When Your Child Doesn't Listen

Dealing with your child's defiant behavior.
Manners & Responsibility: Getting Your Child to Listen
Manners & Responsibility: Getting Your Child to Listen

All children defy their parents on occasion. Testing adult guidelines and expectations is a normal part of growing up. Rebellion allows children to express their individuality and independence.

But dealing with this behavior may make a parent feel stripped of power and control in her own home. Here are some guidelines to help your child -- and you -- get through this trying stage.

1. Examine the possible sources of his behavior. Going through an especially stressful time at home, struggling at school, or having problems making friends may trigger uncooperative behavior. Also take an objective look at whether the other members of your family resolve their problems peacefully and show respect for one other. It's important that you set a good example by respecting others and working through your differences.

2. Open a dialogue. Try to have your child view you as an ally rather than an enemy. Explain that you have noticed a difference in her behavior and that you sense she is unhappy or struggling. Ask her to open up to you about what is behind her difficult behavior.

3. Keep your cool. Always show your child the respect that you ask him to show you. If you react to your child's talking back by exploding or losing your temper, he will only respond with more disobedience and disrespect. If both of you appear to be losing control, impose a time-out until you both calm down.

4. Compliment your child for good behavior. Reward your child when she is obedient and respectful. Give her positive feedback when she shows cooperation and peaceful resolution of disagreements. These positive efforts will always be more successful than punishment.

5. Remember that being a child isn't easy. Children believe that they are more capable than they really are and tend not to understand the restrictions placed on them. Don't forget that you probably went through a power struggle with your parents at one time or another. By understanding where your child is coming from, you'll be better able to react productively to his power struggles.

If your child has a lengthy history of being out of control and uncooperative, this may indicate a more serious problem. Talk to your family doctor about whether family counseling or behavioral therapy sessions may be appropriate.

Source: Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5-12 (Bantam, 1999)

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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