In last week’s article, we discussed the challenges that emerge when children are openly defiant. These trying, frustrating moments are difficult to manage, and parents often lose a full-throttle power struggle with a more defiant child or even a somewhat typical teenager.

We covered these initial three points:

  • Never try to teach during ‘crunch time’ in public. Instead, use daily moments at home.
  • Give up controlling language. It makes us look foolish and doesn’t work!
  • Learn to ask or inform…not command. Bad form all the way around.

Progress using these three action steps below requires you to understand last week’s pointers. Look them up, if you haven’t consumed that information yet. So, moving on…let’s turn that ‘no’ into a YES. Remember: patience is required to teach important lessons. If you just want to control your child, and ‘make it happen right now, you will likely end up in repeated power struggles. Thus, please see this as a process of teaching over the weeks ahead.

Getting to “Yes… Sure, Mom!”

4. When you get the ‘NO’…Walk Away.

In most situations, there is no damage that is being done when children are saying “NO.” They may not be listening as we want, but there is often no risk attached. You may feel a bit helpless and impotent as a parent, but this will pass. And, we first must teach through giving defiance no attention. Nada. Zip. Zero. No attention!

I can hear you now, “Dr. Cale, you mean I should ignore such blatant defiance? No way! You have been reading too much Zen!”

Look, I get it. The thought is that if I just ignore my child saying NO, that I am somehow approving and condoning the defiance behind this. And on top of that, they are learning to disrespect me as a parent AND the job doesn’t get done.

But let’s consider the opposite. You do what you have already done 1000 times. You react, yell at them, and insist that they listen. Do you really want to continue down that path? How is working to get a good result? How does it help your relationship with your child? Do you see them becoming more accepting of responsibility with the ‘old school’ method?

If you are honest with yourself, you can see the failing system. But here’s the bottom line: Words, lectures, and even angry reactions about bad behavior don’t create good behavior. It just makes it worse!

If getting angry or reacting to the defiance worked, I might support it. But it doesn’t work. Here’s why: When you give your energy and attention to the defiance (often quite predictably), this energy just feeds that defiance! It validates the ‘NO’ from your child and ensures more defiance tomorrow, next week…and so on. It also clearly teaches your child who is in control of your emotions, if a simple ‘no’ gets mom or dad to pop a cork. Do you want to teach that as well? I hope not! So, start walking away from such moments, and do this regularly.

For most reading this, you will find the defiant ‘no’ dissipating over the weeks ahead. However, a bit more is needed in many situations. Thus, it’s also important to…

5. Keep YOUR Life Moving…With or Without Them.

When there is defiance, just ignore the defiant moment, and keep things moving forward. Don’t try to get their cooperation.

  • If you asked them to cut off the IPad and they don’t, just take it away without another word.
  • If you ask them to put on their shoes, and they say no, just keep moving forward. Cut out the lights, all entertainment is shut down (by you!), and then walk out the door.
  • If it’s bath time, and you get the ‘no’ then simply cut off the lights, remove any goodies and get to the bathroom.
  • If there’s a ‘no’ to cleaning their room, simply walk away. Then, without a word, shut down all goodies, including internet, computer, and phone access. Once you hear the roars coming, stay calm and inform them that nothing works until the room is clean.

So, as you keep your life moving forward, without much energy given to their defiance, you can (with a bit of planning and help) bring their fun-filled life to a screeching halt. Remember as well, for the more defiant child, they may hold out for a while. That’s okay, as nothing life-shattering happens while you wait in the car for a while, or the room doesn’t get cleaned for a day. You will win if you can ensure the ‘no’ gets none of your energy, and you keep your life moving…while theirs stops…until your request is honored. Keep it simple, and you will find a radical shift in the weeks ahead.