips and Methods

By Andrew Loh

Children, who exhibit extreme defiant behavior, pose a special and tough challenge to their parents. While the problem of defiance in children is very serious, parents should not lose their heart and patience. Parents with defiant children may need to learn more about their children from a different angle and stand point of view. In fact, they may need to make an effort to know why their children are behaving in such a manner, and how they can find a practical solution to get rid of defiance. They may also need to learn the basic motivations and reasons of their defiant children. Dealing with a defiant child becomes more difficult and serious, when there are other children in the home, who are not defiant unlike the child is defiant. Parents may also need to know and understand the essential difference between a normal child and a defiant child.

Parents may not possess the required skills or know-how of how to deal with defiant child. Here is some simple advice for parents of defiant children who are under the age of ten years.

Management Basics

Spot and find out the problem early. Be attentive to notice the beginning of this unusual child problem. Start applying the solutions very early in your child's life. Do not postpone acting on the problem. Early intervention is the best solution. If you find an instance of defiance behavior, act very fast and find a solution within the first 30 seconds. If there is a positive behavior, compliment your child for that behavior within the first 30 seconds.

According to the noted Psychologist, Russell Barkley, parents will need to act and not yak. Dissecting the bad behavior and talking about how it happened is not the right solution for the problem. If you are calm and consistent in your approach, you may notice that the probability of getting positive results is more. Always focus on delivering on positive consequences by handling the defiance behavior at the earliest. Never ever talk about how frustrated you are with the defiant behavior of your children. Stop feeling sick and tired and start taking action on treating the problem. Never ever appear weak or inconsistent in front of your children.

Defiant behavior needs deft and definite handling. You may need to ask yourself a simple question – “what is that it is making my children act in this manner? How can I change this attitude? Do I need to change my attitude or do I need to act in a practical manner to handle my child? What solutions can bring a positive change in my child?

Note: You can never change your child unless you change your attitude first. You may not force your children to sheer submission; this approach is counterproductive and negative.

You will need to be your child's best manager or mentor to help him or her to change that negative defiant behavior. When you change yourself as a good parent, your children will also start changing their attitude, though at a very slow pace. Never ever, use a draconian method like beating or scolding with bad words. In fact, you are adding fuel to the fire; you will be the biggest catalyst for a worsening situation. Defiant behavior is all about positive attention and positive interaction with your children. These are the two most potent tools available for a parent. Dr. Alan Kazdin of Yale University Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic has a number of great tips for parents on how they can manage their defiant behavior.

Some Practical Solutions to the Defiant Behavior Problem

Here are some simple, yet effective solutions for the problems at your hand:

  • Make sure that you build on the positive attitude of your children. Praise your children for their positive action, while rewarding them when they show a cooperative attitude. Positive reinforcement can go a long way in raising a responsible child.

  • Never ever, get into an argument, when your child shows an incidence of defiance. Arguments and counter arguments can add to the problems in your hand. Instead, sit down with your child to discuss the reasons for the defiant behavior. Taking a time-out is possibly the best solution.

  • Never ever, make a deal with your children just to escape out of the problem. If you want to buy ice cream for your children after making a temporary truce, you will be in for a big shock. In fact, you are making your children more defiant with your negative action. Bargaining with your child is possibly the most damaging factor.

  • Be careful of what you are asking! Never ever back down or retreat once you issue a rule or an instruction. The basic rule for your child is to obey you and your rules. They should know that they will face the consequence, if they do not obey your rule. Your orders or rules could be in the form of gentle, initial requests. If your children do not obey them, then you can start issuing rigid requests that mimic a strict order. However, make sure that you respect your children's intelligence and conscience. Do not humiliate them. Never ever, restrict or bind your children with punishment as consequences.

  • Be in the control of situations. Always be calm, when you witness a defiant behavior from your children. Become aware of the critical problem and sit down for some time. Never ever, get angry, start scolding or beating your children. Instead tell your children that you know about the defiant behavior and that you will handle that at a later time. This will raise a sense of fear in your children's mind. This apparent fear will make them obey your requests or rules.

  • Help your children develop self esteem and self confidence. Confident children will never feel insecure or threatened. Such children will not show defiant behavior. Make sure that you spend quality time with your children. Learn to play with them, draw pictures with them or build a play home with them. This will help them feel that you are the best parent for them. Listen to what they say and utter. Listen to them and their problems. Get to know their genuine problems and provide practical solutions.

In the end, finding a solution for defiant behavior in your children is a two way act. Both parents and their children are the actors, while the solutions to the problem of defiance are possible only when parents know the reasons for the defiant behavior.

Featured Resource

Defiant Children, Second Edition: A Clinician's Manual for Assessment and Parent Training
By Russell A. Barkley

This remarkably clear and effective manual includes a thorough clinical guide to Dr. Barkley's 10-session parent training program, an assessment section that incorporates DSM-IV diagnostic criteria, and reproducible materials reinforcing each step of the program.

Designed in a convenient format with lay-flat binding for easy photocopying, the manual includes all needed assessment forms and parent and teacher handouts. Purchasers can photocopy the materials they need as often as they need without additional cost. This updated version of Defiant Children provides clinicians with an excellent resource for treating children with serious behavior problems.


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