3 Strategies for Dealing with a Defiant Child
Cute little boy playing with a railroad train toy

3 Strategies for Dealing with a Defiant Child

  • Post category:Parenting
  • Reading time:6 mins read

Does your child seem to be defiant?

These tips will give you hand in situations with patience, and even nip defiant tendencies in the bud.

But before we discuss how to handle a defiant child, you may be dealing with the oppositional defiant disorder.

First, ensure your child’s behaviour is not a persistent pattern. 

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is not just a catchy word, it is a disorder that children and their parents struggle with. 

Here’s how the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry defines ODD.

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is one of a group of behavioural disorders called disruptive behaviour disorders (DBD). 

These disorders are called so because children who have these disorders tend to disrupt those around them.

ODD is one of the common mental health disorders found in children and adolescents. 

Physicians define ODD as a pattern of disobedient, hostile, and defiant behaviour directed toward authority figures. 

Children and adolescents with ODD often rebel, are stubborn, argue with adults, and refuse to obey. 

They have angry tantrums and can hardly control their temper.

A child with the oppositional defiant disorder:

  • Has frequent temper tantrums
  • Argues constantly with adults
  • Refuses to do what is asked of an adult
  • Always questions rules and refuses to follow rules
  • Does things to annoy or upset others, including adults
  • Blames others for misbehaviours or mistakes
  • Is easily annoyed by others
  • Often displays an angry attitude
  • Speaks harshly or unkindly
  • Seeks revenge or acts vindictively

Any child can misbehave from time to time, but children with ODD show a constant pattern of hostility and defiance, aimed at people in authority like parents or teachers. 

Their behaviour interferes with learning and school activities.

Now, let’s see how to deal with a typical defiant child

How to parent a defiant child

If your baby has occasional periods of defiance, there are things you can do to make things easier. 

Here are tips that you can use. 

  1. Make your expectations clear

Children of all ages need to know the family rules for things like helping out with chores, completing homework, bedtime and curfews, and acceptable behaviour toward others. 

The best moments to discuss these matters is when all is well, not after an incident has taken place.

Sit your babies down and let them know what types of behaviours you will not tolerate. 

List examples of unacceptable behaviours such as treating others with disrespect, refusing to do chores or homework, mishandling things, or physical aggression like hitting or biting.

The goal is not to prevent your child from ever breaking the rules but to teach him that when rules are broken, there are consequences.

You can’t expect your child to comply if your expectations are not clear to them

I would recommend, you take time to write your rules and their respective consequences on a poster board which you can stick on common areas. This way, there’s never a question as to our expectations.

2. Act, don’t react

When your baby exhibits defiance, don’t get angry and lose your temper. 

Instead, take a step back and tell your baby that you don’t approve of the behaviour and they need to stop. 

Let them know you’ll talk about consequences at a later time when you can both talk calmly.

This gives them time to think about their actions and the potential consequences. 

Not only are you using the time to calm yourself down, but you’re also teaching them to do the same.

3. Enforce consequences

Effective consequences can largely be grouped into two categories: removals and impositions.

A removal is taking something away from the child, such as your attention, an exciting environment, or an activity they like. 

The most well-known and widely-used removal is a time out. 

Other effective removals include grounding your child from social activities, taking away electronics for a certain period, or immediately leaving the park, a friend’s house, or a family party when defiant behaviour occurs.

Impositions are consequences that impose a new situation on the child. Paying their own money into a family fine jar, doing extra chores, having to run errands with mom because he abused the privilege to stay home alone by inviting friends over without permission—these are impositions.

Without question, consequences require time and energy to enforce. 

But if you do not follow through with consequences for bad behaviour, you send the message “If you wear me down, eventually, you’ll get your way.”

4. Keep your power

When you argue with your child, you’re giving them the perception that they have the power to challenge you, which can lead to even more defiance.

The next time your baby tries to draw you into a power struggle over something, just say, “We’ve discussed this and I’ve told you what’s going to happen. We’re not going to talk about it anymore,” and leave the room.

When you leave, you take all the power with you. 

Know that the more you engage your child in an argument, the more control you give away.

5. No second chances or bargaining

Consistency is key if you don’t want to condone bad habits. 

Once your baby is old enough to understand that actions have consequences, don’t give them second chances. 

This teaches them that you don’t make your own rules seriously.

There should be no ifs, and, or buts.

Don’t bargain or offer treats or privileges in return for better behaviour. 

You’re only enabling your child to test how far they can push you before you strike another bargain.

6. Always build on the positive

Make sure you build on the positive attitudes and actions of your children. 

Praise your children for their positive behaviours, like rewarding them when they show a cooperative attitude. 

Positive reinforcement can go a long way in raising a responsible child.

7. Set regular times to talk to your child

When things are going well and you don’t anticipate an immediate power struggle, sit down with your child. 

Let them know that you intend to keep them safe and help them grow into a responsible, productive, self-reliant adult who will be as happy and fulfilled in life as possible. 

Always remind your children that your family has rules and values that are in place for their future, not to cause them grief while growing up.