Defiance in children can be one of the more frustrating things with which we, as parents, are expected to cope. Whenever we instruct or direct the defant child, we find opposition at every turn, and some truly creative ways of avoiding the desired behavior.
To the child, defiance is a way of asserting control. We all want to be in control of our own lives, and defiance in children is often the only way they can see to assert that control – when instructed to do something, their only choice other than compliance appears to be saying “no.” And therein lies the key.
To handle defiance in children, offering choices is the simplest and most direct way of allowing the child to assert control in a productive and simple manner. Rather than insisting that the child do as you direct, provide the child with a choice of two things – even something as simple as choosing the order of activity can be effective.
It is important to note that a choice between reward and punishment is rarely sufficient, because this is really no choice at all, and will simply create more defiance. In children, the desire to control the environment is strong, and a choice needs to be real if we are to expect any productive result.
One such choice might be to choose whether to wash your face or brush your teeth first. Regardless of the choice, teeth must be brushed and faces must be washed; but by providing the child some control over the process, even when the end result is the same, goes a long way in addressing potential defiance in children.
The most important thing to remember is that the child does not, in most cases, want to be defiant. The reasoning behind defiance in children is not to be contrary or to have power over authority, but to exert control over the child’s own life; to make decisions that are meaningful. Simply recognizing this can go a long way in addressing defiance in children.
As parents, we do not want to be in control of our children’s lives at all. We want our children to reach a point where they can be in control of their own lives, and make choices which will be productive and beneficial as they reach adulthood. Defiance in children is not a resistance to this idea, but an effort to move the process along faster – to have that control, and demonstrate how well they can make these choices. Offering choices provides a productive and beneficial outlet for that effort.
It rapidly becomes second nature, to offer a choice when faced with defiance. In children, the drive to “grow up” – and have greater control over their lives – is one of the strongest drives they experience. Simply providing an avenue for the child to express this drive, and demonstrate greater responsibility and intelligence, can rapidly and dramatically reduce defiance i children.
To learn more about solving problems with your defiant child I highly recommend The Total Transformation Program, by James Lehman.
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