Updated: Oct 8, 2019
Your 15 year old tells you he did his homework when he didn’t.
Your 8 year old starts yelling at you when you tell them it’s time to get off their ipad and get ready for bed.
Your 6 year old throws a fit and blatantly refuses to follow your rules.
You need to repeat yourself 20 times and end up yelling to just get your 4 year old to listen and get their shoes on.
These behaviors - from lying and tantrums to disrespect and not listening - can often be expressions of defiance and the way your child’s anxiety can show up.
Here’s the thing about defiance; it can really trigger us as parents. It can feel aggressive and disrespectful, make us lose control, and bring up our worst fears about our child’s future and our ability to be good parents (and yes, I’ve been there).
Now I want you to imagine your child’s defiance is like a deer in the headlights. (In other words, “Imagine defiance as a freeze state.”)
There you are, driving down a back road in the evening, listening to Bohemian Rhapsody - maybe singing along. Suddenly out of nowhere a deer jumps out in front of you and stops, frozen in your headlights! You slam on the brakes. Your vision narrows and all you see is the deer. Your breath stops. Time slows down. You narrowly avert disaster. Your heart is pounding. The deer runs away. You pull over shaking and try to calm down before continuing.
Your child’s defiance can come out of nowhere, just like the deer. Often, without meaning to, we parents escalate the situation by stepping on the gas instead of the brakes.
This can look like the following:
Immediately reasoning, bribing, yelling
Pushing harder to try to make your child do what you want them to do
Challenging or invalidating your child’s behavior or feelings - “I’m NOT putting on my jacket!” “YES you are!”
So what do you do?!
Remember that you’re the one behind the wheel, not the one in the headlights.
Hit the brakes! i.e. STOP TALKING
Pull over! i.e. TAKE 1 STEP BACK AND START BREATHING (3x).
Now that you’re a little calmer, you’ll be able to think better and I believe you’ll be better able to figure out what to do next to help your child. My guess is that many of the situations where you face defiance from your child are around transitions, which are STRESSFUL.
It’s the perfect place to apply the No-Yell™ parenting principle that “Behavior is an SOS, not an attack.”
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