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Defiant behaviour.....share your tips here

(13 Posts)
TrinnyandSatsuma Fri 07-Mar-14 16:29:33

Not posted for a while, as things have been much better with our little boy. He's been with us about 5 months and is 5.

He has recently been showing more defiant behaviour than previously. In my subject, I purposely put "defiant" as I suspect it's not really defiance, but is more an expression of something else. My husband and I have gone round and round in our discussions about what the emotion is, behind the bahviour.

Examples include "put your shoes on please" his response is just "no". We ask, cajole, discuss etc. we try and use humour, distraction etc. because of his early experiences, any form of physical intervention is an absolute no for us. For example, with the shoes example, we would not try and force his shoes onto his feet. We never raise our voices and try to be as warm and inclusive as we can.

We use consequences to try and get him to do what he needs to do. TV time, certain toys taken away for a day etc but it just doesn't seem to bother him on the surface. We can't use is approach all the time, because we run out of things to confiscate. It feels very mean to take his favourite toys away......I hate doing it.

I think he is trying to take control to feel safe. I suspect he has never had the chance to safely be defiant in his early years due to a fear of very strict and physical discipline, so maybe he is going through a phase he didn't experience. I also wonder if he is somehow testing our devotion and testing his boundaries as well. When we say we care so much, love him so much etc, his response can often be "I don't want you to care for me"

I suppose I am asking whether anyone has experienced this kind of behaviour and could you share your best tips.

Thanks in advance.

OneOfOurLilkasIsMissing Fri 07-Mar-14 17:17:51

Yes, I've had lots of defiant behaviour over the years. Because DS is the one who doesn't do defiance (beyond his todler years, it's a rare occasion he'll refuse point blank to do something), I only have experience with children older than your DS, 8+

I try to do natural consequences and not let things escalate. I'll use shoes as the example, DD2 used to do that, but it can work with otherr things too

So with shoes, it depends where you're going, but let's say school. DD2 would refuse to put her school uniform on, or her school shoes. Point blank screaming "NO, NO, NO, I WON'T!". I would simply say "okay", pick up her shoes and stick them in the car, and she would have to walk to the car and go to school in just her socks. If she still refused, then we walked into school and she stood in the playground shoeless. I'm sure some of the other parents thought I was odd because they would have shouted or something until they got compliance, but that just didn't work with DD2, if i shout, everything escalates into a full blown tantrum.

Or if we were going down the road to the newsagents, I would suggest that it will be very uncomfortable walking with no shoes, but okay then. We did walk there and back a couple of times with her shoe-less and coat-less, because I was not going to have a battle over it.

Turning it into a joke or fun thing sometimes worked (as long as I was feeling calm enough!). I do remember one time I wanted to go shopping and she refused to put her shoes on, "Oh, we're not wearing shoes today? That sounds fun! Everyone will be able to look at my amazing red socks" So I took my shoes off, gathered up my stuff and said we were going, and I think I got a couple of steps onto the path before she yelled and put her shoes on. Basically, keeping her shoes off wasn't defiance any more, because that's what I was doing. And yes, I was (that day!) completely prepared to go to the local supermarket (it's close) shoeless, because it was a much better option than a huge tantrum and I could turn it into a joke when people inevitable stared at us.

This doesn't work all the time, but have you heard of a praise sandwich? It's a once in a while thing, catch the child off guard with it. Basically, you insert your instruction/thing you want your child to do, in between two bits of praise, and because you just praised them, they don't so much notice you've also asked them to do something, and they are more likely to comply with whatever you just asked them to do.

I have to go make dinner now, i'll think of some other things I did/do for defiance and get back to you smile

TwentyFourteen Sat 08-Mar-14 15:35:48

What do you do when he's not being defiant and does as he's told? perhaps encouraging and rewarding good behavior more than normal could help?

BertieBotts Sat 08-Mar-14 15:51:35

I think lilka)s idea is good, letting them experience why we put shoes on etc.

In other situations where there is no way you can let him, seatbelts for example, I find it's helpful to just state the problem "well, I can't start the car until everyone is strapped in, what shall we do?"

Trying to look at it as the immediate situation (what needs to happen, why does he need to obey right now, what value are we trying to teach) rather than seeing it as an obedience/defiance thing. It might in fact be very important for him to learn that obedience isn't the most important thing if he had such strict heavy handed discipline before.

