Guest blogger Maggie Vink: Sometimes, I need to take a good, long look in the mirror. My son can be a sweetheart, but he can also be a real stinker. He's contrary to the point of ridiculousness at times, and any request that sounds remotely like a demand will make him stubbornly dig in his heels and refuse to do what I'm asking. If I were even to demand that he ride his skateboard (one of his favorite things), I'd have World War III in my living room.†His defiance is never about what's being asked of him; it's simply about the fact that he was asked -- and his need for control.
I've never believed that my child must obey everything I say. Children are not robots. But it is necessary for him to respect and listen to me. Once, my son and I were leaving the community center, and my son asked another kid to have a running race with him. I called out that it wasn't a good idea, and the other boy's parents agreed. The other boy immediately stopped running and went back to his parents. My son, on the other hand, ran faster. When I caught up, I explained that there was black ice all over the parking lot and I didn't want him to slip and fall. He seemed shocked that my words might actually have reason behind them!†Since that night, I've tried to teach my son that he must always listen to me first, and that if he disagrees or doesn't understand, he can ask questions.†
a defiant child can be extremely disheartening. The constant battles drain me of energy and leave me feeling angry, even resentful at times. Without realizing it, I slowly shifted from my non-robot-child style of parenting
and moved into more of a barking, do-what-I-say-immediately type of mom. I turned into the kind of mom who gets angry every time her kid doesn't do exactly as ordered.
Essentially, my drill-sergeant style of parenting
was generating the exact behaviors I was trying to extinguish. ‚Ä®‚Ä®
My defiant son didn't need me to bark orders. He needed my help. I need to have empathy and treat him with respect. I can't add fuel to his fire and generate even more defiance. I have to be the anchor -- the calming force that keeps the raging waters of his anger in control.†
My son's defiance is born from a lack of security and trust. Due to his spending ten years in foster care (before I adopted him), there may always be a part of him that feels disconnected and unsure. As he sees it, if he can control his own world -- whether or not he does his homework, what he wears, where he goes -- maybe he'll feel more secure. If he has the bull by the horns, at least he can be responsible for his own hurting.‚Ä®So when I ordered him around as if he were a mindless robot, I was further stripping control from him -- and therefore creating more defiance. When I criticized him for not listening, I was knocking down a self-esteem that barely existed to start with.‚Ä®‚Ä®
I can't give my son free rein to not listen. I can't let him treat me with an utter lack of respect. But I can minimize defiance while teaching him the right way to behave. Here are some tips for parenting
the defiant child:†
- Maintain structure: Stick to a schedule and a routine that your child can count on.†
- Don't engage:†Don't participate in arguments your child tries to initiate.†
- Offer choices: Whenever possible, give your child some control by offering options.
- Compromise: You want him to do his homework right away; he wants to go outside and play (or watch TV or whatever). Let him control when he starts his homework, but don't let him have privileges until it's completed.†
- Pick your battles: When you've got bigger fish frying, is it really a big deal that your child forgot to bring a glass to the sink when he was done with it?†
- Catch your child doing good: Take every opportunity to praise your child and give him affection and love.†
- Discipline wisely:†Sometimes when a child is defiant or rude, addressing the bad behavior in the moment will only escalate the situation. If that's the case, take a deep breath and bide your time. Later, when he's calm, talk to your child about the situation and give appropriate consequences.†
My son's defiant behavior†is a reflection of his past, and of his lingering insecurities.†It's not a reflection on me, so I can't take it personally. The fact is, he does have security now. He does belong. He is loved unconditionally. And he will be loved forever. I just need to be the eyes that help him see that.