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 contrary adults, and here are a few guidelines to put into practice.  As parents, we can avoid this scene with a bit of 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.
  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 the center.  I always told my teachers that anger is a form of insanity in many ways.  We aren’t thinking clearly, and someone trying to be logical is not going to get through, so give them some space.
  3. With consequences established, be sure to follow through with them immediately, particularly the first time.  Make sure you are consistent with kids.  Funnily, that is 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, they are defiant because you need them to do something first.  Tell them; You can go back and play when finished with . . . whatever they need to do for you.

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

The next steps in your reading journey are Overcoming Deficits with Kids, read here, Summary of Overcoming Deficits with Kids – Dr. Rich Patterson (pattersonphd.com)

Yale Medicine has an effective post here on Defiant Behavior, Hostile, Disobedient and Defiant Behavior in Children > Fact Sheets > Yale Medicine.


Tell me some of your stories in the comments below.

Yours for Better Parenting,