Understanding, and I am talking here about true understanding, defiant children helps them become less defiant, more secure, and more emotionally healthy. This is because understanding shows love, breeds compliance, and defuses defiance (keep in mind that most kids act out to get attention). Parents who understand themselves and their concerns from their own childhood will be better able to understand their children. To help you bridge the understanding gap, I encourage you to read through the questions below and reflect on them.

1. Who most understood your feelings, needs, and desires as you were growing up?

2. How did you feel about the person who understood you the most?

3. Who least understood your feelings, needs, and desires as you were growing up?

4. How did you feel about the person who understood you the least?

5. How did feeling understood help you to behave in an appropriate manner?

6. Did feeling misunderstood ever influence you to make poor choices or to behave in an inappropriate manner? If you answered yes, what did you do?

As you will probably see by your responses to the above questions, feeling understood provides us with the emotional leverage to do our best to make good choices and do the right thing on a daily basis. For struggling children and teens, this includes choosing positive alternatives to defiant behavior.

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Source: 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child, Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D., New York, Perseus Books, 2006.

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