Archive for Defiant Child

Have you notice this fundamental truth? Some people are able to find a reason to complain regardless of how good things are in life. We often can spot such ‘victim’ mentality, and recognize the power of these victim beliefs to generate a lack-luster life.

On the other hand, there are folks who maintain a positive outlook, and find value in almost every experience. They see each moment of life as a valued experience, and it seems that everything serves them.

You can see this in your children. If they have a certain tendency to view the world in a particular way, they will interpret almost every event through those lenses. Some children see almost everything in ways that ultimately support a positive view of themselves and others. For other children, the negative seems to dominate.

Reality is not the problem here. It is our beliefs.

Our beliefs tend to create our reality, not the other way around.

Our beliefs shape how we perceive the world, how we make sense of it and then magically (almost) create actions to support that belief. If we believe it’s possible (to do almost the impossible), we will take massive action to try to make it happen. You see this with children, who are inspired to make a difference, to learn a sport or to master a subject. Their efforts follow their beliefs.

On the opposite side of things, if we believe something to be impossible, we will simply do nothing. When your son states that sports are stupid, he would never invest in something ‘stupid.’

Whatever we believe, we must act consistent with those beliefs. We (unknowingly) create a world that is consistent with that belief. The child who sees sports as stupid will only find stupid comments to make about the sport.

Why is this a problem? Well, if your child holds a limiting belief, that belief will set the limits on their life. It will set the limits on what they attempt. Beliefs set limits on persistence, happiness and many other traits. Beliefs open or close the doors to life happiness, satisfaction and success.

It is important to notice is that once a child adopts a particular belief; they see the world through those beliefs. It becomes reality. In fact, kids (and adults) find it very difficult to perceive life from any other perspective.

How To Change Negative Beliefs

1. Don’t get seduced into feeding the negative beliefs.

Most of us recognize, and get frustrated hearing destructive, self-defeating comments from our children. We then get pulled into trying to correct these negative statements. These statements reflect the underlying beliefs.

Yet, your corrections do not change these beliefs. Instead, every time you respond, correct, redirect, argue, provide commentary upon, or in any way engage these statements…you are actually inspiring the negative belief.

Why? Because your repeated attention to the destructive belief teaches your child that you care about that belief. Their brains cling to the thoughts and beliefs that most consistently attract parent attention. This is critical to understand.

So the number one rule is to make sure that you are not giving lots of energy and attention to these thoughts when they arise. When your child expresses them, don’t feed them with a repeated suggestions, redirection or feedback.

When you can walk away from these negative beliefs, your child has the chance to walk away from them as well.

2. Nurture “truth” when your kids are NOT caught in negative beliefs.

The goal here is to teach your kids to drop the negative stories that limit their ability to feel good and do their best. We want to encourage beliefs grounded in reality.

Pick a time when your kids are not caught up in one of these negative, debilitating moments. In other words, when things are going well, have a conversation with them about how they sometimes talk about themselves, or the world, in negative ways.

If they are old enough, explain how any belief we adopt becomes our real world…no exceptions! Let them know that their strong beliefs will set any limit upon their life they choose…be it small…or be it awe-inspiring.

Talk with them about alternative beliefs, and what you view as reality. You want them to know “truth” as you see it:

• You can do it.
• I believe in you.
• You are capable and intelligent.
• You “get it”.
• You do your best.

Encourage your children to practice saying these silently and repeatedly, and let them know how much you believe in each of these beliefs.

3. Get practical.

Use real life examples; explain how we are eager to shoot the foul shot at the end of the game…if we believe we can make it. Talk about how we are willing to try new things when we believe we will do okay. Explain how much easier it is to take the test when you have strong belief that you will do your best…and that is enough. Give personal examples of your own persistence, once you were certain you could do it.

If you’re daughter keeps saying that she is stupid, let her know that you view her as intelligent, creative, and capable. Because you know this to be true, let her also know that you will not keep correcting her, but instead she’ll have to discover the truth for herself. Explain that you will be walking away from :”all the lies you tell yourself about your abilities.” Remind her that it will be better for her when she learns to do the same…walking right away from that negative belief. From that point on, remember to walk away from the negative belief…so she can learn to walk away from it, as well.

One of the most frequent questions I receive is from parents who are willing to use consequences, but find they do not work. In fact, they have often read different books, and have tried many types of consequences.

For example, I read comments like:

• I have used time out, and it doesn’t work with my son!
• I take away their toys, and they laugh at me.
• When I say ‘no video for a week’ my son says, ‘I don’t care.’

Guidelines for Getting Consequences to Work

1. Don’t Believe Your Child

With the easy kids, consequences are simple. You apply them, and they work. No sweat

However, for the more challenging child, finding effective consequences can be … well … challenging. One of the ways that we get thrown off course is that we believe what our kids. In other words, when they simply shrug and say, ‘I don’t care,’ we tend to give this way too much weight. For many children and teens, they clearly understand the way things work and their instinctive response is to minimize the impact of your parenting choices.

