Once upon a time, we believed our future children would be the most well-behaved children on Earth. We just knew they’d listen to every command, never talk back, and never ever disobey. Then, we had children and reality hit us in ways we weren’t adequately prepared to handle.

The good news is there are ways to manage your child’s defiant nature or do away with it altogether. Just like adults, children become defiant when they feel unheard, frustrated, unappreciated, or sad. The way to ease that tension is by recognizing the triggers and becoming familiar with the signs that your child’s behavior may escalate to levels not conducive with acceptable behavior in your home.

After you’ve learned the triggers and the signs, you must move on to the next steps in the

  1. Validate the child’s feelings. Ultimately, isn’t that what we all seek? We want our feelings to be acknowledged and not minimized.
  2. Create an environment/situation in which your child feels comfortable to speak freely—free from judgment and lectures.
  3. Listen. Stop everything you’re doing. Chores and errands can wait. Your child is more important. Truly listen. No interruptions. No problem solving.
  4. Remain calm. No yelling or lecturing. You want to model good behavior.
  5. Avoid outbursts. Prove that you can be trusted to listen.
  6. Discuss what triggers your child and create a game plan to prevent the behavior. The key is to be proactive, not reactive.
  7. Explain that in no uncertain terms that you are the adult. Let your child know exactly what you expect. Agree upon ground rules.
  8. Give praise for good behavior. This isn’t the time to harp on the negative behavior.
  9. Discuss ways to de-escalate the situation. Set realistic expectations. Suggest activities to do that can help alleviate some of the frustration. Maybe take a yoga class together or practice meditation or sign up for the kickboxing class you’ve always wanted to check out.
  10. Ask your child what it is they want. That doesn’t mean you have to meet their.

Will these steps stop all bad behavior? Probably not. But if they eliminate the most stressful outbursts, isn’t it worth saving your sanity and your child’s?

By Lisbeth Splawn