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Tips for dealing with defiant children

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Tips for dealing with defiant children

There can be nothing more aggravating than a defiant child. However, when a child is seeking to gain power or control over a situation, arguing with him usually only escalates the tension. This also often leads to things being said or done that both you and your child can later regret. So the next time you’re facing an angry child or teen, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Focus on the cause, not the behaviour. When misbehaviour occurs, often it is because children are seeking attention, power, revenge, to avoid something, or a basic need is not being met (they are hungry, tired, etc.). Don’t get sucked in by their behaviour, but rather, try to identify the cause or emotion behind the behavior. Identifying the cause of the outburst often gives great insights into ways to de-escalate or end the defiant behaviour.

Acknowledge the anger and frustration. “It sounds like you are really upset over (the subject).” This does two things. It shows your child you understand how they feel, and can also help to clarify your perceptions. You might find out that something else is the real problem.

Brainstorm solutions – seek win/win. Trying to be “right” means that someone has to be wrong. In win-lose situations someone always feels sad or cheated. Go for win-win. Invite your child to offer solutions to the situation. Work together to find a solution that you can both live with. You might even try saying something like, “I see how you can win. But how can I win too?”

Refuse to negotiate until everyone is quiet and respectful. Let them know that you are willing to seek a solution, but that everyone deserves to be treated respectfully. If the person still won’t quiet down, try doing the unexpected. Tell a joke, laugh, break into song, or just leave the room.

Seek solutions that give your child power. If the goal is to gain power, try to seek solutions that can empower him or her. Depending on the age, consider letting him or her be your helper, or have a special job. One mother who was tired of fighting with her young daughter about putting on her seat-belt, made her the “seat-belt inspector” – in charge of ensuring everyone’s seatbelt was on.

Here are a few other quick tips that can help avoid problems in the first place:
• Slow down your pace.
• Plan ahead, and give your child notice of upcoming changes in activities
• Agree upon things ahead of time, like “treats” or other hot topics before leaving the house.
• Offer choices. Choose a few options you can live with, and let them pick one. You’ll both be happier.

Finally, teach your child how to say no respectfully. This will not only come in handy day-to-day around the house, but also when your children start to encounter peer pressure.

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