Dealing with Stubborn and Defiant Kids (and NOT Losing your Sanity)

How to deal with stubborn kidsMyth: A stubborn child who doesn’t do as he is told is going to be a failure in life, a bitter disappointment and basically a useless fool who just keeps getting into trouble.

Reality: Consider the red apple in this picture:   Capturejk It’s all in the perception. Sure you’ve got one wrong coloured apple in your grocery bag, but is it any less better than the other green ones? Does this apple merit tossing it aside without even considering that it may be more sweeter and crisper? You can do two things: eat it along with the others or toss it into the back of the fridge till it rots and ultimately gets thrown out.

It’s not a very good analogy I’ll admit, but you get the point. What you are looking at as a piece of Capturecoal  could in fact be a real  Capturelk . It all depends on how you tackle the situation. A child who is stubborn has so much life, creativity and spunk. He has the potential to be a leader and trend setter. Consider a change in terminology to aid the negative image: Stubborn is determined, defiant is enthusiastic. All he seeks are proper channels to divert all that pent up energy, all the emotion. We usually block any progressive outlets, thereby creating stubbornness and defiance. So the next time you are in the ring  with your child consider the following alternative options:

1. Differentiate between wants and needs: What is your child truly seeking? Is it something urgent, is something needed? If it is, then don’t delay in meeting his demand. IF it is justified, let him have it and don’t let it get to the stage where he becomes defiant and reactive. The key is to keep open communications to get a clear picture. This of course applies in every facet of life.

2. Is it physical or psychological? Younger children more so than older ones, are not very articulate. (Not that your average teen is any more of a talker.) This could be the reason he is causing a ruckus. Maybe he has some pain, maybe its a lack of sleep, or hunger, maybe its a bully at school. Any sudden change in appetite or sleep patterns along with mood swings may indicate as such. If you can get to the root cause, you will most certainly get positive results.

3. Ignoring the small stuff: Let the small stuff go. Keep your ‘I’m upset with you,’ face for an occasion that truly merits it.

4. Setting age appropriate and situation appropriate boundaries and consequences: I don’t like to use the word ‘punishment’. It”s so harsh and brutal. ‘Consequences’ is more approachable by kids. Let’s say you want to set a limit on the time you child spends on his computer. Sit with him, then firmly set the boundary, and then ask him if he exceeds the limit what the appropriate consequence should be. Then make him repeat it. For instance it could be agreed that if he exceeds the limit, he won’t get to spend any time at all the next day. It’s reasonable. Taking away his computer altogether, is not. Then FOLLOW THROUGH.

5. Diversion: It is an age old tactic, one that may or may not work, but its worth a shot. I like the tickling method. Works wonder in a fit of rage or crying bouts. Then a hug to follow. It won’t work for an older child, he’ll just stare at you like you’re from outer space (at best). For him it’s best to just say you won’t entertain him until he is calm and that as soon they he is able to sit down like an adult, he will be treated as such and will be dealt with as such. If you inculcate the habit of conflict resolution in a certain safe setting it will not only benefit you, but what you are doing is actually building a very important life-skill in your child.

6. The ‘Let’s Start Over’ Tactic: I love this little nifty trick. You can calm a child down if he throws a tantrum and ask him to try to start again, go back in time if you will. This way you can back track and find out the cause of his outburst. What’s that saying? No matter how dirty your hands get, you can still wash them clean.

7. Positive activities and responsibilities: Sometimes a child lashes out because he is simply bored. Bring some spice into your child’s life by involving him in cooking, some handicraft classes and what not. There are tonnes of things that can be done. The more creative, the better. A good way to do this is to assign certain small routine responsibilities. It builds maturity.

At the end of that day, all your child really wants is your unconditional love and attention. Time in his life is the best investment you can make. Keep it real. Kids will disappoint- even break you heart, but your continued support will pay off. Balance is the key. You need to adopt the basic human principles of not accepting disrespect, yet being humble and kind and generous and forgiving and yet be firm. Children are after all, precious, and we are responsible in molding them into good and pure individuals. They’ll try us, even make us pull out our own hair in despair- but it’s part of the job description. Chin up- there’s an upside: they’ll have kids of their own one day, then who’ll get the last laugh!


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