I went to a Mothers Together meeting where a presenter addressed getting your child to be more compliant than defiant. I am going to share some of the information that I found interesting here, as well as some of my own information.
Children want to have control. When they don’t get it they act out. That makes sense. We all want to be in control and find it frustrating when we do not have control. In reality, we have very little control over our lives. We do, however, have control over the choices we make, the way we respond or react to situations and people, and how we spend our time, money, and our talent. Children have not yet developed much of this. It is important for their individuation—their ability to become self-confident individuals, separate from the family—that they begin to develop the ability to make decisions and practice control in their lives.
Here are some suggestions to help children gain more control in their lives.
- Have them dress themselves. If they want to wear stripes with polka dots, then let them. The presenter gave us this question to ask ourselves: Will this matter in the next five years? In regards to the clothing choice, no. Chances are that, in five years, the child will be more worried about what he/she wears and will know how to match outfits. So, if the situation won’t really matter in the next five years, then allow the child to make his/her own choice.
- Limit the rules in the home. When children have too many rules, there will be more defiance. Again, more rules equates to more out of control feelings.
- Allow your child to have feelings. Anger is a valid emotion. It is okay to feel angry, however, you want to teach the child how to respond to the anger, not react to it. It’s not okay for him/her to hit or throw things when he/she is mad. That would be a violation of a moral or a safety rule because that temper will matter in five years and be harder to control. If your child is angry, help him/her to calm down by talking out their feelings. Even saying if he/she needs to calm down, the bedroom is a good place to go relax. When a child is allowed to experience feelings in a healthy way, he/she can then learn to control those feelings.
- Point out the positives. If you tell your child three positive things before bedtime—things he or she did or positive things about who they are—they will be more relaxed for sleep and wake up calmer. You want to tell your child how proud you are, how well he or she shared or cleaned up, how well he or she listened, how much you love him/her. It takes ten positives to every one negative, to really sink in and make a difference. Kids generally respond well to positives. Start somewhere—your child is not always doing something bad. You may have to look hard for the positives, in the beginning, but they are there.
- Pick a word everyone can use to help in becoming relaxed. In the movie Anger Management the calming word was grousefrabba. When that word was said Adam Sandler’s character worked to become more relaxed. If the family picks the word sugarplums, then that word is said when someone needs to calm down and relax before the situation can continue. This also helps the child to not feel so overwhelmed. The child can also say the word to you, to help you calm down.
In short, parents: allow your feelings to show, but respond to them in a way that models for your child a positive way to manage emotions. Use a calming word for yourself. Ask yourself: Will this matter in five years? When children have more of a sense of control in their own lives, then there will be less defiance and more compliance when you ask something of them.
© Copyright 2011 by Kelly Sanders, MFT, therapist in Rancho Cucamonga, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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