Dealing with kids who are defiant can be overwhelming and frustrating! It may seem like they are doing everything they can to make your life miserable. You may feel hopeless, exhausted, or defeated. Let me tell you something, ALL KIDS ARE DEFIANT at some point. It is part of their development and it is not your fault! Here are some tips to help you get through the tough times. Remember, every kid is different and every kid will respond differently, but research shows structure and consistency are super important in working with kids who are defiant.
- Have a clear set of house rules: Having a list of house rules helps the child know expectations and have structure. Think about the specific behaviors you want to target and a few rules that your child can easily achieve so they do not get discouraged. Keep the list short as to not overwhelm your child. A list of 4-7 is manageable. Examples include: use a quiet voice, clean up your toys after your done, solve problems with brother/sister, no yelling at brother/sister, do not interrupt someone speaking, do not take back, etc. You can make this list cute (if you are creative like that) or just write them out and have them visible, like the fridge, for everyone to see and reference it frequently. You can even make the list together with your child so they have some input and buy in.
- Focus on positive reinforcement: positive reinforcement is the act of rewarding a child when she completes a desired behavior as a means of increasing the likelihood she’ll repeat the behavior again is proven in research to be more effective than negative reinforcement. Sticker charts are great for this!
- Use logical consequences when needed: A consequence is a result or effect of an action or condition. If your child throws a toy, they toy will be taken away for a certain amount of time. Depending on age, come up with appropriate consequences relative to the poor action.
- CONSISTENCY: If you say you are going to take something away, stick to your word. If you do not follow through, they will learn not to take you seriously and will continue with the poor behavior. Consistency is key. Remember, your child wants to keep nagging in hopes of you changing your mind. Stick to your guns.
- Avoid power struggles: When your child is heightened, it is easy for you to be heightened yourself. Remain calm and to the point. When you engage in the power struggle, the child becomes disengaged and it often times affects their self esteem. Try pointing out one thing your child does right each day and offer praise when possible.
Now, all of this is easier said than done. Start small and work your way up. You may start with focusing on praising your child daily, or create 1 house rule a week and work your way up once you master it. Remember, every child is different and you have to find what works for your child and your family. YOU’RE ROCKING IT!