How to Deal with Defiance in Children

The appearance of defiance in children tends to occur when they are about 2 or 3. If these issues aren't resolved, the behavior tends to get worse, not better, with age. When raising a defiant child, appropriate action taken by the parents can help in around 75% of cases when the children are under 10. However, when they are over the age of 12, parenting techniques only help in 25% of cases. As the chance of rectifying defiant behavior in children gets less over time, it's important to address the issue early on.

Reward Positive Behavior:

Often, meting out punishments will not change a child's behavior in the long-term. The defiance is usually a symptom of insecurities which will need to be addressed for a long-term change in behavior. When dealing with a defiant child, remember to concentrate on rewarding positive behavior. This is very important and less likely to provoke a further negative response, as increasingly punitive measures often do.

Spend Time with Your Child:

Interact with the child as much as you can. Watch his behavior and play with him often to find out how he reacts to things. This can help when you need to comfort him and calm him down when his behavior gets out of control. It can also help you learn what triggers some of his more negative responses and therefore help you get to the bottom of his problems.

Try to Discover the Cause of the Defiant Behavior:

Try to find out what your child's vulnerabilities are. Defiant behavior is usually a mechanism employed as self-protection. By taking time to find out her underlying insecurities, you can use the comforting techniques you have found to work with your child to offer reassurance. It can be hard to be loving and comforting when she is acting in a defiant manner, but patience and understanding will work much better in the long-term. You will end up with a more fulfilling and close relationship as a result.

Be Flexible:

Be as flexible as you can in response to your child's inflexibility. Despite his behavior, which will be hard to tolerate, you as the adult need to calm yourself to avoid being unnecessarily critical and worsening the defiant behavior. Don't forget that it's likely your child suffers from a self-hatred issue that needs resolution for his behavior to improve. He isn't behaving in this way for pleasure, although he may be attention seeking. Again, if he feels he needs to behave this way, it indicates an underlying insecurity.

Be Consistent:

Consistency in the way you deal with your child's defiant behavior is important. Spend time building a close relationship with her. Allot some special time each week to spend with her so you can talk and enjoy activities on a one to one basis. You want to build the trust between you so that your child sees you as an ally who she can talk to. Erratic responses on your part will not help build a trusting relationship. Your child needs to be able to rely on your responses to feel she can trust, and therefore confide, in you.

Establish Firm Limits:

Ensure that you establish firm limits with your defiant child. Although you want to build a close relationship with him, you're still the parent and should set appropriate rules. Discuss these limits and corresponding punishments and rewards openly with him. Meting out random punishments in anger is only likely to cause more defiant behavior. Sensible limits, firmly backed with action that is previously discussed, is the right way to eventually get your child to stick to the rules you set.

It can seem tedious to continually reinforce rules that your child doesn't appear to have any intention of sticking to. It may seem easier to let them get away with occasional bad behavior. However, this is self-defeating in the long run. Persistence when your child is pushing the boundaries you set, will pay dividends later on.

Talk to Your Child About Their Defiant Behavior:

As your child gets older, it will be easier to help her become more aware of her behavior. Talk to her about her behavior. Discuss what things trigger defiant reactions. Get her to analyze what sensitivities in particular make her react in a defiant manner. You will also be able to joke with her, as she gets older, about her defiant reactions. This is a good, non-confrontational, way to help her understand how her behavior affects you. A little teasing can work to get her to laugh at herself and to take herself less seriously. You can show her, through humor, how she appears to you when displaying defiant behavior.


Remember that when raising a defiant child, quick and decisive action is best. This is the case whether in response to defiant, or positive, behavior. You should respond to your child's behavior within 30 seconds, according to The Brainy Child website, for your response to have its desired effect. Don't be afraid to ask for help from experts either. Defiance in children is common and not necessarily a reflection on your parenting skills. Ask your general practitioner for guidance if you feel you can't cope and need professional assistance.




Defiant Behavior in Children is Best Addressed Early On