By John W. Maag, Ph.D.
Sally: Mom, can I go out and play after dinner?
Mom: Not tonight, dear.
Sally (whining): But whyyyyy?
Mom: I don't want you to be too tired for school tomorrow, and, besides, you were out the last three nights in a row.
Sally (forcefully): That's a stupid reason! Kathy, Ryan, and Monica all get to go out more than three nights in a row. You like those kids, and their parents even go to our church. So, why not?
Mom (exasperated): Because I said so!
Sally (glaring): No! I'm not staying in, and you can't make me!
What parent can't relate to the extremely frustrating situation described above? As a parent, you expect your child to do what you ask, in a respectful manner. Why does your child challenge your authority? There is no mystery as to why children say "No" to parents' directions. This non-compliant behavior allows them to:
All too often, parents focus solely on the form, or outward appearance, of a child's behavior and don't stop to think about what purpose it's serving for the child. For example, a child may come home from school angry after being falsely accused of talking during class. She may have felt helpless in trying to convince the teacher of her innocence. So, upon walking into the house she may purposely knock a book off a shelf. When her dad politely asks her to pick up the book she replies, "No, I won't pick up the book! You can't make me pick up the book! No one can make me pick up the book!"
The form of the behavior - knocking a book off the shelf - is the least important aspect for the parent to address. The child could have just as easily thrown her backpack across the room, refused to do after-school chores, or yelled at her dad. So, what purpose does her behavior serve? Knocking the book to the floor is a way for the girl to feel empowered after feeling so helpless at school.
Laying the Groundwork for New Strategies
Here are some important preconditions for increasing your child's compliance:
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