When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions,
it’s our job to share their calm,
not join their chaos.
~ L.R. Knost
→ The Top Ten Mom Hacks to Crush Defiance in Your Littles ←
If you have raised a child, then you know how outrageously defiant they can be.
You tell them to sit and they want to stand.
Tell them no and they insist yes.
Announce it’s bed time and they decide it’s the perfect time to go outside.
It doesn’t matter what you tell them; they will disagree.
I have three and a half year old twins.
About a year or so ago, I put their mattresses out in the hallway.
I spent a lot of time fighting with my Little Man A back then.
Little Man A is a very strong-willed child, to say the least.
And because he is a twin, his brother would often follow suit.
Try getting two little boys, who feed off of each other’s bad behavior, to stay in their rooms, in their toddler beds, close their eyes and go to sleep!
It didn’t work. They would laugh and talk and play. They would get out of bed, find toys, and get in to each other’s beds.
Or they would cry and fight and hit each other.
It was anything but peaceful.
The thing is, they needed their naps. They were just two. If they didn’t have a nap, then that defiance carried on throughout the day – it didn’t end with just nap time.
I had to crush it, and fast.
I tried a variety of tricks. Most of them made absolutely no sense!
For instance, I’d take their blankies.
Every time I had to go in to their bedroom to correct them, I would take one beloved blankie out with me.
These are their security blankets, folks.
I wouldn’t recommend that.
Another time I took out their mattresses.
Yep, their mattresses.
I’m not proud of it.
I put them in the hall. (And hoped no one came over!)
If they couldn’t stay in their beds, then they didn’t deserve a bed, right?
Please remember, I was sleep deprived and desperate!
These antics didn’t work for me and they won’t work for you. So please, please do not try them, or any other last ditch, off the wall crazy act of desperation.
So what to do?
Have a plan before your child turns two!
Well, okay, that’s not maybe so realistic either.
But you could arm yourself with a little knowledge (and a lot more sleep!)
Defiance is what it looks like when your kids are asserting their independence.
It happens at all ages, but the toddler years and the teenaged years are the most trying.
These are the years your child is discovering his own autonomy, separate from mom, and building his own identity. He is naturally going to pull away from you and do things his own way.
It’s a good thing. We want our children to grow up to be healthy, amazing adults, separate from us.
We want it to happen.
But we also want him to take a nap.
So how do we make it all work (and still keep our sanity?)
By taking their precious belongings of course!
By keeping these top ten mom hacks in mind when our littles utter that sweet little word…..
The Top Ten Mom Hacks to Crush Defiance in Your Littles
1. Build Your Relationship
This is the first step – and often most overlooked, to smashing defiance in your littles. Building a relationship with your child creates a foundation of trust, guidance and discipline. A strong bond with your child is the cornerstone of all future parenting.
Spend some time playing with your child. This is key to relationship building.
Also be sure to give out affection and positive verbal feedback during the day. This means lots of hugs & kisses, and lots of the “I love you”, “You are amazing”, “I enjoy hanging out with you” kind of stuff.
Do this throughout the day and quite often – kids will misbehave on purpose, just to get your attention. Take that notion out of the equation by giving the attention freely and frequently.
Build that relationship and the rest will naturally follow suit.
2. Keep your expectations age appropriate
Every age has its own developmental milestones. This means that your child can only understand and do certain things at certain ages. We would not expect an infant to feed himself and we would not expect a toddler to drive a car. These are obvious examples, of course, but it is often easy to lose sight of just how old your child is and what your child is capable of understanding.
I do this all of the time. I have a couple of spirited children, yes, but I also have a couple of very mature children, meaning they are far more mature than most kids are at their age. This makes it hard to parent at times, because I often expect more from them – I may expect them to do something at 13 that most teenagers wouldn’t be capable of doing until 18.
With the twins, I was expecting them to stay in bed at age two. That is not an age appropriate skill. It was perfectly natural for them to be getting out of bed at that age. In my desperate-for-sleep state-of-mind, I overlooked this. Now, at age three and a half, however, they are old enough to know and understand “stay in bed”. (And, blissfully do!)
3. Be consistent with rules & consequences
If you have a defiant child who constantly tests your limits, make sure you always enforce the same rules and always enforce the consequences.
Consistency is the key.
Do not stray. Do not give in – ever.
You child is testing his boundaries, his limits. You need to keep those limits hard and clear.
If he can sense that there is an ambiguous line there, he will walk all over it.
And get his way.
And cause you all kinds of pain and suffering.
Consistency will teach him that there is no negotiation with this rule.
It is bedtime. You go to bed. End of story. No ifs, ands or butts about it.
If you choose not to go to bed, you will face the consequence.
Every. Single. Night.
Every. Single. Nap.
4. Keep your threats & your promises
You need to build trust with your child. This means, good or bad, you will do what you say you will do.
If you promise to play when dishes are done, then you play when you finish the dishes.
If you threaten to leave the store if he continues to cry, then you leave the store when he cries.
Making a vow or an oath to your child (good vows are called promises, bad vows are called threats) is risky business, so be sure you do so wisely.
Because you need to make good on that promise.
If you do not, you teach your child that you do not mean what you say.
And if you do not mean what you say, then you don’t really mean ‘go to bed’.
Instead you mean “I’d like you to go to bed”, “I think you should take a nap now” or “I’d love for you to lay down a bit”, all of which are negotiable and give the child the option to say no.
