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Do you have a young child that seems to defy every rule, refuse every request and challenge every decision you make? I think we all have been there. Both you and your child can seem to be in a state of constant frustration.

The good thing to know is that it’s totally developmental. Toddlers, preschoolers, even young elementary-aged kids are becoming more independent every day and are trying to figure out how to be their own person, apart from you. Defiance is often how that is expressed.

Luckily, it’s possible to create an environment where defiance isn’t an all-day occurrence, but more of a once-in-awhile thing. A great article on Baby Center outlines 8 tips for dealing with defiance from child psychologists and positive discipline experts.

Below are four of those tips that I have to remind myself of often. Head to the article to read the rest of the ideas.

Be understanding

Try your best to see things from your kid’s point of view when they’re standing off against you. If they’re saying no to coming inside, putting up their toys or refusing to get ready to leave the house, they may be absorbed in something that they don’t want to stop doing and for young kids, quick transitions can be hard.

Still be firm about what is expected of them, but first tell them that you understand that they’re busy playing and don’t want to stop. “I know you’re still working on that LEGO tower and want to finish it, but it’s time to go see Grandma.”

Reinforce good behavior

Use every opportunity to praise good behavior instead of just focusing on disciplining the bad. When one siblings helps another, when they say please and thank you without being prompted, when they share willingly with friends, etc. heap on the praise.

Kids respond much more strongly to positive reinforcement. When they do misbehave, resist the urge to lecture or shame them. Remove them from the situation and keep your response clear and direct.

Use positive time-outs

In our house we call them “cool downs” because they’re really for finding control and regaining composure rather than punishment. If your child goes into a full-on fit or is being defiant over a household rule, walk them to a designated chair or their bed and have them take a few minutes to get the fussiness out of their system and calm down. 

Some parents choose to stay in the room with their child, but I find that calmly asking them to take some time and then come out when they’re ready helps them to calm down more quickly.

Once they’ve regained control, you can have a discussion about the misbehavior and they’ll actually be able to listen (the bonus is that you’ll be calmer after a little break too).

Choose your battles

Young kids are constantly trying to exert their independence and somethings are trivial in the scheme of things and not worth the energy it takes to engage in a power struggle.

Though we might prefer they don’t wear mismatched clothes (or their shirts backward), it’s probably not worth the battle. If they want PB&J for breakfast instead of lunch, it’s not that big of a deal. If they picked up their toys, but didn’t put them in their correct spots, let it go.

What tricks or ideas do you have for dealing with defiance?