5 Ways to Deal with a Defiant Child

5 Ways to Deal with a Defiant Child
5 Ways to Deal with a Defiant Child. Getty Images

Before we had children we vowed that we'd have perfectly behaved kids and that we would never let our children misbehave or be disrespectful of us in any way. We would be the model of parental responsibility and our children would have no choice but to listen to us with respect. Right?

And then we became parents. I remember the first time we encountered defiance. It was shocking, really. We wondered where the stubbornness came from and how in the world we were going to deal with it. Most importantly, we wondered, "is the defiance here to stay?" 

Luckily defiance isn't usually here to stay, and it can be dealt with. Here are 5 Ways to Deal with a Defiant Child when no matter what you do, your child looks you straight in the eye and refuses to do what you ask them to.


Figure out why your child might be acting out. Have they had a rough day? Did they not get enough sleep last night? Did they miss a meal? Was their routine mixed up? Consider that the defiance your child is exhibiting may be a direct result of being tired, confused, hungry or unable to deal with conflicting emotions. Being able to understand why they might be behaving this way may help you decide how to deal with the situation. If you realize they haven't eaten or need a nap you might just give them what they need instead of trying to formulate a consequence or talk to them about their behavior.


Sometimes a refusal to do something like put on their shoes in a timely manner or brush their teeth is your child's way of telling you that they need your attention without using those exact words. Children don't always understand exactly what it is that they need but refusing to do something they know they don't want is something they do understand. Hence, the defiance. If you suspect that your child just needs some one-on-one attention, try to make the time to give it to them.


This is a hard one. It's really difficult to stay calm and not want to yell when your child is being flat out defiant. Remind yourself not to get worked up and to stay calm. Take deep breaths so that you can respond to your child calmly and without anger or irritation.


Children can usually be distracted from negative behavior with laughter and distraction. Consider trying to joke or tickle your child out of their mood or distract them with something they DO want to do.


Some children really need consequences to remind them that bad behavior doesn't pay off. Figure out what consequences are best for your child and age appropriate and be sure to tell them what the consequence will be and then stick to it them next time they engage in the behavior. This works really well on most children because they just plain don't like consequences that are a direct result of their behavior.

Figure out what works best for your child. We've found that different situations call for different actions. If you are consistent with your child, however, and address the defiance, it will get better.