Liking the Child You Love

How to build a better relationship with your kids—even when they're driving you crazy.

Five Powerful Tools to Manage Defiant Children

Parents with self-discipline can better discipline defiant children.

What are the most successful ways to manage defiant children at home and in the classroom? Surprisingly it’s not the use of tough consequences. When you respond harshly to a defiant child, you are only fueling the defiant behavior. The more self-discipline you have to stay in control of your negative reactions, the less conflict you will have with defiant children. 

If you want to inspire positive, lasting changes in kids, you must manage your own strong reactions, and respond in a calm, systematic way. Here are 5 proven tips for handling defiant children. They are detailed in my, 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child.

When encountering defiant children at home or in the classroom, use these five strategies to lower their defiance:

* Be mindful. Remember that the defiant child is struggling with feelings of inadequacy.

* Avoid yelling. Yelling only fans the flames of defiance.

* Resist power struggles. Defiant children believe they are equal in authority to adults. This makes it futile to try to beat them in the power struggle game.

* Be calm, firm, and non-controlling. Keeping your cool, stating clear expectations,and not trying to command these children is the formula for success.

* Look for and reinforce any compliant behaviors. The more positive attention the child gets for being compliant, the less negative attention he'll look for by being defiant.

If you still find yourself overreacting to your defiant child or student, just calm down and don’t beat yourself up. Remember that these children tend to view themselves as equal to adults. The great news, however, is that you can keep your edge and your sanity by skillfully managing your defiant child or student. Stay calm, firm, and non-controlling and you will not lose control.

Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein works with couples, families and children. More strategies to manage defiant children at home and at school can be found in 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child and on his website


Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D., has authored four books, including 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child.


Subscribe to Liking the Child You Love

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.