Emergency Attitude

Decide which issues really matter and are worth fighting over and which you can let slide for the time being. One of our biggest problems as parents is feeling overwhelmed with all the different issues and conflicts going on with our defiant kids. Right now, your child is probably not doing anything you want him to do. By getting him to comply with one just crucial thing, you're starting on the right path toward a big attitude change. For a younger child, playing without hitting might be your important goal, and picking up all her toys isn't as vital right now. For an older kid, completing homework might be the essential task, while making his bed isn't such a big deal after all.The key is to pick your battles wisely by choosing ones that are most crucial. Then stick to those, and let go of the others for now. Once your kid starts complying, you can gradually add more requests. Meanwhile, you'll save your sanity, your household harmony, and your relationship with your child, and you will be more likely to start turning your kid's defiant attitude around.

"I'm not going to: you're a bad, bad Mommy." "Why should I?""Yeah, right. Let's see if you can make me." Heard a few defiant words uttered from your charming offspring lately? Of course, kids will disobey Mom and Dad—as well as teacher, coach, Grandma, and the babysitter—every once in a while. Usually a stern look or a firm reprimand is all that is required to shape them up and put them back in their place. But when kids consistently disobey us, they've gone way over the line. Defiance is at the extreme of the Big Brat Factor bad attitude spectrum, and it's time for immediate triage.

Defiant kids put themselves in charge, basically stripping their parents' authority and demoting them to second-class cit-izens.This attitude is all about control and disrespect to the maximum: it's kids pushing adults—and as far as they can push—to do what they want.The battle for power between parent and kid can be long, gruesome, and utterly draining.To ensure they win, defiant kids will stop at nothing. World War III can result from the simplest parental request to take out the trash or walk the dog. And if you happen to be in public when your kid pulls one of his all-out control quests, my sympathies are with you.The experience can be so humiliating that you'll go to any length to avoid friends as well as any witnesses for weeks.

Defiant kids are way above average self-centered and rude. But let's go further: surliness, contempt, and complete disrespect for adults are also part of this attitude.After all, non-compliant kids want their needs met, and to do so means to flat-out refuse to comply with anyone else's requests (let alone listen to them).These kids are so set in their quest for control that they are blind to anyone else's feelings or concerns. It should also be evident that that attitude is highly lethal to the child's moral character as well as the family's harmony.

Defiant, disrespectful, rude attitudes should never be tolerated. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to understand why our kid is acting this way. Yes, defiant kids are extremely taxing and frustrating (okay, obnoxious), but keep in mind that they may well be using their attitude because their own needs for structure, boundaries, limitations, and rules are not being met; they may have a short fuse based on temperament; the hardwiring of their nervous system may be prone to defiance; they may be chemically imbalanced or depressed; or they simply don't know another way of getting the attention they crave. That's why to really change a defiant kid's ways, a major overhaul is needed in not only the kid's attitude but how we relate to her as well. So consider every cause, and then once you have the best treatment plan in mind, be relentless until you replace her defiance with respect, obedience, and dependability.

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