Examples of oppositional behavior in the child:
- When told “Turn your cell phone off while you’re at the dinner table,” the defiant child may turn it off, and then turn it back on.
- When given the direction “Lower your voice,” the child may speak in a lower tone, but use the same volume.
- When given the direction “Pull your chair up to the table,” the child may bring the chair up, but then sit on the floor.
Parent’s Strategy: Teach the difference between the letter and the spirit of the law:
Generally, when faced with the “loophole finding” child, parents will try to become more precise in their language or to add additional rules. Rather than trying to plug the loopholes, give your defiant child a lesson that teaches the difference between the “letter of the law” and the “spirit of the law.”
Unless your youngster has a language impairment, he knows what you mean and is merely testing the limits. In your lesson, you can give examples of statements a parent might make, and then ask your child to identify the intent.
- No yelling. Does that mean: (a) be silent or (b) start whispering?
- Stop running. Does that mean: (a) walk or (b) start skipping or hopping?
- Turn around. Does that mean: (a) face me or (b) turn in a circle?
Not only does this lesson get the point across, it generally is a lot of fun for parents and the kids. Once you are certain that your child understands the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, one additional rule can be added: “Follow the spirit of the law.”
Now, when your child tests the limits, you can ask, “Are you following the spirit of the law?” This effectively derails the child who innocently looks at you and smiles, saying, “But I did what you SAID!”
==> Effective Disciplinary Techniques for Defiant Teens and Preteens