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5 Tips to Handle Defiant Behaviors

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

You‘ve asked your child to do something (or not to do something) and they respond “no”, shake their head, or simply ignore you. What to do next?

1) Stay Calm

Make sure your voice and tone remain as calm as possible. When we raise our voices or emotionally escalate, children will mirror us and do the same. They’re simply modeling what they‘re seeing and this doesn’t help the situation.

2) Identify Triggers

Ask yourself if there may be potential triggers that are contributing to your child’s refusal. Are they hungry? Tired? Bored? Need a movement break or to go outside for a little bit? Knowing these triggers is helpful in determining what may be contributing to your child’s behavior and what you can do to help them.

3) Be Consistent and Clear

Requests should be consistent and clear. Children are great at noticing and pointing out discrepancies and will question why they had to eat their vegetables before dessert one night but not the other.

4) Ask “Why?”

If your child is refusing your request, a simple strategy is to just ask why. They may respond that they don’t feel like the request is fair or they don’t understand why you’re asking them to do x,y or z. This opens the lines of communication and avoids power struggles.

5) Avoid Power Struggles

Anyone can get caught up in the vicious cycle of a power struggle. If your child has asked you for something and you’ve briefly explained your reason(s) for saying no, it’s best not to continue going back and forth. When communicating with my child, I’ll explain that I’ve said no and why and I will no longer be responding to their request. Once my child realizes I won’t keep going back and forth with them, they eventually stop asking and understand their continual requests won’t be getting them what they want.

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