Bottom line: Don’t believe them when they shrug off the consequence. Instead…

2. Keep the long view in mind

What do I mean? The long view is not concerned with the immediate response. Whether they are upset about the consequence, or they seem to ignore it, you just hold your ground. And instead of getting caught up in their reaction in the moment, become more interested in the effect of the consequence over time. What you will find is that the consequence usually does work, but you must…

3. Stay consistent with the rules and consequences. Don’t keep changing them.

If we get caught up in trying to get our more challenging child to ‘react’ to a consequence, and care about it, we then tend to keep changing or adding to it. This is a sign of desperation. Don’t do it.

Instead, keep with a consistent game plan. Watch what happens if you stay with the reasonable, but consistent consequence for six to 10 times. Ignore the response, but stay firm and follow through. This will almost always work, if we add one more element:

4. Try to make the consequence immediate.

Delayed consequences usually do not work, or at best are temporary fixes in desperate times. For example, your daughter wants to go to the dance, and we hold it over her head in an effort to get some cooperation. This approach will not last.

Instead, we want to strive for the immediate consequence. This is at the core of effective consequences. We also need to add one final distinction:

5. Keep consequences short and sweet.

If you create prolonged consequences, you tend to create a more punitive and harsh feeling environment. For the angry child, this just promotes more anger.

The goal is not that a single consequence does the job. Please understand this.

Changing behavior patterns is a learning process. Thus, we must accept the need for repeated use of firm and powerful consequences, but not make the home too punitive and take things away for extended times. When we do this, consequences do lose their power.

Next week, I will discuss how we bring this all together with one of my favorite universal rules and consequences.

In Part 1, we discussed three of the key lessons to master with the strong-willed or defiant child. These first three lessons covered were:

* Lesson 1: Your Words Are ALMOST Worthless With The Defiant Child… So Stop Using Them Right Now.

* Lesson 2: You Can’t Control Un-Controllable Kids… So Stop Trying!

* Lesson 3: Tantrums, Whining, Drama, Screaming, Arguing, and Resistance Are NOT WORTHY Of Your Attention!

Each of these three lessons are fundamentally about what you must stop doing or saying. It’s about surrendering the constant battles (you lose anyway), and pulling back.

In doing so, we establish a new baseline or foundation from which to begin the steps we review today. Warning: You can’t skip the lessons above, and get success with these more rule-based components of the program.

Lesson 4: The Defiant Child Needs a Few Essential Rules

While lots of rules may seem like what is needed when dealing with such defiance and negative attitudes, it is not. The more rules you have in your home, the more violations of the rules that will occur – ESPECIALLY with the more defiant child. The more violations, the more frequently you have to end up managing your children’s behavior.

This equals constant conflict with the defiant child, and quite literally, it’s TOO MUCH WORK! Rule overload leads to constant intervention, and decisions-making about consequences. With the strong willed child, this will mean you are frequently adding consequence upon consequence, and the environment begins to feel very punitive and negative.

Rather than dozens of rules, focus on the critical rules that will maintain structure and routine. In fact, these are your most important rules to maintain.

Thus, it is easier to manage your home, and to maintain order and sanity with just a few decisive rules—that both you and the children can follow.

Lesson 5: Rules Are Wishes, Unless Consequences Are Attached

While this lesson is true for all children, it is extremely important for the more defiant child. We can create a nice chart, with very well written rules…and those will be of virtually no value UNLESS a clear consequence is attached.

So leave the word of pretend, and make sure you create a consequence that is consistent and reasonable—that goes with breaking any of the rules. In that way, the rules will have meaning.

It is essential to pair any meaningful rule, with a clear consequence. This includes the formal or more informal rules, which we create.

These consequences need to be stated, and made clear. But not every day. State it once, and perhaps write it down.

Then, let the consequences do the teaching.


Because threatening consequences is how we end up using WAY too many words (Remember Lesson 1). Likewise, negotiating or arguing over the rule or the consequences leads to a very negative outcome, especially with the more defiant or strong-willed child.

This leads to the real power of the consequence!

Lesson 6: Use Consequences Instead of Words to Teach Limits.

The reason for the rules is to establish limits in your home. With the more defiant child, these limits are essential! And if you use your voice to set limits… you will end up in constant battles and struggles to get things done, or to get cooperation. Over time, it gets very ugly.

Thus, we must turn to using consequences to set limits, and trust that those consequences will teach what needs to be taught. We know your words will not teach those limits. We know begging and pleading will not work. We know that constant threats will not work. We know that fighting and arguing will not work.

So here, we abandon all that. We are choosing a few select rules, and making sure those become meaningful to the defiant child through the use of a consistent consequence.

For example, one simple rule might be this: when it’s time for dinner, you will stop playing, cut off the TV or video, and come to dinner. If you don’t come, I will come to you, turn off the TV/video/take the toy, and you will lose it for 48 hours.

With such a simple rule, and clear consequence attached, you will find the defiant child will test you. They will not come because you threaten this.

