Children's stubbornness - what to do when the child repeats "No" and "No"

Child stubborn anger

First let me tell you a story:

Not long ago, while sitting in the airport lounge in Miami, I witnessed a classic example of the power struggle that can occur when a child says no and we try to impose our will.

Near me were a mother and father from Australia, with their two young children. Both parents were obviously tired and nervous. Let's just say they weren't at their best. These moments are familiar to all of us. The boy told his mother that he was hungry and asked for a hamburger. The mother ordered her son named Peter (whom we all knew from the airport a little later) to sit down immediately. Peter, who was about seven years old, just looked at his mother and shook his head disapprovingly. The mother repeated her command in a louder voice: "I told you to sit down right away!" She didn't want the kid eating his hamburger while standing up and running all over the airport. Peter just stared at his mother and didn't move. With this behavior he provoked her. The mother got angry very quickly. She stated: "Sit down now, don't challenge me!" I told you to do it now!' He, however, looked determined and did not move. Most of the people in Terminal «C» from that moment on witnessed the dialogue. The mother immediately pushed her son onto the bench, grabbing him by the blouse, and literally threw the hamburger into his lap.

A few small changes could have eliminated such a turn of events, even with the most stubborn and difficult children. We must look from the position of truth and try to maintain good relations if we do not want such circumstances to turn into a disaster for all of us.

How to avoid the struggle for supremacy?

Rule #1. Never try to mentor when the situation is critical. It is important to keep in mind that what happened at the airport is only the tip of the iceberg. It was clear from the way the parent and child communicated at the time that this was not an unusual situation for them. They have done it many times before.

If all this is possible, I guess you don't want to be like the family at the airport, looking for a way to deal with your child's denial. But, real change requires daily conversations at home and establishing certain boundaries of behavior when it comes to critical situations that have already occurred. Then it will be very unpleasant for you to see such opposition at the airport.

To begin with, you need to remember that this is a learning process that cannot wait until the situation is critical, and that change cannot happen by magic. It should become a way of communicating with your child every day and only then you can see a visible result. It is not enough that it learns to use the rules, it is more important that you also get used to them.

Rule #2. Children are not robots. Pay attention to how this mother started the conversation. The first sentence with which he began his conversation with Peter, well "Sit down now". She spoke to her son as if little Peter were her personal robot. It is important to remember that we do not have control over our children. All we can do is influence them, teach them. We can motivate, support and nurture them, but we have no control over them.

When we start the conversation using a controlling and demanding tone, we are much more likely to get a confrontational response, especially from certain types of children. Those of you whose children are stubborn and conflicted by nature should remember this lesson very well.

None of us wants to be controlled. Nobody likes being told what to do. No one likes to be judged. The same goes for children. It is especially important for children who are more stubborn by nature.

I doubt very much that the conversation would have gone the way it did if the mother had gently told Peter: “Peter, it's time to eat something. Please sit next to me and enjoy your meal.'

There is a vast difference between the power of request and that of demand. Many parents fall into the habit of using demanding and controlling language without even knowing they are doing it. When we are tired or stressed, many of us take our stress out on those we love the most. As things start to get out of hand and children continue to listen in silence, we fall into the cobwebs of using imperative forms rather than treating the child with more respect and simply asking.

Does it work all the time? No, of course not. But this is the foundation on which respect is built. Treat your children with respect, using the right words, and they are much more likely to grow up to treat you in the same way.


Rule #3. Get in the habit of ignoring the "no".. In most cases, the child's refusal is not able to cause much damage. The airport incident is a great example of this. If the mother asks Peter to sit down and he still refuses, she still has the hamburger in her hands. He can take care of the rest of the family while keeping an eye on Peter, leaving him without breakfast. She can let him resist without paying much attention to him. Before she screamed, Peter wouldn't make a scene. He wasn't trying to draw attention to himself or cause any trouble. All she had to do was wait for him. "But I can't accept my children saying no to me!"

You're probably thinking right now, "That's just unacceptable!". Well, it's time to experience it. Let's look at the reality - it doesn't matter if you accept this fact or not. However, the child has already answered you with «no». What can you not accept? Can you continue to claim that such behavior is rude after it has already happened? Can you continue to claim that you cannot accept such behavior when it has already happened? It is a fact. You can even scream: «I don't accept you contradicting me!». Did anything change after you did it? Can you claim that what you said erased what you did? Were the words immediately able to make the child submissive, making him tell you «I'm sorry mom! I take my words back.» .. and somehow the problem disappears?

Trust me, the denials you hear from him will not go away. This does not mean that you agree with them without murmuring. It means that you accept reality and that you look for options for action. There is a way to teach your son and/or daughter that this way of answering an adequately asked question will not help them achieve their goal. If your child answers with "no", then make it a habit to answer with...

Rule #4. Establish in advance: you say "no" - I also say "no". Before you ever get to the airport, ask them to clean their room, or invite them to help out at the community center, create a set of simple and clear rules for your family. When your children refuse a reasonable request of yours, let them know that you will respond in the same way to all their requests until they say yes to yours. Let's go back to the example: if the mother and father had made a rule that when the children refused their request, they might also refuse the child's. If Peter asked for his game at this point, or asked for a sip of juice, all his requests would be met with an automatic no until he deigned to sit down. The moment he sits on the bench means he has said yes to his mother's wish. From that moment on, the mother can also say yes to his requests. It sounds simple, but it really works.

But let's be clear: the real magic here is being able to prove that these are the rules the family will follow at home, in the car, while shopping at the mall, at the airport, etc.

Rule #5. Pay attention to him when he answers yes to your request. No matter how long you have to wait, do not be in opposition to your child (except in immediate danger to life, of course). Don't waste your time if you have to walk around the room ignoring your children's negativity. Be patient and wait.

After the child responds positively to your request, don't limit your answer to just "yes", but harness your strength and start paying attention to him, making him feel important. As long as children maintain their negative response, parents should make efforts to convince them that their behavior cannot anger them, attract attention, or give them any answer other than "no".

I recommend you try it. It's an approach that builds over time. This approach is a particularly good means of communication with children who are characterized by strong will, a desire for independence and such a opposition. Such children need to learn that words are not only used in verbal fights and as a way of exerting control. Instead, the world (in the form of Mom and Dad) will try to teach them that people will not respond well to such negative behavior.

One final note: steps 3, 4, and 5 won't be effective if you don't take full responsibility for how you talk to your children. If you tend to use language filled with strict dos and don'ts, you will find yourself struggling with them for the rest of your life. This will come back to you, but in a much more severe form, the older they get. The attitude you have towards them will be the model by which they will form theirs towards you. If you can change the way you talk, you'll find that steps 3 and 4 can be magical, even for the most difficult and stubborn children. In a few weeks, they may become much more accommodating and responsive.

Author: Randy L. Cale, PhD

Sources used:

Look more:

"Look what your son is doing" - or how we parent through yelling

Has liberal education failed?

Stubborn children - is there a solution?

Parental traps and discipline in children


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