You’re trying to get all the kids wrangled into the car, book bags and lunches in hands, when your youngest decides its time to haul off and hit their sibling. Now they’re both crying and you can feel yourself getting furious. You feel your mind racing through those same doubts and fears, ‘What am I doing wrong?’, ‘Why don’t they learn?’ All this and it’s barely 7:30. We put up with a lot, and we absolutely hate to take any of it out on our kids, but sometimes it can be enough to scream. This time on the Behavior Bake blog we are talking about how to avoid a disastrous outcome, how to handle a defiant child by handling ourselves.
First, Check Those Defiant Child Worries
The first thing is to take a deep breath. It can be difficult but remember that over 99 times out of 100, this is not an emergency. Realize that not only are those doubts and fears off base, but children are human, just like us, and like us they make mistakes. Like we said, it can be hard not to jump to the worst or most extreme situations with our kids, but for their sakes, and ours, we have to.
Model Healthy Ways to Express Feelings
These moments of intense emotional response can be a perfect time to model the correct behaviors and way to approach the situations for your children. You can open up and tell them ‘Mommy is feeling overwhelmed right now and needs a moment.’ This is totally ok, it helps with our previous point and it teaches your children that when they are feeling emotionally turbulent they can voice them, handling the emotions in a nonviolent way. Being emotionally honest for yourself can go a long way to helping with emotion coaching the children as well.
Set Firm Limits and Expectations
Create an understanding of our own expectations. This, of course, is done through a consistent reinforcement of the ideas, ‘We keep our hands to ourselves and talk calmly.’ This piggy-backs on teaching our children the proper way to handle emotions. It is good to explain to our children why we set limitations and expectations so that they can understand how their behaviors affect them, and learn to handle their emotions.
Following the understood limits and expectations, we can then bring our children into the consequences side of it. Time-outs are tried and true, and sometimes they are exactly what a child needs to cool down. But there can be better approaches to consequences for behavior. Natural consequences that follow the action, such as cleaning up a mess that was just made, tie the negative behavior directly to the consequence. For negative behaviors not followed by natural consequences, it is important to look for what your child is getting from the behavior. Do they get to keep something/someone, do they get access to something/someone they did not have before, did they get out of a task or interaction or did they delay a task or interaction? When you have these answers, you can strategically choose the most appropriate consequence to discourage that behavior. And remember it is important to always teach a new, more appropriate behavior for the situation as well.
All of these behaviors revolve around one key idea: being open and honest ourselves. We can then model the best behaviors for handling emotions with our defiant children, as well as guide them through the rough patches. Tying their behavior to clear consequences and working with them they can become the best versions of themselves.
With this and the power of Behavior Bake’s parenting behavioral recipes, you can become a much more proactive, conscious parent. We want our kids to be engaged with us and in their behavior, just like all these other methods listed, being engaged ourselves and modelling for them what that looks like is a huge step in helping a defiant child. If you are looking to learn the Behavior Bake way, get in touch and schedule your workshop to learn the method described above.