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Treating Symptoms AND Causes of Defiance

Treating Symptoms AND Causes of Defiance

Fourteen-year-old Curtis walks in from school, throws his coat on the floor and immediately begins the fine art of verbal brain drain: “Mom! I’m starvin’! What’s for dinner?”

Mother greets him with a smile and says, “Honey, we’re having leftovers from last night—meatloaf.  How was school?”

Faster than the speed of light, Curtis’ eyes roll back in his head, his jaw drops, and he whines, “Aw, Mom! I don’t waaaant thaaaaat.  Let’s get pizza.  I hate meatloaf!”

Full battle shields deployed, and her once sweet smile fading, Mom enters the fray.  “No! We are not going out tonight.  What do you think?  Do you think money grows on trees?”

By the time they both sit down for dinner, Mom is exhausted, Curtis has experienced an entertaining show of parental frustration and anger, and another chunk of their relationship has been damaged.

What’s the good news here?  For over 40 years, Love and Logic has helped thousands of parents put the fun back into raising kids.

Why have the techniques had such lasting and widespread success?  Largely because Love and Logic addresses both symptoms (misbehavior) and underlying causes (kids’ needs for love, healthy control, significance and self-worth).

Symptoms?  Causes?  What does all of this really mean? Let’s imagine that the mother above has two trusted friends who fancy themselves as rather accomplished amateur child therapists.

She consults with friend number one, who responds, “Make his arguing backfire for him.  Until he stops this habit, try going on strike.  Each time he asks you for something, say, ‘I’ll be happy to do these things for you when I feel treated with respect.’“

Not bad for an amateur!  On her way home, she stops by the store and runs into friend number two.

Mom throws the question his way.  What’s his answer?

“You need to find out why he’s arguing so much in the first place.  Does he feel connected to you in a loving way?  Is he crying out for attention, some control or some loving limits?  Is he feeling really poorly about himself?”

Not bad for an amateur!  There’s only one problem.  Now Mom is really confused.  What does she do?  Does she just deliver a consequence?  Or does she find and treat the causes of Curtis’ arguing escapades?  Which friend is correct?

Both and neither!  Using a good, logical consequence, alone, often stops the misbehavior.  What’s the problem then?  If the child’s underlying needs are not met, the misbehavior tends to resurface later—either in its original form or some other.  Arguing may return as arguing—or as a quiet refusal to do what the parent asks.

Treating causes, alone, also falls short of the mark.  While the child may start to feel much better because his or her emotional needs are being met, the misbehavior continues because it’s become such a habit.

For more help dealing with defiance, check out this video.


Thanks for reading!

Jedd Hafer