Got a Defiant Child? Looking for the “Secret Weapon” of Effective Discipline?
What is the number one most important point to remember when disciplining your defiant child? In Family Counseling sessions, we often meet frustrated parents are searching for a “secret weapon” or some new parenting strategy that will work like magic and turn an unruly, defiant child into a well-mannered little angel overnight.
Guess what? There is no “secret weapon” or new revolutionary parenting program that works like magic to erase your child’s behavior problems instantly. But there is one very important point to remember if you want any discipline strategy to work. The most important key to successful parenting is CONSISTENCY.
Sorry, no new secret trick or technique here, just basic, old-fashioned hard work and consistency on your part as a parent. Being consistent is the number one tool we tell all parents in Family Counseling. By being consistent, it sends a clear message to your defiant child that you mean business and that you are serious about following through with what you say you are going to do no matter how long it takes or how hard it is.
A parent who is not consistent will have far more power struggles and defiance issues to deal with in the long run. When you don’t follow through with discipline and clear expectations, it sends a message to your defiant child that he or she can continue doing whatever it is that they do to get in trouble and nothing bad will happen (at least part of the time). It tells the defiant child that it is okay to break the rules and, every once in a while at least, he just might get by with it!
Imagine that you have to be at work at 8:00 am every morning. One morning you wake up 30 minutes late and don’t get there until 8:20 am. You run through the front door and your boss greets you but says nothing about you being late. Same thing happens next Monday morning. This time you aren’t as concerned because last week the boss didn’t seem to care. This time you walk in at 8:15 am, five minutes earlier than last week. The boss is waiting at the door with a scowl on his face. As you walk in, he immediately yells at you in front of everyone and explains that you are being written up for being late. Confused? Last week he smiled when you were 20 minutes late but this week you are written up for being only 15 minutes late!
This is the same message we send to our children by not being consistent with our rules and expectations. And children are less able to make sense of these “mixed messages” than we are as adults. In addition to being confusing, this type of parenting (or supervision in the case of a work relationship) also leads to us trying to break the rules more often in the future. Why not? The first time you were able to come 20 minutes late and nothing happened. Maybe next week the boss will be in a good mood and you can get by with it again. Inconsistency leads to confusion for the child and a desire to break the rules just one more time to see if mom or dad will let it “slide” again. This then leads to frazzled, frustrated parents who don’t understand why their child is not the well-mannered angel they want him to be!
If you have a defiant child and are struggling with managing his behaviors, Tender Hearts Child Therapy Center Family Counselors can help. In Family Counseling sessions at Tender Hearts, we will work with you and your child to develop a parenting strategy that actually works for you and your family. We will talk to you about your unique challenges as a parent and work with you to help you learn parenting strategies that will work for you. Contact Us Today to get started!
Tips to Manage your Defiant Child and Stop feeling Frustrated as a Parent!
You show me a defiant child and I’ll show you a frustrated parent 99 times out of 100. In fact, it seems like the combo of defiant child and frustrated parent go together like Milk and Cookies…well maybe spoiled Milk and Cookies anyway!
One thing is for certain, there’s no shortage of tips and suggestions for dealing with your defiant child. Some suggest a sensitive approach, where it seems like the parent should beg and plead until the defiant child listens. Others just preach to you about the “way dad used to do it” with a firm hand to the backside. But just exactly what is the best approach to dealing with a defiant child?
3 Easy Tips to Manage Your Defiant Child
1. Stay Calm and Carry On!
A defiant child is often just feeding off of your energy. A defiant child is typically not feeling connected or emotionally regulated in the moment. While it may seem like the defiant child is acting out just to be mean to you, this is most likely not the case. An example would be a defiant child refusing to get dressed in the morning. He is not acting this way because he wants you to be late for work. A more likely explanation is that he’s tired or hungry and just doesn’t have the maturity level to express this to you with words.
2. Focus on the Positive.
Your defiant child constantly hears what he’s doing wrong. At school, at home, in public… he’s always hearing negative remarks about his behavior and suffering the consequences of his poor choices. Even though it’s all negative, your defiant child has learned to successfully gain attention, and I mean A LOT of attention with his misbehavior. I know it’s hard but you have to shift your focus from your child’s negative behaviors to the positive behaviors. Focus just as much on the positive behaviors your defiant child engages in as you now do the negative ones. And use the same energy you now put into reprimanding his negative behaviors into praising his positive behaviors.
3. Be Consistent.
You need to remember that your defiant child took months or even years to develop his current personality and way of interacting with others. It will also take a good amount of time to turn these interactional patterns around. By being consistent with the two tips above, you can speed up the process and create faster, longer lasting changes in the behaviors of your defiant child. Like with all parenting strategies, these tips simply won’t work if you don’t follow them 100% of the time.
Give these 3 tips a try while dealing with your defiant child. Stay calm, focus as much time and energy on the positive behaviors as you now do on the negative, and above all, be CONSISTENT.
If you try these tips and still find yourself struggling, you might need the added support of Family Counseling to alter the behaviors of your defiant child. Family Counselors at Tender Hearts use Evidence-Based Treatments to teach you skills to finally gain control of your defiant child and help you be a more confident, in control parent!