Dealing With Defiance

Its amazing to watch a child’s personality take form in front of your eyes. From the very beginning, glowing mothers comment on their child’s bubbly disposition or solemn gaze. Most people think that its just excited exagerration. But I really believe that you can see a child’s attitude from the very beginning.

I know this because my daughter was stubborn from the minute she was placed in my arms. Honestly, the doctor hadn’t even finished taking care of… ya know… everything else, and I was already nursing. My precious little thing exited the womb knowing exactly what she wanted. She was hungry!

As she’s gotten older, my daughter’s stubbornness has not abated. She has very distinct opinions on just about every aspect of her day and she is extremely comfortable voicing those opinions with anyone who questions her. In many ways, I’m happy that my daughter is determined and decisive. I think that these qualities will help her as she gets older. But I have to remind myself of this every time she argues with me about wearing snow boats when its 100 degrees outside or staying up until 10:00pm so she can say good night to her dad.

For a long time, people have tried to find polite terms for my daughter’s stubbornness. They called her “strong-willed” and “independent”. As time goes on, I’ve had to accept the fact that she’s also defiant. She argues a lot. She doesn’t like rules. She can’t wait for the day that she gets to be in charge. It’s been a long, hard struggle learning to how to discipline an opinionated and bull-headed little girl. Here’s a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

  • Be in charge, no matter what. The first time I had to tell my daughter, “No, you can’t hit the dogs if they chew a toy you left on the floor, because I said so and I’m in charge,” I felt a little like Matilda’s parents. It seemed just like saying, “I’m big, you’re little. I’m right, you’re wrong.” But I have to be the one in charge of the situation. There’s no negotiating with terrorists, right?
  • Don’t lose your temper. A strong-minded and stubborn kid is just looking for a fight. They’ll respond to anger with a lot of their own. It’s almost like a competition. If you can stay calm while you’re dealing with their anger, they’ll begin to mirror your mood.
  • Keep it positive. With a child whose constantly challenging your authority, it’s easy to get in a negative rut. And while its important to be the boss, you don’t want every minute of the day to be spent correcting and admonishing. So try to use a little disctraction, a little charm and a lot of positivity to keep the day happy.
  • Give them responsibility early and often. Strong-willed kids want to be in charge of something. So let them have small chores or duties as soon as they can understand them. It gives them a job that they can take pride in. And it lets them feel responsible.

Stubborn children do not have to become poor-mannered children. They can be opinionated and strong-willed and even a little defiant, as long as they know who’s really in charge. And hey, you’ll never have to worry about someone walking all over them. And peer pressure is pretty much laughable. I love my independent little girl. Please remind me of this next time she stares me down over my refusal to let her watch Spongebob Squarepants.

(Photo: Thinkstock)

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