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Strategies for Managing Your Child's Resistant Behavior

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By John W. Maag, Ph.D.

Change the Appearance of the Behavior

This approach works well when you're trying to tell a child something and she refuses to look at you.  Instead of getting upset, you can instruct the child to place her hands over her ears to ensure she doesn't hear one word you say.  If she follows your direction, she's being compliant.  When you get compliance in one area it's easier to get compliance in another area.  At the very least, the behavior is now under your control.  If she refuses to place her hands over her ears, you may comment that perhaps she wants to hear some of what you are saying — and then you can refuse to finish. 

Changing Your Approach to Regain Control

Parents can manage children's resistance in a positive, effective fashion.  But you may have to step outside your comfort zone and get creative in your responses to your child's misbehavior.  Here's a final example: A mother and her daughter are at a mall when the daughter pitches a huge fit - a floor-mopping tantrum with arms and legs waving madly.  The mother immediately drops to the floor and starts throwing a tantrum alongside her daughter.  The daughter instantly stops her tantrum, stands up, and says "Mom, stop that, you're embarrassing me!"  Whether or not you have this mom's dramatic talents, the general lesson applies: Don't get stuck in frustrating patterns of reacting to your child's resistance.  Often you have more power than you think to change your child's negative behavior.

Comments from readers

"So there is power in sarcasm and deception - interesting... I think that I will stick with being honest with my kids (and making them pick up the book, etc.) But let me know how this approach works for you, I can certainly see that it is not confrontational. By the way, is that what we are trying to avoid now-a-days?"
"Using ' The child's point of view ' how great are the chances that your kid will be a real brat at the end? It seams that this is a convenient way to avoid a real communication with your kid which implies explaining to her what is right and what is not and when It is not, explaining why. 'You can bite your nails but you'll ruin your teeth' sounds less like nonsense than ' I want you to be in style too'. According to this article, a kid will drop her controversial attitude by exhaustion and not by understanding. She will keep going 'till She'll get her satisfation and not knowing any boundaries. Sorry It doesn't seem to work. "
"Good and informative post. Thanks for sharing it. Small children are incapable of understanding certain things. Don't yell at them, and don't ever compare with other children. They should be properly understood with love and care else things can get worse. To know more on this topic, refer"
"This was an excellent article. I am having a lot of problems with my sons frustrating and argumentative behavior. I am going to have my husband read this article and see if between the 2 of us we maybe can come up with a plan. Thank you, Erin"