I have found that helping defiant children is equally based on a mindset as well as a set of techniques. Looking for the following helps to find an effective counselor for your defiant child or teen:

• Maintains a calm, firm, and non-controlling demeanor to avoid being sucked into power struggles. This stance also bypasses the child/teens’ emotional reactivity.

• Reinforces the child when he or she participates and shares information.

• Collaborates with all school personnel and other treatment professionals.

• Keeps in mind that the best discipline for a defiant child is for the parents to have the self-discipline to remain calm, firm, and non-controlling.

• Encourages teachers and parents to move from a “consequence hungry” mentality to leading with understanding. Try to avoid battles and pick them wisely.

• Educates the parents that understanding defiant children is just as important, if not more important than loving them.

• Reinforces that progress will include setbacks.

• Leads with empathy for both the child and his or her parents.

• When working with the child alone be engaged and active. Sincere probing questions about the child’s interests help to build rapport.

• Keeps it real. Sharing stories of her own frustrations of childhood or those regarding his own children, or of kids you worked with in the past (disguising identifying information of past clients is essential).

• Asks the child or teen what they think will help. I have found that many children have good ideas to help resolve conflicts.

Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein is a psychologist, personal, and executive coach, and motivational speaker in the greater Philadelphia area. He has been on the Today Show, Radio, and has written four popular books, including 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child. You can also follow him on twitter.

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