Dealing with the Defiant Child
“What do you do when they say, ‘I’m not doing that! You can’t make me!’?”
Step 1: Say in a non-threatening way, “No problem. I care about you too much to fight with you about this. If it doesn’t get done I’ll take care of it.”
Whom are you really talking to? You’re talking to yourself. The goal at this point is to allow the child or teen to believe that you are backing down so that you can create a solid plan for making their bad behavior their problem.
Does this decrease the odds of having a destructive, even dangerous power struggle?
Step 2: Hope and pray they continue their defiance.
Don’t remind, nag, beg, bribe, or threaten. The fewer words you use, the better. Remember that every mistake or misbehavior is a wonderful opportunity to learn life’s most valuable lessons.
Step 3: Put together a plan and plug the holes.
Do you know a child or teen so bright that they quickly find the “loopholes” in every plan? Avoid this by first visiting with family, friends, colleagues, or other professionals who can offer ideas and support.
Step 4: Let loving empathy and consequences do the teaching.
There must be consequences, because defiance is damaging to everyone. It drains our energy, and it hurts the young person by leading them to believe that nasty, disrespectful behavior is okay. Kids will never enjoy peaceful and productive lives if they fail to develop proper submission and respect for authority.
Sincere empathy delivered by the adult makes if far more likely that the defiant child will learn respect rather than resentment and greater rebelliousness.
Step 5: Remember to love the child even when it’s impossible to love their behavior.
This is tough… but that’s why it’s so powerful. Hope is provided when kids know that nothing can separate them from our love.