Stubborn 6-Year-Old

What to do when your child refuses to join in family activities or errands.

Q: My 6-year-old does not like to participate in family time or run errands. He can be contrary and often just wants to stay home. It brings everyone down, and I usually have to stay home with him because of his behavior. Any advice?

A: This is going to take some work. But now is the time to teach your 6-year-old that you have certain expectations of him and you will not give them up because he resists them. One of the principals of The Anger Habit series is that we should not let other people's anger use us. This is true of children as well as adults.

Another important principle put forth in my upcoming book, The Anger Habit in Parenting, is that persistence in our expectation that our children will be good, is most needed when good behavior is least evident.

Please do not allow your 6-year-old to control this part of your life. If you think this behavior is frustrating and making you miserable, it will seem like a walk in the park compared to the tyrannical behavior he will exhibit as he grows older.

What to do? The next time your family gets ready to go somewhere, tell your child in a calm voice (no threats, no yelling, not even a raised voice) that he is going with you. In the beginning, you may need to stand there and repeat this often. Even if it makes the family late, whatever the consequence, just stand your ground. Stay with him and repeat your expectation that he is going with you. He will most likely to have a temper tantrum, which you must not respond to. After it's over, he will probably come with you as if nothing happened. If not, continue to tell him what you expect for as long as it takes. In the beginning, this could take an hour or more. Persist!

Later, when he is out with you and misbehaves, say once -- and only once -- "You must not do that." When he doesn't respond, physically remove him. For example, take him to the car. If necessary, leave your grocery cart, the movie, the lunch room table, whatever. Once he has calmed down, do not comment; take him back in. Do this as often as necessary.

I know this seems like a big chore, and it is, in the beginning. It takes your commitment, and in this case, the whole family's commitment. But doing this when necessary will establish you as a credible source of information for him about how he is expected to behave. You will find that he will become more enjoyable to be around, and so will you. Believe me, it will make everyone's life a whole lot more pleasant.

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