10 Tips for Parents of Defiant Children
Recognizing Good Behavior Tops Dr. Alan Kazdin's List of Parenting 'Dos'
By SYLVIA JOHNSON
Sept. 15, 2009 —
Dr. Alan Kazdin of Yale University Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic offers 10 tips for dealing with defiant children.
All of the following tips are based on this simple principle: Attention to bad behavior increases bad behavior (yelling, lecturing, scolding, spanking and punishing are all forms of negative attention), while attention to good behavior increases good behavior.
1) Notice good behavior and give attention to it. Anything you see that you want to happen more often -- let the child know you like it.
2) Positive attention to good behavior can be a smile, a touch or praise -- or all three -- but do it right away and be specific about what it was the child did right every time. "Great job taking your dishes to the sink!" works better than "Great job!"
3) Instead of saying "stop" or "don't" when you see bad behavior, find the "positive opposite": Figure out what you do want the child to do instead. So "Don't leave your socks on the floor" becomes "Please put your socks in the hamper."
4) Enthusiasm counts. Let them see how thrilled you are with their good behavior!
5) Start a reward system for a child who rarely does what you ask, but make a game of it.
6) Give an instruction only once. Don't foster greater disobedience by giving it a lot of attention. If you focus on their defiance, it will actually increase.
7) Learn to ignore -- or actually walk away -- from annoying behavior. When you stop giving attention to annoying behavior, there's nothing in it for the child.
8) Your goal in a tantrum is to get past it. Stay calm yourself and your child will calm down faster.
9) When you must punish, make it a brief and don't delay it.
10) Above all, put tip No. 1 into practice. Ideally, you should be praising your child's behavior 90 percent of the time and punishing only 10 percent of the time.