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” and then learn “yes.” 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 understand the child’s problems and being able to develop suitable plans and consequences are the first steps for parents. Whether your child experiences the stubborn stages, dealing with ODD, or has another major issue, address the problem early. In fact, at the first sign of rebellious behavior, teach and modeling 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, the 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 Stubbornness
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.
- Clarify perceptions through answers to the more common questions.
- Focus on the present: What is happening right now?
- What is the BIG 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. 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.
One sensitive issue parents contend with is their child’s temperament. Understanding children’s inborn traits is a key to better parenting and happier children, especially in the development years.
Before my daughter was born, I imagined her to be a specific type of a good-natured child. As she grew up, I realized my always viewing her as good-natured was a pre-conceived idea I had. Her childhood moods meandered through creative, sensitive, emotional, and even defiant in the early teen years. And she was good natured about most events in her life.
Understanding her temperament enabled me not to blame my self for her situations. Instead, I learned strategies to deal with difficult circumstances or conditions. One point of discipline I followed was to diffuse challenging situation so as not to escalate into major conflicts that might cause harm.
Temperament information helps you see how your child learns, responds, reacts, and behaves. Through the earlier years of development, you see reactions begin to form into a pattern of values, needs, and fears:
+++++ One child needs closeness, touch, and assurance from parents.Thus, he values following his parents, climbing in their laps and being cuddled or held.
His fear of not having the needs met, or when his needs are not met, he feels, hurt, lost, or angry.
+++++ Another youngster values being by herself–independence.
She plays with her dolls and likes doing so by herself.
Her need to learn through trial an error means that she pushes parents away sometimes with the familiar, “I can do it.”
+++++ Children, who readily and quickly shift, show adaptive temperaments. They learn more by doing and practicing.
+++++ Children, who have slower-to-warm temperaments, learn by watching and rehearsing internally.
+++++ Children’s challenging temperaments cause us to regroup:
- Ask what is the child going through?
- Is this a temperament trait or learned behavior that needs to change?
- Are the child’s needs being met?
- Are fears causing issues?
- Has the child’s value been diminished in any way?
This child views the world through optimistic eyes, adapts quickly and maintains positivity well. He is a natural learner, eats and sleeps regularly (has no trouble sleeping), is pleasant and cheerful, and displays a low-intensity mood.
Because this child feels deeply in certain situations, he has few significant emotional outbursts. This type comprises about 40% of all people.
The Feisty/Difficult/Spirited group of children comprises about 10% of the population. This grouping is the opposite of the flexible children. Feisty children are slow to adapt to the routines: napping, eating, homework, quiet time. Moreover, bowel movements are not regular. The spirited child has preferences for parents to discover and manage. On the hand, the child shows his mastery for specific tasks.
The feisty child has tantrums, is fussy, and can be unpleasant in disagreements. With high energy, this child explores with intensity and can get into mischief, On the other hand, he or she is bursting with energy and explores the surrounding and people intensely.
The third general temperament type is aptly called Slow-To-Warm, and 15% of the population belongs to this category. Slow to warm types are shy or highly-sensitive persons (which they sometimes are. They watch their world and usually observe on the outside of things before joining. Their internal clock is disrupted easily and shows up in irregular sleeping, feeding and other personal habits. This child seems to be always enjoying things or doing them at his own sweet pace.
The rest of the 35% of the population are combinations of several temperaments. They exhibit traits of all three temperament types and cannot be categorized into a single trait pattern. The feature they share is that they have characteristics of all three temperaments.
In all these temperament types, you will also find yours. Understanding children and their temperaments include understanding your own. Doing so will open your eyes to the many areas where you can connect to that of your children, or whether you are compatible with each other or not.
Parenting the whole child implies that we honor our children’s wholeness while we dissect and discuss the parts of the whole—physical body, mind, emotions and spirit. It may indeed be paradoxical, but it’s our way of understanding how the parts contribute to the whole and our job if we work with parents, families, and children.