You will actually have to remove the toy, cut off the game/Ipad/video, and then lock it down for 48 hours. You might have to do these three or four times, but soon… you will see much more cooperation when dinner is ready.

Simple? Yes!

Instantly effective? No

Predictably effective over a few weeks? YES!

Critical Point: Such consequences will only work IF you have honored the first three lessons for several weeks! Otherwise, you will just make a more hostile defiant child.

However, if you have stopped using your words, and ended your battles with the defiance, the tantrums and the negativity, you can then focus on setting up a few, important rules. If you then enforce these consistently with consequences, things will get ugly.

Did I say ugly? YES! Initially, things will get very ugly. This is not a sign of being on the wrong track. This is a sign that you are on the right path!

Because if you keep honoring the system, the defiance will fade and cooperation will improve. That’s my promise to you. It’s not easy, but the system will work with your defiant child.

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First, let’s be clear that we are talking about a particular child temperament child; the defiant, challenging, difficult, strong-willed child.

This is not your neighbor’s child (usually). It’s not the child most books are written about. This particular child is not an easy child, and is the focus of this article.

The Defiant Child: Essentials For Finding Sanity!

Lesson 1: Words Are Almost Useless With The Defiant Child

So what does this mean? In part, you already know what this means… your words don’t work well to manage their behavior. If your words did work, you wouldn’t likely need to read this article. Am I right?

So, then we must start with accepting reality. We must start by eliminating WHAT IS NOT WORKING—YOUR WORDS!

Stop talking so much. Stop negotiating so much. Stop re-directing so much. Stop trying to prepare them for every little change. Stop talking to neighbors, friends and relatives about their behavior.

More words will not be the answer. Stop now.

Lesson 2: Stop Trying To Control The Un-Controllable Child.

Why? It doesn’t work!

Now, let’s be clear. It sounds like I may have given up on your defiant or difficult child. This is not true.

It’s just that I am a big believer in reality. And…reality says… the defiant, oppositional, strong-willed child is simply not controlled easily. If they were (once again) you would not be reading this. You would be somewhere else, enjoying your life rather than worried about your son or daughter.

Instead, they control themselves. They do what they want to do. This is reality and the STARTING POINT where we begin our change. (It’s not where we end up!)

Our way of thinking must therefore change. Rather than being focused on control, we must begin to think about how to teach…rather than control.

Remember this: If we can’t control them, we must focus on teaching them instead!

YES, WE CAN TEACH YOUR DEFIANT CHILD to listen when you ask. We can TEACH them to accept change and transition. We can TEACH them to honor limits we set. We can TEACH them to cooperate and honor our requests. This is all real.

We can do that ONLY IF we stop trying to control them. They are simply not controllable.

They are teachable. So let’s teach…

Lesson 3: Stop Feeding The Defiance, The Resistance The Negativity With All That Energy!

How do you feed this? With your attention! With your energy! With your arguments and fighting! With the countless battles that NO ONE would believe, unless they live in your home.

So it is essential that we stop feeding these moments with your attention!

Okay, now we are starting to get very real. Very fast.

Notice how things have worked so far. When your defiant child resists, you react. You argue. You insist. You yell if necessary…to TRY to GET THEM TO

LISTEN, or to stop, or to calm down.

What has this accomplished? Well, mainly…your defiant, difficult child has LEARNED that these negative behaviors will CERTAINLY get Mom’s or Dad’s attention. And the more they resist, the more attention they get! The more they argue, the more mom argues! The more they fight, the more mom fights back! The more they tantrum, the harder you work to get rid of the tantrum!

So, here’s what has really happened. They have NOT learned to listen. Instead, they have LEARNED that when they resist… you will engage them with your attention. Repeatedly… Over and over… Again and again…Often until you lose it due to your frustration!

In the next article, I will expand upon what to do next, to get your strong-willed child to listen. These are the essential starting lessons however, to bring sanity into your home.

I hope, that there is nothing here to suggest that this is easy.

It is not.

This is quite challenging. Why? Because you have a very challenging child that you are struggling with…and this will not be an easy process.

But we can make progress! HUGE PROGRESS… if you stay on track. More to come…

Part 2 of Parenting the Strong-Willed Child: The Role of Rules and Structure

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About Dr Cale

During the past 23 years, in working with hundreds of families, I began to realize that many parents, just like you, were showing up in my office well-educated—but getting poor results. They had been to therapy, they had read the books and even attended other training programs—yet their children were still not listening, not doing homework and not cooperating.

I discovered that many of these parents were parenting with false ideas about how to predictable and reliably shape and change their children’s behavior. As a result, I began to develop ideas about the core behavior change principles…and how to turn each of these into specific parenting solutions. As long as I was able to stay true to these principles, the most challenging problems quickly faded away.

My purpose with this program is to give you access to the strategies that come from these core principles. By practicing and following through with the techniques in this program, you will be able to transform any set of negative behavior patterns in your home. Your kids will be happier and more responsible. They will quickly learn to be respectful, cooperative and helpful around the house. Tantrums, whining, complaining and negativity will be a thing of the past.