Are You Struggling with A Stubborn Child?

by denny hagel on September 8, 2011


iStock 000005253005XSmall Stubborn child 200x300 Are You Struggling with A Stubborn Child?
Parenting a stubborn child can be one of the most exhausting experiences one can endure. No matter what you do or say, don’t do or don’t say it feels as if you are always up against a brick wall…and that wall is not budging!

Nothing breaks my heart more than to hear a parent describe the disconnect they feel with their child because of a negative established pattern of behavior. The simplest thing can easily turn into the most explosive conflict. Bedtime to meal time and too many situations in between feel like a tug-of-war. It is often a battle with no clear winners. The more you push the harder they push and if you are like most parents there never seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
 
Imagine if the line of wills that exists between you and your child were erased. What if during the tug-of-war one side put the rope down or if when they pushed you simply stood still?
 
Changing the dynamics automatically changes the game!
 
There are two things parents dealing with stubborn children need to consider.
 
The first is to always being mindful that you do not allow yourself to be pulled into a battle of power. You must always ask yourself if you want to be right and “win” or if you want to find a solution. Keeping your focus clear is critical.
 
The second is to understand that all behavior is way of communicating for children. They are not equipped to verbalize their thoughts and feelings and so they react to what happens in their lives through their emotions. The specific circumstances for each situation are not relevant. Defiant children are typically reacting to something that is troubling them on a deeper level. The specific situations are not the problem only a symptom of a greater problem.
 
Breaking through that hidden shield and uncovering the deeper issue is the only way to dissolve the child’s tendency to fight back, push back or pull on that rope with all their might.
 
Now, every child and every situation will differ to a degree. However, the common denominator present in children who dig their heels in and refuse to cooperate will always involve a feeling of a lack of power…either the power to choose or the absence of their preferences.
 
For example, I once worked with a family of 5, two girls and one boy, the son being the middle child. By all accounts this was a typical family with no real underlying issues of dysfunction. Except for the fact that their son, at the time age 5, was touted as the most stubborn child God had created (parents words)! As I learned more about the family and their routines, choices and overall lifestyle I could see that family was very important to them.
 
For the most part the parents made the choices and decisions, however, they did take the time to communicate and explain their decisions to their children. Occasionally they even included the children in making decisions the democratic way, with everyone getting a say and a vote. Upon further investigation however, it was discovered that more often than not their girls would vote one way and their son voted another. Of course the democratic way meant majority ruled and so the son was left feeling outnumbered, unimportant and ignored.
 
Pointing out to the parents that their son had very little say about what his life consisted of and that was assuredly not feeling good to him opened their eyes to the fact that he needed to be able to honor his feelings and make choices that were pleasing to him… and not always having to follow their choices or to go along with what the “group” had decided. It was suggested that a new approach focusing more on individuality would not only improve their son’s attitude but would benefit their daughters as well and the parents agreed.
 
iStock 000015058748XSmall Breakfast table family of 41 300x199 Are You Struggling with A Stubborn Child?They began allowing each child to make their own choices rather than having everything handled as a group. For example, where in the past it was an established pattern that each morning the Mom would choose what clothes they would each wear and what they would have for breakfast. The new approach allowed the children to choose their own outfit each day and they were given a choice to either have what Mom was cooking for breakfast or they could have a bowl of cereal, a piece of fruit or make themselves toast.
 
This simple change gave the children, especially their son, a feeling of power over what happened in his life.
 
The parents found other ways in their daily lives to offer their children opportunities to make their own choices by presenting options rather than deciding for them. Eventually their son released his need to rebel because there was a balance now in his life where he felt more in control rather than being controlled. Situation that once created a “stand-off” no longer existed which consequently meant the need to “fight” no longer existed.
 
When parents are willing to be flexible and bending in the way they do things, they are setting the example for their children to do the same. If you are frustrated by the stubborn uncooperative defiant attitude you are seeing in your child, remove the atmosphere of controlling. Put the rope down, react with open arms when your child pushes toward you and lead your children through options to work as a team, guiding and helping them decide what works and feels good to them.

 
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denny pic21 Are You Struggling with A Stubborn Child?Denny Hagel is a child advocate and parenting coach, devoting over 25 years to the success and well being of all children. She is the published author of over 60 articles on parenting, many of which have attracted international attention in over 24 countries.

Denny was blessed with forward thinking parents who raised her with an understanding of her value as an individual, her innate power to choose by way of her thoughts, ideas, opinions and beliefs, thus, instilling in her a strong sense of personal responsibility for what happens in our lives

She is the founder of Awakened Parenting LLC, a company dedicated to helping parents release parenting paradigms of the past and consciously choose to raise their children to approach life with a positive mindset and strong sense of self. It is Denny’s passion to combine what she learned through her formal education in early childhood education and psychology and what her parents instilled in her and pass this on to all parents.

Denny has created the discussion group "Awakened Parenting Discussion Forum" on Face Book which now has over 600 members.  She does on line coaching with parents and teachers who consult her on a regular basis. Denny collaborates with counselors, authors, coaches and others working in the parent coaching field. Denny Hagel is the author of the newly published "The Missing Secret to Parenting", "The C.P.R. Program for Parents & Teens: Conflict Prevention/Resolution Formula", "Mini-Me Syndrome" and two free e-booklets Parenting Using the Law of Attraction and Becoming an Awakened Parent".




  • Rachelle

    Giving kids choices is a win win situation for everyone!

  • Rachelle

    Giving kids choices is a win win situation for everyone!

  • Rachelle

    Giving kids choices is a win win situation for everyone!

