TOP TEN TOOLS FOR DEALING WITH OPPOSITION
(Especially helpful with Toddlers, but works for most school-age children.)
Most of the time, your child is an easy kiddo--adorable and loving! But for those challenging times when your child is moody, tired, sick or hungry and you are moody, tired, sick or hungry, too-- here are the Top Ten Tools for dealing with opposition and resistance from your child.
1. Respectful language is a non-negotiable. Don’t take orders from a little kid. Always answer to “kind” or “nice” talk, but not to disrespectful language. You can model: Say, “Please can I have my milky, Momma” or ask, “Please try again with kind talk” or down the line when kids are older just say firmly, “Excuse me?” I feel that you have to expect “kind talk” all the time, except when a kiddo is escalated or extremely tired, etc. This helps kids understand that you have parental authority and balances power appropriately in the home.
2. You can use “when you…, then you…” or “if you…, then you…” for almost any request. Unless it is not safe… then you repeat the rule… “Sorry honey, the rule is no playing with knives!”
3. You can avoid power struggles when inanimate things are to blame. “The clock says time for bed!” The family rule is no hitting and no hurting anyone, even when you get mad.” “The rule at school is no playing with food.”
4. Distract, distract, distract… Your little one has a great imagination… you can become animals or objects to get him to comply…or talk about events you’ve just experienced. Take advantage of your child’s short attention span: give a directive, expect your child to comply and then distract… your child won’t have time to resist.
5. Give one warning only and then “Act, don’t yak!” You don’t need to justify or explain unless it’s an unusual situation. “We have to leave now, because your brother is sick…”
6. Give time warnings before leaving or changing settings…10 minutes to go… 5 minutes…1 minute… okay countdown!..10, 9 8 …and end with a hug or a tickle. Use a timer. Little kids have no concept of the passage of time and it just surprises them and makes them mad when their play is interrupted. So give them warnings and then expect them to move. Respectfully lead them or pick them up and go if they don’t cooperate.
7. Think about your “No’s” before you say them, because variable reinforcement can shape behavior and is the most reinforcing. If you say “No, no, no” and then occasionally give in with an “Okay,” that’s when kids learn to get something by negative persistence or a tantrum. You may need more time to decide and it’s smart to say, “Give me some time to think about this before I answer.”
8. Use the “Broken record” when the answer is “No.” Say “Sorry, no.” with or without a reason or explanation and then –“You heard/have my
answer.” You can keep repeating this respectfully—no continued explanations or arguing required (avoid a powered struggle) and try to move on with distracting or ignoring. It is important to stay calm even if your child displays negative emotions. Suggest that she goes to her “cool down” spot (“I’m sorry you feel sad/mad.”) and suggest that she figures out a way to help herself to feel better (See #10).
9. You can empathize when your child is angry at not getting his way, but little kids can’t understand that thoughts, feelings and actions are separate, so I feel it’s important to say, “You may feel angry, but it isn’t ever okay to hit (or yell at) Mommy or Daddy, even if you are angry.”
10. I think it is really important that kids learn how to self-soothe—to make themselves feel better in healthy ways—so if your child is mad/sad/scared you can say, “I think maybe you feel mad (or sad or scared).” “Can you think of a way to help yourself feel better?” “Would you like some help/ ideas?” “Maybe if you hug Wolfie or snuggle with Mom/Dad you would feel calm?”