Five Tips to Lessen Your Child's Defiant Behavior

Changing your attitude for the better helps your child better behave.

Posted Mar 01, 2014

What are the most effective, powerful ways to help manage your defiant child at home? 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 more you will model healthy discipline for your child.

Think of it this way, the more you keep your cool, the less you will look like a fool with your defiant child. I am a "yeller in recovery." Looking back, I remember times in the past when my own emotional reactivity with my kids made me clearly look quite inept as a parent. In efforts to learn from my own mistakes, I am grateful to have gained at least a bit of wisdom over time. I'm hoping that my sharing with you what I learned the hard way, will make effective discipline with your child easier for you. 

So, 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 five proven tips for handling defiant children.They are detailed in my book, 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child.

When working with defiant children, use these five strategies to lower their defiance:

* Be mindful. Remember that your 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, positive  behaviors. The more positive attention the child gets for being compliant, the less negative attention he or she will look for by being defiant.

If you still find yourself overreacting to your defiant child, just calm down and don’t beat yourself up. Remember that defiant children tend to view themselves as equal to adults. You are likely not crazy. Defiant children are challenging and they really do, "bring it"!

The great news, however, is that you can keep your edge and your sanity by skillfully managing your defiant child. Stay calm, firm, and non-controlling and you will not lose control. For more involved, persistent problems, please consult a qualified mental health professional.

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