by Bob Lancer
You can begin turning things around by examining the strategies you are using in raising your child, and by continuously and relentlessly working on more calmly, compassionately and competently relating with your child. This makes you a more “present” parent, and that is essentially what your child needs. Invariably, when the “defiant” child is demanding a candy bar at bedtime, what she is really crying out for is more present parenting.
Recognize that it is a healthy expression of human nature to defy another’s control to some degree, and we need to respect that degree of defiance in our childrden. If you react harshly to the child’s healthy and natural need for a sense of autonomy, you are being overly controlling and demonstrating too little flexibility and respect for your child’s true needs. This leads the child by your example into being unreasonably inflexible and disrespectful of others. It also antagonizes the child needlessly, and causes the child to feel insecure, which further incites overly reactive, overly controlling, and rebellious self-conduct from the child.
By simply paying more attention to your feelings and to your child’s feelings in the present moment, you will begin seeing how you have been working against your child rather than with your child, and how to undo, overturn and responsibly avoid excessively defiant patterns in your child.
As you practice more present parenting – that is, being more conscious of yourself, your child and the relationship between in the present moment, you will uncover the causes of your child’s “defiant” behavior, as well as practical solutions to the problem, including how to relate with your child to avoid causing that problem. Some of these will include:
- Becoming more self-aware and self-honest to recognize how you model overly defiant, self-centered, rebellious immaturity in your own self-conduct. This will lead you into a deeper, more present relationship with yourself and with your child.
- Avoid giving your child more freedom than he has demonstrated he can handle responsibly. This requires that you pay closer attention to your child, and remain physically closer to your child, so that you can step in and take control before your child engages in his “defiant” antics.
- Get your child on a regular schedule, involving a healthy sleep schedule. If you cannot establish this without fighting, you need to be willing to work with your child every night, with firmness but with compassion, improving your success by small degrees. This might mean sitting with her in her bed, and not letting her leave the room, even when she tantrums. As you remain calm and improve your self-control as you establish the boundaries that are truly in your child’s best interest, your child gradually develops better self-control from your influence.
- Make sure that you are spending enough time truly with your child. This means more than being in the same location. It means consciously observing and connecting with your child with deep, present awareness. This will lead you into being better at reading the signs of her behavior, to tell you when she is headed into a problem. The sooner you begin redirecting her, the easier it will be to do so.
- Examine your own way of relating with people and leading your life, to see the sort of example you are actually setting. Do you hide behind psychological walls of sarcasm and superficial wit, display a lack of courtesy, carry around much resentment, rebel against others’ expectations for no other reasons than the sake of doing so?
If you see a child who displays what you regard as more considerate and responsible behavior, consider the probability that this person is doing something differently for different results. Open your mind to the possibility that you really can learn new ways of living your life for more of the results you want, not just for yourself, but for your child. As you take responsibility for the results that you are getting (and not getting), your example will lead your child to accept more responsibility for his own conduct.