We consider our children’s wholeness when we:
- Bear in mind the emotional and mental factors that contribute to strep throat.
- Look to a biochemical problem associated with a child’s temper
- Consider the negative self-talk and thoughts that can float around in the head of a depressed teen.
- Regard childhood patterns from a holistic perspective. These can include a child who falls down all the time, one who has allergies, one who is shy and sensitive, one who doesn’t want to be touched, and so on. We want to help, but do we help their biochemistry, their behavior or their spirit?
- Think about how children spend their time, and if their activities are balanced between stimulation and quiet.
Bundles of Energy
The foundation of whole-child parenting is understanding that our children are bundles of energy in the form of thoughts, physical activity, emotional expression and spirit. Rather than thinking about managing our children, think about managing their energy.
The energy of the body needs food, touch, air and water. The energy of the emotions needs positive input like optimism, smiles and support. The energy of thought needs inspiration and imagination, or it gets bored. The energy of the spirit needs connection, faith, compassion and quiet. It needs calm moments of awareness.
Most of us know these things and have our own intuitive ways of mothering and fathering our children. In fact, the joy of parenting the whole child is discovering how much you already know and do. The ease of whole-child parenting is that when one avenue doesn’t work, there is always another way. For example, because we know that the nature of emotional energy can be chaotic, we can find several ways to structure and channel positive emotional energy with our child. We might follow schedules, share meals, read books or see a heart-warming movie.
A Soul Living in a Child’s Body
Thinking of a child as an “energy bundle” helps us take our parenting less personally when a child screams, “I hate you.” What we want to take to heart is that this soul is living with us in a child’s body. We are responsible for helping this child to develop in the best, most fulfilling way possible.
Parenting is really about educating the mind and body so our children are happy, successful and healthy in body and soul. Working with the mind-body connection is the foundation for parenting the whole child.
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Your child becomes a teenager and parenting can suddenly turn into a frustrating experience. You are understanding your child from a different viewpoint in the circle of life. You could observe:
- That the harmony is gone in your relationship.
- You find yourself in disagreement with your child.
- You feel the so-called generation gap grew.
Yes, your child is changing, but the basic temperament is still there. Understanding your teen is still the key to having a harmonious relationship. These ten tips for understanding your teen and dealing with the new brain wiring will help you stay centered as a heartwise® parent.
While you used to pal around with your child when he or she was younger, you now have to set boundaries between your role as a parent or a friend.
1.Help stabilize the changes.
At this stage, you are primarily the circumspect parent who will listen, negotiate boundaries and behaviors, and stand steadfast in your expectations. Doing so helps stabilize all the changes the adolescent experiences. Friends can be found, but good parenting is a rare commodity these days.
2. Become Involved
Understanding your child as a teen means becoming involved while your schedule and life remain just as busy. Being involved is finding the time to be with them. Being involved means knowing where they are at all times and establishing communication protocols.
Even more important are the conversations about life your teen appreciates. These conversations open opportunities to understanding your child, as their thoughts and feelings change each day, disappear, and flare again: Listen to the what your child tells you about their life events. You will glean their thoughts and feelings so that they will be at ease coming to you if they are in trouble.
3. Train Teens in Accountability Skills
You as the parent, are responsible for preparing your child for adult life for as long as they live under your roof.
If they want something, exert the effort to achieve it or get it.
Being responsible for communication, earned expenses, and tasks is now their domain.
Money is not the important asset. Rather, qualities about handling money are what matters.
As a parent, you can help here by providing their allowance for completed jobs, but they must do their part. You are training them to survive in a competitive world.
4. Listen To Them
The teen years are crucial years for understanding your child. Teens expect you to hear them and decipher what they need or want. You may feel like judgments arise surrounding teen activities, finances, and studies. Don’t worry because 99% of the job is listening to them and understanding what they want.
5. Explain Your Viewpoint
By letting teens know the reasons for any decisions you make, you empower them to make their choices. Offering them a reason, even if it considered lame by your teen, helps them review their personal choices. For example
Concern for their safety is why you establish a mutually agreed on curfew.
