How to Deal With a Defiant Child

Being a parent means having to deal with your child’s disobedience at times. We don’t always like it, but it happens. Sometimes we have no clue what to do and look to parenting experts for help. It can leave you afraid and worried that you might lower your precious child’s self-esteem if you do the wrong thing. We are constantly looking for answers on how to deal with a defiant child. There is hope! All you have to do is deal with the misbehavior as soon as it happens and be consistent with discipline. Read on to see some helpful tips about this issue.

How to Deal with a Defiant Child

1.    Understand Your Defiant Child

If you are a parent of a defiant child or children, it is important to try and understand them. This ranks right up there with giving your child your love. If your child or teenager is defiant, they think of themselves as your equal. They don’t see you as in charge. They need to have adults understand their feelings or they can become frustrated, resentful and angry. All children feel this way at one point or another, but defiant children cannot handle not being understood.

2.    Remove Your Child from a Situation

If your child starts in with defiant and bad behavior, remove them from the situation at once! Tell them it is time to go home and leave immediately. Do not let them beg to stay or bargain with you.

3.    Hold Your Reaction, Follow Up With Action

If you see your child acting defiantly, take a step back first. Breathe. Never lose it in front of your child. Tell your child in a calm voice that his or her behavior is unacceptable. Tell them you will talk to them later. Give them some time to think about what they have done and what the consequences might be. During this time, you can calm yourself and show your child an appropriate reaction.

4.    Control Yourself First

If you have a defiant child, yelling makes them worse. Yelling can spiral things out of control really quick. When your child sees you yelling, they experience your loss of control. It will teach your child that outbursts are okay.

Take a deep breath and calm yourself. Then use a firm and calm voice to speak to them. This is a very important step in how to deal with a defiant child and alleviate the power struggle.

5.    Stay in Control

Arguing with your child allows them to have control over what happened. This is giving them permission to be more defiant. If you experience a power struggle with your child tell them, “You already know the consequences for your actions!” Then walk away. As soon as you leave with the last word, you keep control.

6.    Give Your Child Accountability

Before you have to correct any defiant behaviors and when you are calm, sit down and have a family meeting. Give your defiant child the house rules and guidelines for things like chores, homework, bedtime, curfew, and how people need to be treated. Make a list of things that will not be acceptable like rudeness, physical contact in anger, refusal to do things, and disrespectful behavior. Hold them accountable and give them consequences when they break the house rules.

7.    Make Consequences Fit the Age of the Child

There are two categories of consequences that work for discipline. One is removing something like taking them out of the room, giving them a time-out (1 minute for each year of age), or removal of favorite toys.

The second is an imposition like having them pay a fine into a jar, adding chores, going out with you to shop instead of playing outside with friends, etc.

Removals tend to work better for younger children, while impositions tend to work better for older children and teens.

8.    Don’t Cave, Bargain Or Give a Second Chance

You have to stand your ground and follow through with discipline when dealing with a defiant child. If you are consistent your kids will know you mean business. If you cave or give in then they will not take you seriously. If your child says something bad to someone, you need to stop the behavior as soon as it happens. Say something like, “We do not say those things to people. You need to go to your room.” Follow through. Bargaining and giving second chances enables a child to be defiant.

9.    Kids Need Positive Reinforcement

It is very important, probably most important to reinforce good behavior. Reinforce when they are positive. Reinforce when their actions are good. Give them lots of praise when they do good things and reward them for cooperating. This reinforces responsibility for their actions.

10.    Have Regular Communication/ Meetings

When things are good between you and your child, find time to have a meeting to let them know your expectations. Let them know that you are doing your job as a parent to teach them good living skills so they can grow up to be responsible. Tell them you are not trying to give them a hard time, but you want them to be strong and happy with life.

11.    Allow Them to Have Input

When you discuss with your child what you expect, allow your child to speak up. Give your child a few choices and let them decide what they would like to do. This gives them a little control and can help alleviate defiance. Ask them when they would like to do there chores, or which ones they would like to do.

12.    Know When to Compromise

While this is not at all bargaining, it is teaching your defiant child how to compromise. You give a little, they give a little and everybody wins. For instance, if you send your child to bed early for being disruptive and they ask to keep the light on to read, go ahead. They are out of the disruptive situation and you followed through with a consequence.

13.    Make Sure Everyone in the House Is On the Same Page

Let everyone in the house know what the discipline is for certain behaviors and make sure everyone reinforces the rules. You and your partner must agree if a certain behavior is unacceptable or not. If you have teens that watch young children, they need to help keep consistency. Your younger child needs to know when you are away that older siblings are in charge and they the same behavior is expected as when you are home.

Make Sure That It's Not Oppositional Defiant Disorder

If you have a defiant child that seems to be out of control, you need to make sure they do not have a condition known as ODD or Oppositional Defiant Disorder. When a child is constantly defiant for longer than six months and hard to control then your child may have ODD. The symptoms are excessive temper tantrums, always blaming others for mistakes, refusal to comply with rules, spite and revenge. If your child does have ODD, they will need psychotherapy and/or medication. In addition, you can help by staying consistent with discipline, nurturing at home, and following any therapist recommendations.