“He looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘NO!’ at the top of his lungs.”
“I told her she couldn’t go to a movie with her friends. She sneaked out her window and went anyway.”
“He’s always facing off with me when his father is out of town. He knows better than to do it when his father is home.”
Defiance is a mountain–a very big mountain–if you don’t conquer it. And the earlier you climb it in your child’s life, the better.
Let’s say your 3-year-old defiantly stomps his foot and says, “No!” What is he doing? He’s challenging you to the nth degree. He has absolutely dug in, and he’s not going to do what you’ve asked him to do. If spanking is compatible with your family values, this is indeed the time for a good swat on your kid’s tail, combined with a stern look that says you mean business. This look needs to say, “This is what I expect you to do, and I expect you to do it now.” With a younger child, consistency of expectation and follow-through wins the battle. And a period of isolation and think-time about his actions is also effective in changing the defiant behavior.
If your older child (age 10 and up) is purposefully defiant, then you have a much larger problem. You have a son or daughter you cannot trust.
What’s the answer? What works best with defiance is–all of a sudden, without warning–giving the child vitamin N (No) at every turn.
Child: “We gotta go. It’s time for basketball practice.”
Parent: “No, you’re not going. I’m not going to drive you.”
Child: “Can I have 10 bucks?”
Child: “Can I go to Jack’s house?”
Here’s what’s interesting and why this method works so well. These are always things you’ve let that child do in the past. Now, suddenly, you are not letting her do anything. Sooner or later (and usually sooner) the child wants to know why not. “What’s the deal? You always let me do that.”
How should you respond? Bamboozle the kid. You say, “Why don’t you spend a few minutes in your room thinking about why? When you come to the conclusion about why you think I said it, I’d be happy to talk to you.”
Then remove yourself from the proximity of the child so she doesn’t have the opportunity to try to argue and raise your blood pressure.
Most children, when left to themselves, will come up with the reason and will say, “I’m sorry.”
But that’s when you have to stick to your guns without shooting yourself in the foot. An apology from the child doesn’t change the fact that she goes nowhere for the day.
Now tomorrow? That’s a new day, and it should have a new chance.
But for the lesson to stick, the child needs to feel the consequences of defiant behavior. Sometimes it means you suffer too (not being able to go to an event you wanted to go to). However, letting a child do her activity that day, after saying “I’m sorry,” means she hasn’t learned anything.
And neither have you.
This article was taken from Kevin Leman’s book, Have a New Kid by Friday. Bold print is added by me for emphasis. Keith
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