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Effective Ways to Deal with Stubborn Child

26 August 2021

No! No! As a parent, we hear a lot of No but sometimes the NO is for almost everything. How difficult it is to get clothes on them or clean up after play or complete their activities/studies.

Stubbornness can simply be defined as the refusal to change one’s thoughts, behaviors, or actions regardless of the external pressure to do otherwise. Stubbornness is often a behavior that is also seen in children who may be going through emotional concerns.  In some cases, it may be learned behavior due to the influences of the environment.

The bigger question is how to deal with a child who displays stubborn behavior? Do you become more strict and firm? Do you follow the rules? Do you force them to follow rules? Well, none of the above work makes the situation worse. What you can do and maybe more effective is first and foremost increasing your bandwidth for patience, stretching your patience level to understand the reason and areas your child is behaving stubbornly for. Are these areas which are challenging for him/her? Or is it a behavior he is displaying to get his/her way around?

How to cope with stubbornness?

What is the ABC: A – What is the activating event that makes him behave stubbornly. B – What is the behavior he is displaying and C – Consequence which is the outcome he is getting out of it. Once you have understood their behavior patterns it will be easy for you to maneuver around their behavior issues.

Communication: Communication is the key to the lock. Talk to them and ask them what is bothering you? Is there a bully in school? Are they having difficulty understanding? Is he or she feeling bored/ angry/ agitated? Give them tools to express their emotions in ways that will help them to have an emotional outlet.

Don’t take them head-on: Many times, parents feel becoming strict is going to make the situation better. It only makes it worse. Children become more agitated and stubborn. Role modeling is important if you want your child to understand you, you need to model that behavior for them.

Highlight The Positive Behavior: What if your partner came home and only told you all the things you are not doing? Would you want to do anything to make things better? Encourage your child’s positive, appreciate and acknowledge. Give them stickers, reinforcers so that they can feel happy about their achievements.

Set the boundaries, don’t make walls: While it is important to set rules, be reasonable. Talk about consequences. Have a family meeting and make the rules for everyone rather than just your child. Respect your child’s emotions and opinions rather than disregard their thoughts and feelings.

Offer Options: Give the child options that help you to meet the child mid-way. Negotiate with them and add elements that can work as a motivator. Suppose your child likes to play, ask him or her to finish tidying up his room before he can go play, if required offer him a hand and make him/ her feel like you are helping him, you can say “we can clean up and then you can go play”.

Connect And Create: Make sure you can connect with your child. Make them feel you are there for them and understand you are on their side.  Change your approach if one strategy is not working then create another strategy. You can make some activities fun or activities which you do with them. Make them feel like you are in “their team” not one against the other. Maybe you can do an activity which is like a challenge. Use dynamic approaches to work around them rather than being an instructional manual.

Happy Home: Make your home an environment in which your child is happy. Fights, conflicts, aggression negatively affect children. The home atmosphere needs to be congenial for the child to feel comfortable and happy. Be a role model to a child, don’t try to make your child a role model.

The biggest takeaway is to keep calm. As parents we go through so many stressors it could be our work, relationship, even parenting. But parenting is about being able to get down to your child’s emotional and intellectual level and help them crave their way in our world. More than love it is patience and an accepting attitude which is more effective than any formula.

Stubbornness in many cases is also a phase which a child may be going through to understand his controls and limits. If as parents we can tackle it with effective strategies rather than our emotional reactions, children often come around and find their roles and responsibilities easy to learn and accept.

Mansi M Doshi
Licensed Clinical Psychological and Psychotherapist. She is the founder of “Cognitive Balance”, the center for emotional well-being and mental health. She has been the infield of psychology for the past 18 years. She has also done her specialization in Play therapy from the British Association of Play therapist and Mayo Clinic (USA). She has been associated with various schools, children, and adults in handling emotional, behavioral, and learning concerns.

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