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Defiant behavior in children can be a tough nut to crack.

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  • How much defiant behavior in children  is normal?
  • Do you ignore the defiance and hope it goes away?
  • Who do you listen to when it comes to helping your defiant child?
Excellent questions and just asking them shows you are concerned and caring, two qualities your defiant child needs you to have in abundance!

Let's address these questions about defiant children one at a time, starting with...

1. How much defiant behavior is normal in children?

All kids exhibit some signs of defiant behavior. From the time a child is a toddler, he is learning how to influence his environment, usually with the aim of getting what he wants - now!

This is normal behavior and these children usually respond well to constructive parental guidance in many forms. In truth, there are many common behavioral problems in children.

But our defiant child gets a little stuck at this point. There are a lot of possible reasons for this and there is still much discussion over what causes excessive defiant behavior in children. However there is no discussion over the fact that a regularly defiant child needs help. He is often miserable, as is his family.

Take a look at the intensity and consistency of your child's defiant behavior. Is it...
  • a day in and day out challenge to get along with your child?
  • Does your child seem to go out of her way to be uncooperative with family members or peers?
  • Due to the defiant behavior, are you finding it more and more difficult to enjoy being with your child?
  • Has your child's defiant behavior escalated over time?

Now, this is not a diagnosis, so be careful here. These are simply some questions for you to start with as you evaluate your child's behavior. By all means, if you need to, get a professional diagnosis! Defiant behavior and argumentative children should be taken seriously.

2. Do you ignore defiant children and hope the problem goes away?

Excellent, useful article for parents of defiant children.
Why the Word 'No' Sets off an Oppositional, Defiant Child

In a word, NO!

Any kind of defiance needs an immediate parental response. As mentioned before, all children exhibit defiant behavior from time to time, usually as a means of testing boundaries and sometimes simply as a consequence of being tired!

By responding firmly and quickly to these occasional outbursts of defiance, your child knows exactly what and where the boundaries are in your home.

Truly defiant children don't respond as quickly or easily to these boundary messages. It's pretty clear they can get overwhelmed with stimulation easily and use their stick of defiance as a control measure. The trouble is, this is not a helpful coping mechanism!

Our jobs, as parents of these often creative and intense children, is to help them see themselves and the world in more accurate ways and then practice problem solving skills that actually work (since defiance doesn't solve problems, instead it creates more.)

3. Who do you listen to when it comes to helping your defiant child?

Only you, as your child's parent, can fully answer this question. However, some guidelines can help you as you are searching for answers.
  • Trust your parenting instincts.

    You know your child better than anyone. Make sure that whatever help you get aligns with your personal values. For example, if you are a person of faith, look for support that also honors a life of faith.

  • Look for help that has a proven track record.

    Whether it's self-help material, counseling or even structured live-in programs for defiant children, ask to see testimonials or proven results of some type so that you know this methodology actually has a chance of helping you and your child.

    That being said, I have found that measuring success by aiming for some level of improvement is wiser than demanding perfection, which often is impossible.

  • Always keep the end in sight.

    When defiant behavior in children gets out of hand, it is tempting to look only at quick fixes. Remember your goal in parenting a defiant child - or any other child - is to help her develop into a mature, contributing adult.

    Keeping this in mind will help you make level-headed decisions, even in the heat of emotional moments.

Remember, when dealing with defiant children, you need support.

Arm yourself with excellent parenting resources. As I mentioned above, here is a great article to get started. Why the Word 'No' Sets off an Oppositional, Defiant Child

If you want to know what parenting program I can recommend that helps parents with struggling kids, that would be The Total Transformation program, hands down. Part of why this program works is because it supports parents extremely well.

Mom or Dad, you can do this! I have complete faith in your ability to do what's right for your precious child.

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