So for this reason I'd hold off threatening consequences, first see if you can let him follow through with that no (shoes example very good here), whether it's a boundary you won't/can't cross e.g. for safety reasons, or whether it's not that you want him to do as he's asked but that you are trying to use "just do it" for a value that can be encouraged on other ways (e.g. wanting him to be tidy)

itiswhatitiswhatitis Sat 08-Mar-14 16:02:34

Can you give choices rather than direction/instruction e.g do want to put on trainers or shoes? Do you want a coat or a jumper? Do you want to brush your teeth first or get dressed first?

NigellasDealer Sat 08-Mar-14 16:07:19

what about the 'when' and 'then' structure?
WHEN you put your shoes on THEN we will go to the newsagents and get blah blah?

Swanhildapirouetting Sat 08-Mar-14 16:39:15

I think some children (especially toddlers - so if he is delayed emotionally that might be an aspect of it) dislike transitions, and it makes them feel very uncomfortable to be told to put away toys, clear up, put shoes on, get dressed. All those things that grownups ask them to do, which are essentially how we get through the day transitioning from one activity to the next. I think when a child hears could you...please..they hear only that you are trying to disguise the fact that you are interrupting them. They might think... You are pretending to say something polite but essentially ordering them around, when at that moment he [probably doesn't fancy leaving the house.

I think How To Talk so Children Listen by Faber and Mazlish covers that quite well.

So how could you make him get over his hangup over these essential parts of the day? I mean at some point he needs to put his shoes on, and tidy up and get in the car seat. One way of looking at it is to think whether the shoes could be a very minor part of what is a transition which child wants, rather than resents, So shoes could be part of going out, rather than a separate instruction. You could say far less..just "shoes, and we are going to the park to do x y z, have hot choc" so the shoes is just incidental not a big thing in itself. It could be a sign on the door with a big picture of shoes, Shoes On! with a smiley so the child itself points to the picture and says oh I've forgotten to put my shoes on.

Ive also done the Lilka method, with winter coats. Just don't put it on, carry it, and the minute the child gets cold he asks for the coat, and forgets he ever went out of the door without one, and next time, it is not such an issue.

Consequences can be quite a blunt instrument, and often cause new conflicts.

I think asking nicely can often confuse children, and they would rather have very simple instructions. Rather how people deal with very small children.


lljkk Sat 08-Mar-14 17:22:07

. no tips, just looking for ideas!

ghostinthecanvas Sat 08-Mar-14 17:39:14

Humour and natural consequences. Actual consequences don't really work. Also, as suggested previously, you can't go out if he isn't ready. I have been dealing with a lot of defiance recently. It becomes a cycle of "No!" = attention+consequence. For my child it reinforces his sense of self worth. If he is in trouble all the time it confirms there is something unlovable about him. A lot of children feel worthless and rejected by their birth parents. I will never forget taking one of my toots to Toy Story 3. When the toys got accidentally thrown into the rubbish he broke down, sobbed his heart out, repeating "but they're not rubbish". Broke my heart. Sorry, bit of a tangent there.

Devora Sat 08-Mar-14 18:27:43

ghost, that brought tears to my eyes. Your poor boy.

TrinnyandSatsuma Sat 08-Mar-14 19:50:39

Thank you to all who have posted, as always, some amazing tips and suggestions. I tried the praise sandwich today......worked well, except I couldn't think of something to say at the end......more of a. Open sandwich!

Ghost, thanks also for sharing such a personal story.

Kewcumber Sat 08-Mar-14 21:02:29

I used to handle it "put on your shoes so we can go out to the park" of course it doesn't work if you say "put on your shoes so we can go shopping in sainsubrys" but even then you can generally say "put on your shoes so that we can buy ice cream for tea at sainsburys"

I very much focus on the "why" and I make it a statement of fact. Just "put on your shoes" sounds rather like "I'm in charge" and many children particularly at this age are struggling with control issues.

I have also done the "your feet will hurt if you go out without your shoes and it makes me sad to see you hurt". But in the end if you do go out without wearing shoes/coats etc its not the end of the world, just stay calm and matter of fact.

fasparent Sat 08-Mar-14 22:19:04

Are the shoe's the one's he came with or new, may be the problem
"Separation and loss, sometimes children arrive with their belongings which seem too them are the only stable things in their life's., Find it best too be slow, have too work out what works, all will be different. Our little one was perfect too the extreme clothes folded room spotless (she felt if she did this we would keep her ) . Lasted a few weeks after much assurance she was here forever.
Then there is the other side child never allowed too keep anything BM sold all Christmas presents after Christmas. Unfortunately there will be things only the child is aware of hence slow pace, dialog, choices, promote good self esteem.

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