Dr. Rich Patterson

Raising Defiant Kids

As a school administrator, I watched many teachers at some time during their career get into a tangle with kids over something the kids refused to do.  Working with defiant kids is much like working with defiant adults and here are a few guidelines to put into practice.  All of this can be avoided with a little anticipation in advance.

  1.  Don’t try to understand why they are defiant, just don’t get pulled into an argument with them.  Doing this requires that you say very little because nearly everything you say will be put under a microscope and turned against you, if they can.
  2. Instead, take some time to calm down and think.  You can say something like, “We need to talk about this, but not right now.”  Then give them time to calm down and get back to center.  I always told my teachers that anger is a form of insanity in many ways.  We aren’t thinking clearly and someone who is trying to be logical is not going to get through, so give them some space.
  3. If consequences have been established be sure to follow through with them right away, particularly the first time.  Make sure you are consistent with kids.  In a funny way, that is exactly what they want you to do.  Consistency goes a long way with kids.
  4. When issuing consequences, use language that is gentle toward them.  Don’t get angry, raise your voice and cause another argument.
  5. When the child wants to do something but they are being defiant because you need them to do something first.  Simple tell them, You can go play when you’re finished with . . . whatever they need to do for you.

Once kids see that you’re consistent, and have really thought about how things need to go, they will come to expect it.  It will take time for sure, and it won’t always work, but keep in mind that underneath all of this defiant behavior, they really want consistency.  They want parents that show they care.

Tell me some of your stories in the comments below.