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Parent’s Strategy for Dealing with Oppositional Defiant Behavior: Ask Rather Than Tell

Let’s look at this common parent-child exchange:

The parents says, “You need to finish your homework before you go out to play.” The child responds, “If you let me go now, I’ll do my homework later. I want to play with Jason now.”

If you persist, your child may continue to try to “make a deal” (e.g., “I’ll do half my homework now, only play outside for a little bit, and then come back and finish my homework”).

Your strategy is to ask rather than tell...

Oftentimes this type of interchange can be proactively avoided by “asking” the child what he should be doing, rather than by telling him what he is supposed to do (e.g., “What needs to be done before you go outside to play?”).

For the most part, children with defiant behavior really don’t want to be doing something different, they just want to have control and not feel as if they are being told what to do. Kids who are trying to make deals are really saying, “I want to feel like I have control over what I’m doing and when I’m doing it.”

If the parent interprets that sentiment out loud and points out that they do have control, oppositional kids often will comply. For example, you could say:

“You want to feel like you have control about the ‘what’ and ‘when’ of your choices. You do have control. No one can make you do anything you don’t want to do. You don’t do homework – you don’t go outside. You do your homework – you go outside. It’s your choice.”


==> Effective Disciplinary Techniques for Defiant Teens and Preteens

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