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Parent’s Corner: Dealing with Defiance

Growing up and testing adult expectations is one way for our children to express individuality, achieve a sense of autonomy and discover things about themselves. It’s a natural part of gaining independence, but sometimes these minor occurrences start becoming a pattern – then you start asking yourself, now what?

If your child is little, say a toddler, and things get out of control – simply swoop in and physically remove the child from the situation and the tantrum. Leave the store, end the playdate, take them off the swings and head home. In order for this to work, though, there must be no hesitation on your part. Just say in very clear, simple language why you’re taking the action. Keep cool and calm and be consistent.

When your child is a bit older, or you are already at home, then they need to learn consequences. As the parent, you know what will most work with your child – the tablet?  TV time?  A favorite toy?  Give them a warning and then follow through, if they don’t listen or don’t stop the unwanted behavior, they lose the privilege of having the toy or device time. These types of situations can be stressful for everyone, but they do work.

As your children mature and get older, situations change so if you notice your middle or high school child only recently demonstrating disrespect and disobedience, talk to them. Tell them that you’ve noticed a difference in their behavior and that you sense they are unhappy or struggling. With their help, try to determine the specific cause of frustration or upset. This is the first step toward helping them change behavior.

If things are getting out of hand, or behaviors are getting worse than better, it might be time to seek out professional mental health experts and get some help. When should you think about this option?  If the pattern is consistent and goes on both at home and school, if the child’s disobedience is followed or accompanied by aggressive or violent behavior, or if your child just seems generally blue or depressed. By dealing with and resolving these problems at a young age, you can minimize and even prevent more serious struggles that may emerge as your children reach adolescence. The key is early identification and treatment.

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