Your need to know where they are if they leave one place for a new destination requires a phone call to know they are safe and capable of holding their own among peers.
6. Tune In
Understanding your child occurs when you are
listening to their kind of music
keeping tabs on what activities they are involved in
Knowing the names of their friends
7. Be Flexible
Setting agreed-upon rules with your teen is always healthy. However, exceptions to rules always occur. Whether you are flexible enough to bend the rules requires discussion with your teen. Lay the groundwork for those instances when rules can be adjusted.
8. Share Your Interest With Your Child
Sharing interests with your child means you better understand them You learn together and share your experiences. You need to stay connected with your child through those teen arguments.
9. Keep Talking Even If Your Teen Is Not Listening
Teenagers do listen to their parents. While they may argue with you, your advice is well-entrenched in their minds. After all, you did raise them. Although they pretend passivity with what you say, the truth is that your advice has influence.
“Teenagers are known for their angst and moodiness. You really can’t blame them with all that’s going on in their lives from physical changes and peer pressure to academic expectations and the formation of relationships.” Tyler Jacobison (Twitter | Linkedin
Feeling moody and grouchy once in a while is normal. Trouble begins when these feelings become more intense, persisting for weeks, months or even longer. Teen depression is an uncomfortable reality in our society and it’s up to parents to support and help their affected teens.
Situational vs. Clinical Depression
You can help your child by first identifying the difference between situational and clinical depression, their causes and treatment methods.
Situational depression (also known as adjustment disorder) occurs in the aftermath of monumental or traumatic changes in an individual’s life. In teens, situational depression can be triggered by parents’ divorce, a breakup from a romantic relationship, death of a loved one, academic struggles or even moving to a new area. Keep in mind that situational depression is temporary and things should go back to normal once the stressors are removed or your teen learns to cope with them.
In the meantime though, their symptoms are very real and are similar to those of chronic depression. They include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, worthlessness or hopelessness.
- Changes in sleeping patterns –either difficulties in falling asleep or oversleeping.
- Changes in eating patterns, loss of appetite and weight changes.
- Loss of interest in hobbies, studies and life in general.
- Persistent lethargy and fatigue.
- Difficulties concentrating, making decisions or remembering tasks.
- Self-harming or suicide attempts.
Clinical depression, on the other hand, is more severe and is thought to be caused by a complex mix of brain chemical imbalances, genetic factors and social situations. It causes major long-term depressive symptoms that are pervasive enough to interfere with your teen’s daily life.
Different Treatment Approaches
The treatment your teen requires depends on the type of depression they have.
Managing Situational Depression
● Urge your teen to continue pursuing their hobbies and other leisure activities.
● Also, encourage them to eat a nutritionally well-balanced diet and get regular exercise to stimulate the production of dopamine to boost their mood.
● Joining a support group or talking out the situation with close friends and relatives can also help.
● If all else fails, seek the help of a trained psychotherapist.
Managing Clinical Depression
● Psychotherapy is a crucial part of helping your teen deal with clinical depression. Get feedback on their progress to ensure that the therapist you engage is the right fit.
● Appropriate medication in tandem with therapy will provide the best outcome for your teen. The medication might be for short or long-term use depending on the diagnosis.
● Hospitalization in a psychiatric facility might also be necessary especially if your teen is self-harming, suicidal or showing signs of delusion or psychosis.
With proper coaching, parents can learn responsive parenting skills that will help them discern behavioral issues that may predispose their teens to depression as well as learn how to assist their children to get over rough patches in their lives.
GUEST AUTHOR: Tyler Jacobson is a proud father, husband, writer and outreach specialist with experience helping parents and organizations that help troubled teen boys. Tyler has focused on helping through honest advice and humor on: modern day parenting, struggles in school, the impact of social media, addiction, mental disorders, and issues facing teenagers now. Follow Tyler on: Twitter | LinkedIn