You likely have either experienced your own battles with a defiant child or observed another parent’s public struggle. A quick Google search of the phrase “child defiance” will register approximately 21 million hits, showing the enormity of the problem. When experts themselves don’t agree on this subject, what should you do as the parent of a defiant child? Parents should look to those areas that the experts agree on, realize that not every technique is one-size-fits-all and choose what you think would be good for your child and family. Experts rely on some of these favorite techniques:
understand the cause of the negative behavior
set limits and rules,
follow through and
quickly make positive comments on good behavior.
Another strategy worth mentioning, but debatable as to its effectiveness, is the use of bribes.
Understanding the Roots of Defiance
Many researchers agree that understanding the root or the cause of a child’s defiance is essential to working out a resolution. Naomi Aldort, who is a family/parenting workshop speaker and author, explains that by understanding the reason for the behavior, children can then be healed and will no longer need to act out. Others concur with this thinking, reasoning that it gets to the root of the negative behavior.
Settling limits and rules teaches defiant children the importance of boundaries. While this seems obvious, it’s an integral part of parenting. Consequentially, children should know and understand the expectations. When they are deprived of this important knowledge, they are at a greater risk of developing negative behaviors.
Consistency when enforcing rules and expectations helps children learn consequences for violating boundaries. Far too often, parents fail to stick to their guns and thus teach their children that the rules and expectations are subject to compromise and negotiation. This failure leads to difficulties in child rearing. LMSWs Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner recommend that parents address the most serious issues first and then move down a list. However, parents should not set consequences that they don’t plan to enforce. Additionally, researchers reminded parents that kids don’t always need to be happy with your decisions and consequences — it’s part of life, and they need to get used to it.
Providing Positive Feedback
Lastly, parents must work diligently to provide specific and quick positive feedback for behaviors or tasks performed by the child as directed. This reinforces the good behaviors. Dr. Alan Kazdin, who heads Yale’s Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic, tells his readers and listeners to observe good behavior and provide positive attention toward that behavior.If the parent sees an action that he or she wants to see repeated, then positive feedback reinforces that behavior.