Your child needs to learn that your word is solid. This will squash any temptation to be deviant, but it will also build trust.
And this trust will enable better parenting situations down the road – for example, when he asks for a cookie, and you say ‘not right now, but after lunch’, he knows he doesn’t need to keep pushing for that cookie right now.
He knows it’s coming after lunch.
Set your child up for success from the get-go by preventing as many of the situations as you can that cause her to be defiant.
This may take a little leg-work on your part. You need to spend some time objectively observing her behavior.
When does the defiant behavior happen?
Is it always around the same time of the day? Around the same circumstances?
What happened right before she was being so naughty? Right after?
What do you think triggered the behavior? How can you keep that trigger from setting her off again next time?
What did she get out of her little episode? What was in it for her?
Is there another way to give her what she was looking for, so that she doesn’t feel the need to be so defiant in the first place?
Figuring out what is causing the behavior and what she gets out of it is a great place to start. It is so much easier for you to prevent the whole situation from ever taking place than it is for you to intervene once it does happen – way less energy spent here, mommas.
Less energy = happy momma
6. Give choices
Often times a child will be defiant when he is feeling powerless. Giving choices gives him back some of his power.
Imagine yourself at two years.
You are told when to get up, what to wear, when to go to bed, what to eat for every single meal – how much to eat at every single meal.
You are told when to play, who to play with and what activities you can play.
Your whole life is dictated to you.
Giving your child choices throughout the day will give him a sense of power and control over his own life – over his own identity. These can be simple little things, like what to wear or whether to have Pop Tarts or cereal for breakfast. Feeling like he has some control can ward off fights later in the day.
If he should get in to a power trip with you, try giving choices in the middle of that trip.
Is he refusing to go to daycare? Try asking him if he wants to wear his boots or his tennis shoes to daycare.
If she is refusing to go to bed, try asking her if she wants to read a story first or brush her teeth first, before going to bed.
Give your child a choice in how the situation plays out – but be sure the options are choices you can live with.
7. Give your child a voice
Likewise, your child may feel powerless and fight you at every turn just because he doesn’t feel heard.
Take some time to sit with your child every day, just to talk.
I do this at meal times – particularly at lunch, with the twins, who often get lost in the shuffle when the whole family is home at supper.
I can connect with the five year old when he returns from kindergarten – dad visits with him during bath time.
Find a time during the day that you can touch base with your child and really hear him – hear how his day went, what was fun, what made him mad. Let him know that how he feels is important to you.
If he feels heard throughout the day, he is less likely to force his feelings on you at the most inopportune times.
And if he does have a melt-down, be sure to listen. Even at two you can start helping kids to identify their feelings.
It took me forever to realize that Little Man A couldn’t calm himself down for his nap. (I don’t know why I didn’t get that – I often can’t shut my head off at bedtime either!)
He was trying to tell me, and I just couldn’t hear him. At only two, he lacked the vocabulary to tell me what he needed. Instead, he resorted to showing me. Once I realized what was going on, I found ways to calm him – and help him to calm himself – at naptime.
The whole process went much smoother after that.
8. Know when to walk away
Most often, when I see a child being defiant or acting out, that child is doing it for the pure, uninhibited attention he is getting from mom.
Kids are good at getting their needs met. They are resourceful little people. If you are not giving your child the attention he needs during the day, he is going to find a way to demand it of you. And this often comes in the form of acting out.
The key: give more positive attention throughout the day – when your child is not acting out.
But if your child is acting out purely for the attention, the best thing you can do is ignore it.
You need to teach your child that his bad behavior is not an appropriate way to get his needs met.
But then you also need to make every effort to give your child that attention he is craving immediately when the situation has passed.
As soon as he has calmed down, or as soon as he has done what you asked of him, give him what he was asking of you – your attention.
And make every effort to give him loads of attention throughout the day from there on out – and every day after.
9. Give praise
Kids just want to please you. It may not seem that way, when they are acting out. But they really do.
They just want mommy to be happy with them.
So give them real, sincere compliments throughout the day. This could be anything – how adorable they are, to how well they do something, to how well they handled a situation, to how hard they tried, to how much you appreciate them.
As long as it is something real that you appreciate about them, tell them.
They won’t get tired of hearing it.
And they can sniff out an insincere compliment. So don’t say things like “This is beautiful!” when really you can’t even tell what it is. Instead say, “I love the way you used the purple and green!”
But beware – you may see a lot more purple and green in the next drawing!
If kids feel like you are happy with them just the way they are, they are less likely to act like a little monster. Especially if you compliment how well they handled something.
“Honey, last night when it was time for bed, you threw a fit. I love the way you quietly picked up your toys and then went potty tonight! Thank you!”
10. Keep calm – and parent on
This is tough stuff. Don’t take it personal – it is not about you. Your child is not acting out to hurt you. Your child is simply trying to get his needs met.
Figure out what those needs are, and meet them.
In a more appropriate way.
It may take a little leg work on your part. It may take a lot of energy – at first.
But it will save a lot of energy down the road.
Be consistent, be persistent, and above all else, stay calm.
Don’t remove the mattress.
I have six kids (two very “spirited” children and one little instigator…) and loads of experience dealing with them. These are the ten mom hacks to crush defiance that I have learned over the course of the last 19 years.
They’ve worked for me.
Let me know if any of them work for you!
Pick two and try them for two weeks. Then let me know how it goes! Leave a comment below or join our FaceBook group to share your story!