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Getting Defiant Kids to Cooperate


I have an extremely strong-willed, stubborn defiant four-year-old daughter. I love her to death but she challenges me every single day.

Currently I am learning some new parenting techniques to help me get a better handle on her. Below are a few things you should avoid when dealing with a defiant child.

Ignore Inappropriate Behavior

Avoid looking at your child, and be silent. If you ignore this behavior you should see an end to the increasing bad behavior. This will also help your child notice the difference between your responses to good and bad behavior.

Avoid Giving Commands

As parents sometimes we can sound too much like drill sergeants. I find myself giving my kids commands all the time. If you are constantly telling your defiant child what to do it will not let her lead, it can cause unpleasantness and child obedience will be taught later.

Avoid Asking Questions

You should let your child lead the conversation. By asking questions this is reversed and you become the leader of the conversation. Many times when we ask our children questions they are really another form of a command or they require an answer. Your child might also think that you are not listening to him.

Avoid Criticizing

Criticizing does not help to curb bad behavior. Often it will have the opposite effect and cause your child to increase the inappropriate behavior. This may also lower her self-esteem and it creates an unpleasant interaction between parent and child.

Avoid these words: No, Don’t, Stop, Quit and Not

This is the hardest concept for most parents. We are programmed to use these words in response to bad behaviors. For example, your child picks up a sharp object like a knife or scissors instead of saying, “Don’t touch the scissors,” you could reply with this, “Put the scissors down.” If your child still doesn’t listen after repeating that sentence three times then you give your child a choice. “Put the scissors down or I will come over and take them away.”

Related  4 Things Kids Tell Their Parents That Should Never Be Ignored

You can also redirect your child’s behavior. For example, you have a baby who crawls around on the floor and a defiant preschooler. The baby is playing on the floor and your preschooler decides she wants to play with the baby, but she is being a little too rough with him. Instead of hollering, “Stop! Leave the baby alone!” You calmly say, “Come here, I have a secret to tell you.” You can then whisper in your child’s ear that she needs to be more gentle with her little brother.

Do you have a defiant child? What do you do to get your kids to cooperate and listen?

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Cascia Talbert

Cascia Talbert is a devout Catholic, mother of five children, health and fitness enthusiast and positive parenting supporter. She is also the founder of the award winning online health, fitness, parenting and Christian faith magazine for moms, the Healthy Moms Magazine. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, five children and one spoiled cat. Her hobbies include gardening, country music, running, and playing her flute. Check out her first book, "Taking Care of your Family's Health and Well-being, Saints to Turn to and the Catholic Faith," available anywhere books are sold.

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20 Comments

  1. Lindsey June 1, 2010

    Thank you so much for this post! I have an almost 3 year old and between the new addition to the family {baby brother} and the terrible twos, I haven't been able to get a handle on the kid! She strives for attention and it doesnt matter if its good or bad attention.

  2. This is a very helpful article!!! My 4 year old is constantly challenging me. Hopefully this can help:)

  3. MaryAnne June 1, 2010

    This is excellent advice!

  4. blueviolet June 2, 2010

    Every one of those ideas is a good one. I hope that they'll continue to work well for you.

  5. Gigi June 2, 2010

    Great post! i have an extremely strong-willed, and defiant almost-5year old girl. We have struggled with her now for almost 3 years. I have been reading the book The Explosive Child and it's been immensely helpful in teaching new strategies on how to deal with it – some are similar to what you outline here. I highly recommend the book!

  6. These are great tips for all parents with all types of kids! The last one is my favorite because I typically say don't etc. but “I” am getting tired of it so I'm going to try the other tactic if for no one else than myself :p

    Thank you for the comment on my blog a couple of weeks ago – I hope I get my writing retreat soon, too! 🙂

  7. Carissa June 2, 2010

    I have bookmarked this page. I need to remember this with my 2.5 year olds. I am trying but I may fail more than I succeed for a while…thanks for the great post!

  8. Cascia June 2, 2010

    I am so glad that you all found this helpful! I will be doing a series on parenting and discipline while I am going through the behavior therapy with UC Davis and my daughter. I am learning new skills all the time and love sharing what I am learning with my readers.

  9. lady kingdom June 3, 2010

    thanks a lot for sharing this nice thoughts

  10. Sue June 6, 2010

    Good tips. My 10 yr. old can be stubborn sometimes. The ignoring one works for me sometimes. You give a lot of other good ideas.

    Thanks for sharing. 2 1

  11. Great suggestions. I especially agree with avoiding criticism. I have a couple of defiant kids myself. They don't get it from me. lol 😉
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my guest post over at The Scoop on Poop. You're too sweet! Have a great weekend Cascia.

    Kristi, Live and Love…Out Loud
    @TweetingMama

  12. Melinda June 12, 2010

    Great advice. I like the telling them you have a secret trick. My third child is 4..I think it is one of the more frustrating ages for parents. My mother always said if a child was screaming..whisper..and they will stop to hear you. It works.

  13. Heidi June 23, 2010

    Great article! I have been working on the tip of avoid using no and don't. I have noticed when I say something like “Don't pull on the drapes” my toddlers only hear “pull on the drapes”.

  14. Dina @ 4 Lettre Words July 16, 2010

    “Ignoring” is key with us! Both of our boys have a stubborn streak.

    Great post!

  15. Wahzat Gayle August 21, 2010

    What a great reminder… I am struggling with all of those No and Dont flies out of my mouth way too easily.

    Great advice I am going to change my wording now 🙂

    Saying hello from blogfrog

  16. ceemee August 22, 2010

    Thanks for sharing this. My daughter is very stubborn and strong-willed and challenges me everyday also that I wanna freak out.

  17. theresa August 23, 2010

    I'll admit it, I have had my super weak mom moments and I have definitely “drill Sargented” my 3 year old. What normally works for us is I'll actually ask her if that is the right kind of behavior and 9 times out of 10 she'll apologizes and correct her behavior.

    Every kid is different though. What works for us, may not work for others. Loved the article!

  18. Anonymous October 10, 2011

    I have an almost 5 year old and she challenges me everyday . Sometimes there is not a day that goes by that she does not cry . She wakes up crying and will not tell us what is the matter she just cries . I have to say things about 5 times before she listens . I find myself yelling alot and I don't want to be that kind of parent . Hopefully your advice will work , I'll give it a good shot.

  19. Cascia Talbert October 25, 2011

    Anonymous, I hope this article helps you out with your 5 year old. Thank you for visiting and leaving us a comment!