Defiant, stubborn children test your patience and parenting skills to the limit on a regular basis. Is this just part of raising children? All children go through at least two stages of being stubborn. Stage one is the “terrible twos,” when they learn to say “no.” The teen years is also when they say “no” as they practice making mature choices.
If a doctor has diagnosed your child as having ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), you will encounter similar issues. Differences between the two diagnoses relate to the frequency and the severity due to the cause of the defiant behavior. To have the understanding of the child’s problems and being able to develop suitable plans and consequences are the first steps for parents.
Whether your child experiences the typical defiant stages, dealing with ODD, or has another major issue, address the problem early. In fact, at the first sign of rebellious behavior, model and teach your child acceptable ways to react and respond. Next is an example of a conversation between a stepmother, whose 12-year-old stepson came to live with his dad, new stepmom and and younger sister.
Stepmother: Can I help you get settled into your room?
Stepson: You’re not my mother, and you never will be.
Stepmother: You are right. I am not your mother, I am your dad’s wife, your stepmother. I asked if I could help you get settled.
Stepson: You’re a liar. You don’t want to help. By the way, I do my own laundry and I cook my own food.
Stepmother: All right, let’s back this conversation to the beginning. If you are going to live here, we have some rules about respect. We show respect in our action and words. You don’t get to call me a liar, and I don’t get to call you a liar. Can you live with that rule?
This stepmom felt that this boy was begging for some attention, for some rules. He wanted to know if he was welcome in their home. Several weeks passed before the stepson settled into accepting that he was in a new home with people who would love him, but also not let him fall into his defensive anger.
Strategies To Help You Handle Defiance
The first approach is asking why a child behaves the way he or she does? Understand that you, as the parent, can best understand explosive behavior as a form of developmental delay. Dr. Ross Green, the author of The Explosive Child, suggests that the following questions will help parents see more clearly the crux of the problem.
- This child acts this way because…
- How come what works for other kids isn’t working for this child?
- What can I do instead?
- Build a sound basis. Parents start teaching expected life skills at the earliest ages:
Steps to Conflict Resolution:
- Clarify perceptions through answers to the more common questions.
- Focus on the present: What is happening right now?
- What is the major issue?
- Distinguish between needs and wants.Which needs or wants can be prioritized?
- List your options.
- Hold yourself accountable.
- The problem is…use your best descriptions.
- Brainstorm. Write down your best ideas that might help solve the problem.
- Consider the pros and cons of each possible solution.
- Which of the possible solutions seems likely to work?
- Plan out the solution step-by-step: What? When? How?
Refuse to bargain: Kids use bargaining to make several points: get out of chores, make a break or cut a deal. All children learn to accept the consequences of their choices and behaviors.
Reinforce the positive: Reward their positive behaviors. Point out when your child completes a job and has done
it well. Support and praise a thoughtful decision. The power of positively deserved praise cannot be under-rated.