Raising a Defiant Kid - Part 1: Avoiding Unenforceable Statements

Raising a Defiant Kid - Part 1: Avoiding Unenforceable Statements

During these tough times, kids can be more disposed to defiant behaviors, which can test the patience of the best of parents. How many parents do you know who react to these behaviors by barking orders that might not be enforceable? When they take this approach, they set themselves up to lose and end up with undesirable, ineffective outcomes!

Children who recognize that they can defy their parents become increasingly insecure and prone to test limits. Each time a parental request is ignored or defied, the authority of the parent is diminished in the eyes of the children. It does not take long before these kids learn, “I don’t really have to do anything my parent says.”

It is important to remember that Love and Logic parents are not permissive. Even though they treat their children with dignity and seldom bark orders, they expect that their wishes and requests will be honored. Their children believe in that old saying, “Your wish is my command.”

Children who live in Love and Logic homes have learned, through experience, that everybody wins when they are cooperative. Have these kids ever tested authority? Sure they have! How else did they learn that defiance doesn’t pay?

Parents can set themselves up to be winners with defiant kids by using “Thinking-Word Requests” instead of “Fighting-Word Demands.” Here are some examples of typical Fighting-Word Demands along with their Thinking-Word alternatives:

Fighting-Word Demand:      “Take out the trash, and do it now!”

Thinking-Word Request:     “I’d appreciate it if you take the trash out before bed time. Thanks.”


Fighting-Word Demand:      “Don’t you talk to me that way! You go to your room!”

Thinking-Word Request:     “Would you mind taking those words to your room? Thank you.”


Fighting-Word Demand:      “You come here right now!”

Thinking-Word Request:     “Hey, Pal. Would you mind coming here? Thank you.”


Fighting-Word Demand:      “Go help your little sister. Do it now—I mean it!”

Thinking-Word Request:     “Would you mind helping your sister now. I’d appreciate it.”

Some readers might view these thinking-word requests as showing no authority at all. In fact, some readers might even say, “What a wimpy way to talk. How is any authority maintained when you speak so nicely to kids?” My answer is, “Don’t be so quick to judge.”

Let’s take one of these examples and follow it through to show how kids can learn that it is always best to comply when parents ask in a nice way.

Mom:  “Would you mind taking those words to your room? Thank you.”

Son:    “No! I don’t have to.”

Mom:  “Did I ask in a nice way?”

Son:    “I suppose so. So what? I’m not leaving!”

Mom:  “Not wise, son. I could learn a lot from this.”

Mom walks off and allows her son to temporarily believe that he has won the battle. However, he will learn later about the foolishness of his decision.

The following day he asks his mom to take him across town to his soccer game and discovers the results of being uncooperative.

Son:    “Mom, will you take me to my game. Mrs. James can’t drive today?”

Mom:   “I don’t know. Did you ask in a nice way?”

Son:    “Sure. What’s this all about?”

Mom:   “Yesterday I learned from you that asking in a nice way doesn’t get the job done. Remember that little episode when I asked, in a nice way, for you to go to your room?” What did you teach me at that time?”

Son:    “I don’t know.”

Mom:  “You taught me that asking in a nice way doesn’t mean all that much. I’d appreciate your giving that some thought. And some day, when I feel better about your level of cooperation, I’ll be glad to help out with your soccer events.”

This brave mom did this fully expecting her son to start begging, complaining, grumbling, and laying on guilt. And he did, of course! Our kids don’t complain when we let them treat us like doormats.

Do you think that she gave in and drove him to his game after hearing his begging and complaining? Did she ask him, “Now, have you learned your lesson?” Absolutely not! His angry behavior proved to her that she needed to follow through with consequences in order to provide this important lesson for her son.

Think about this. Do kids learn best from hearing about consequences, or do they learn best from experiencing consequences?

Learn how Love and Logic can address both the symptoms and underlying causes in part two of this series!  You can also find more solutions for teaching a defiant and strong-willed kid in my webinar, Success with Strong-Willed, Stubborn or Downright Defiant Kids.


Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

Success with Strong-Willed, Stubborn or Downright Defiant Kids - Webinar

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