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How to handle a stubborn kid

"No, Mommy, no!"

Are some kids born stubborn -- or do they become that way as a result of the way they are raised? Well, the answer is yes. Some children, as a condition of inborn temperament, are less cooperative and more prone to resist being told what to do. And some kids, as a result of how they were raised, become more and more defiant and stubborn as they grow older. Here's how to deal with your stubborn kid.

We all know, or have heard about, those youngsters who are always so cooperative and anxious to please that they will do anything without complaint or foot-dragging regardless of how their parents talk to them. It is indeed rare to find more than one of these in a family. This child is the dream of most parents and teachers. If all kids were like this, there would be no need for this article.

Can you change a stubborn child?

The question for this article is, "Is there a way we can get better cooperation from our kids regardless of how strong-willed they are born?" The answer is yes. There is a way. A small change in the way we talk can result in much better cooperation, fewer fights, fewer temper tantrums, fewer needs for disciplinary action, less hate, and more loving relationships. Great bosses and leaders relay on what we are about to talk about. Great teachers use this technique every day.

Don't set yourself up to lose

Let's work backwards on this. We will study a situation in which a teacher creates a minor disaster in her classroom. Her attempts to control a situation result in a "blowout" by the student, creating a need for other professionals to be involved. Then we will look at how this could have been avoided in the first place. Once we have done this, we will take a look at the use of this technique in our own homes with our own children:

Teacher: (speaking from across the room.) "Jessie, why are you moving your chair? You don't need to do that. Move it back where it was!"

Jessie: "Brittany is going to help me."

Teacher: "You don't need her help. Now move your chair back where it was!"

Jessie: "But I need help on this."

Teacher: "Move that chair, or you're going to get sent to the recovery room."

Jessie: "I don't have to. You can't tell me what to do. You're not my mother!"

At this point the situation deteriorated. Jessie was ordered to leave the room. She refused, and was threatened with disciplinary action. Hearing this, she ran screaming out of the room and other professionals were drawn into the situation.

A "nobody loses" approach

Here is another approach to the very same situation. No battle line is drawn. Regardless of how the child reacts, she is actually obeying the adult's request. Both the dignity of the adult and the dignity of the child can be maintained. Disciplinary action to help Jessie learn the wisdom of cooperating with the teacher can be provided at a later time if necessary:

Teacher: (walking up the student and whispering.) "Jessie. I need you to move your chair back. Would you consider doing that for me? Thank you." (The word, "consider," takes away any threat and eliminates the opportunity for Jessie to be defiant.)

Jessie: "But I want Brittany to help me."

Teacher: (still whispering.) "I'm sure that's true, and I'd like you to consider moving."

Jessie: "No. I don't have to."

Teacher: (still whispering.) "Thanks for considering it. Do you really think that it's wise to refuse when I ask in a nice way? Personally I don't think that's a wise decision. We'll talk about that later." (The teacher walks away and Jessie remains where she is provided she does not create a disturbance.)

Since Jessie was not ordered to move, she has already complied with the teacher's request. She was not told to move, only to consider moving. Nobody has lost a battle at this point. The other students are not aware of the problem and the teacher's authority has not been challenged in front of the group. Jessie's teacher now has the time to muster her forces and figure out how to deal with Jessie's lack of cooperation. If discipline is necessary it can be done in private.

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