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Jody's Journal - Difficult Behaviour and Defiance

Posted:  Apr 28, 2020  |  1 Comments

Today’s Topic:  Difficult Behaviour, Defiance It’s important to know that children do not do things without reason. Sometimes they don’t even understand the reason behind a defiant “no” or a temper tantrum. Fair enough, I don’t always know why I’m upset or why I’m feeling resistant to complete a seemingly simple task. Two things are usually happening for a defiant child in moments of resistance… a feeling of lack of control and difficulty with a transition/change. 

Let’s tackle transitions first. Imagine living in a world where time isn’t really relevant. Young children are not staring at the clock all day monitoring it for cues on what should be happening next. Is it lunch time, clean up time, time for a bath or bed?  Children rely on adults to prompt them through their day, BUT for children, like most of us, it’s easier to keep doing what they’re doing than shift to something else.  For kids, the hardest thing to shift from is playing, which may include playing video games or watching tv. That’s what they want to do all day. For adults, it’s likely that moment in a fun evening of drinking and socializing when it’s time to go home. Yuck!!!  

As adults, we have the ability to decide to stay a little longer, while kids usually can’t negotiate their way out of a quick change in their activity…. although they try: “please mum, just a little while longer, pleeease?” 
This brings me to their feelings of a lack of control.  For a strong willed child, this will be their battle ground. This uncomfortable, frustrating reality can lead to arguing, negotiating, yelling, and crying.  “I’m NOT doing that!!!”


So ask yourself, what kinds of tools would be helpful in predicting and preparing for tough transitions?  What do you use to signal changes in your day, or *motivate yourself to complete difficult tasks? 


Create a schedule of daily events with start and end times. Whiteboards are great for this.  If they are little, they will need pictures. If they are older, they can help plan the schedule: “You have to have a shower today, when would you like to have it?” Help him/her to make good choices by explaining obstacles. “You could shower right before bed, but your hair will still be wet leading to a wet pillow and funky morning hair that may require another shower.” 

Give transition warnings so they know a change is about to happen and can prepare for it. This will be more important the more fun they are having. “10 more minutes to play and then we will stop playing and put the toys away.” Set a timer to help yourself stay on task.  When the buzzer goes, provide a transition warning.  Remember, the timer signals a transition warning, not the transition itself.  Giving kids time to prepare is important in avoiding conflict that can lead to defiance.

If possible, help them see the next fun thing in their day or when they’ll get the chance to return to this fun activity again. “After we clean up, it’s dinner next, but after dinner we can watch a movie.” or “I know it’s hard to stop playing. Tomorrow, when your homework is done, you can play again.”  (*For adults: After I clean up the dishes, I’m going to have a glass of wine.) We use internal motivators, kids need help by way of external motivators.

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Difficult behavior and defiance
Where were you 40 years ago when I needed you?
From: Sylvia Gardner
Entered: Apr 28, 2020

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