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Defiant Behavior- How to reduce the power struggles.

“Why is our once sweet child being so defiant?”

This is a classic example of a power struggle. Many children go through a phase of testing their parents to see how much they can get away with and who’s really in charge. Also, young children lack the communication skills needed to express their frustration so they show it through defiant behavior.

There are 3 things parents can do to reduce power struggles in their family.

1. Be aware of patterns — knowing when a power struggle typically occurs helps the parent be ready to re-direct a misbehavior.

  • Is it only when he is tired?

  • Are transitions from one activity to another a trigger? (i.e., shifting from after-dinner playtime to the bedtime routine)

  • Does it happen with one parent more frequently than with the other?

2. Use the ABC’s of Parenting — this technique gives your child a voice in the situation (power struggles are your child’s way of saying he wants some control over what’s happening in his life).

Acknowledge the child’s feelings — By simply acknowledging your child’s frustration it will validate that you are paying attention to his needs and desires. “I understand you don’t want to put away your toys to go take a bath.”

Be clear about responsibilities – This teaches children, even at a young age, that they have jobs to do and they have to follow through. “We have to start the bedtime routine so that you get enough rest for school tomorrow.” If they continue to argue, do not join in the argument. Be firm on the need for moving forward in the bedtime routine and re-direct their energy towards making a choice, i.e. “Would you like to wear your blue or red pajamas tonight?”

Consider the Options — Brainstorm with your child about the options they have and the consequences each choice will bring. This should happen during a calm time, when it can be a fun discussion for the both of you. “It seems like bedtime is a struggle every night and I don’t want that to keep happening. What are some things we can do to help make that switch from playtime to bedtime easier?” Keep it fun…judging your child’s suggestions will shut them down. If they make silly suggestions, just giggle along with them! Some ideas might include:

  • Setting an egg timer to ring at the end of playtime

  • Giving a 5 minute reminder before the transition happens

  • Making bath time fun so it is an eaiser transition between play time and bath time

3. Encourage, Encourage, Encourage — increase positive behavior by acknowledging it.

The best way to gain cooperation is to acknowledge positive choices when your child makes them, even

when it’s baby steps. “I see you picked up your toys tonight when the timer buzzed. I really appreciate that!” or “You came right up for bath time, now we have time for an extra story!” Acknowledging your child’s positive behaviors will motivate them to continue making good choices.

Power struggles can truly test the patience of any parent. By using these techniques you’ll be able to:

  • remain calm

  • focus on the goal

  • allow your child to problem solve with you (which increases their level of “buy in” to any changes to the routine)

  • develop a team work approach with your child for the future.

For additional parenting tips and support contact me and let's talk parenting!

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