  • Rachelle

    Giving kids choices is a win win situation for everyone!

  • Rachelle

    Giving kids choices is a win win situation for everyone!

  • Rachelle

    Giving kids choices is a win win situation for everyone!

  • Rachelle

    Giving kids choices is a win win situation for everyone!

  • http://www.thechoicedrivenlife.com Olga

    Great article and great examples of giving childen an empowerment in their own life. So good that you pointed out that they could choose this or that. Thanks!

  • http://lyndeutsch.com Lyndeutsch

     ”If you are frustrated by the stubborn uncooperative defiant attitude you are seeing in your child, remove the atmosphere of controlling. ” Excellent article!

  • http://www.facebook.com/denny.hagel Denny Hagel

    Thanks Lyn!

  • http://www.facebook.com/denny.hagel Denny Hagel

    I appreciate your comment…allowing children to choose the smaller things in life also gives them practice for when they must make more important choices…as we know with every choice is a consequence…either positive or negative and all provide wonderful lessons!

  • http://www.facebook.com/denny.hagel Denny Hagel

    Totally agree!!:)

  • Jen

    LOVE this article Denny!  Thanks for bringing to the light an issue that I think all parents can use some guidance on!  Wonderful!

  • http://twitter.com/McKennaGordon McKenna Gordon

    Yes, oh YES I am struggling with a stubborn child. Thank you very much for this.

  • http://twitter.com/McKennaGordon McKenna Gordon

    Yes, oh YES I am struggling with a stubborn child. Thank you very much for this.

  • http://twitter.com/McKennaGordon McKenna Gordon

     Okay, so what about in situations where I really can’t have my son make the choice? We’re outside playing, for example. Dinner’s in the oven, and it’ll be done in 10 minutes. I give him a 10 minute reminder, then a 5, 3, 2 and 1 minute reminder that it will be time to come in (he’s 4, and he hyper-focuses on whatever he’s doing and has a REALLY hard time switching gears, even if we’re switching to something he loves to do.)

    At each time reminder, he says “Okay, mom, sounds good” and I even sometimes go as far as saying, “So, what will happen in 1 minute?” and he says, “You’re going to tell me it’s time to come in and I’ll say OK and then we’ll go eat dinner.” (I do this because he often doesn’t listen to what I’m saying and then seems genuinely surprised when it’s time to come in.)

    So all this leading time seems great, but then when it’s actually time to come in, the tantrum is often out of control. He screams, hits, scratches, bites, anything he can to keep from coming in. We remain calm. Sometimes it means I need to carry him in, holding his arms so he can’t pull my hair out. I’m not angry when this happens – I know he’s not trying to defy ME and that I just need to find the correct way that HE needs me to communicate with him. I just haven’t found that magic method yet.

    By the way, when we come in for dinner and he acts this way, he either gets a time out to cool down for his behavior, OR I’ll sit with him on the couch and hold him gently (yet firm enough to keep him from hurting himself or us) and then we talk about it, hug, and get on with dinner. It’s basically a nightly occurrence.

    We’re doing something completely wrong, obviously. Which I’m fine with admitting! I just really want to find a solution, because obviously there’s something going on in his little world that he’s not at peace with right now. Do you see something glaringly wrong with what I’m doing? Anything standing out?

  • http://twitter.com/McKennaGordon McKenna Gordon

     Okay, so what about in situations where I really can’t have my son make the choice? We’re outside playing, for example. Dinner’s in the oven, and it’ll be done in 10 minutes. I give him a 10 minute reminder, then a 5, 3, 2 and 1 minute reminder that it will be time to come in (he’s 4, and he hyper-focuses on whatever he’s doing and has a REALLY hard time switching gears, even if we’re switching to something he loves to do.)

    At each time reminder, he says “Okay, mom, sounds good” and I even sometimes go as far as saying, “So, what will happen in 1 minute?” and he says, “You’re going to tell me it’s time to come in and I’ll say OK and then we’ll go eat dinner.” (I do this because he often doesn’t listen to what I’m saying and then seems genuinely surprised when it’s time to come in.)

    So all this leading time seems great, but then when it’s actually time to come in, the tantrum is often out of control. He screams, hits, scratches, bites, anything he can to keep from coming in. We remain calm. Sometimes it means I need to carry him in, holding his arms so he can’t pull my hair out. I’m not angry when this happens – I know he’s not trying to defy ME and that I just need to find the correct way that HE needs me to communicate with him. I just haven’t found that magic method yet.

    By the way, when we come in for dinner and he acts this way, he either gets a time out to cool down for his behavior, OR I’ll sit with him on the couch and hold him gently (yet firm enough to keep him from hurting himself or us) and then we talk about it, hug, and get on with dinner. It’s basically a nightly occurrence.

    We’re doing something completely wrong, obviously. Which I’m fine with admitting! I just really want to find a solution, because obviously there’s something going on in his little world that he’s not at peace with right now. Do you see something glaringly wrong with what I’m doing? Anything standing out?

  • http://www.facebook.com/denny.hagel Denny Hagel

    You are very welcome Jen, thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • http://www.facebook.com/denny.hagel Denny Hagel

    McKenna, As I read your comment I thought I was reading about my daughter when she was that age!! Sounded sooo familiar! I think you are handling it in a very positive way and are not doing anything wrong. That being said, I do have a few suggestions to make it a more successful transition time…let’s connect through email.

  • http://www.PathToLifeSuccess.net Hughie Bagnell

    Thank you Denny! Great article…Hughie

  • AJ

    Nice post. What if the parent is stubborn?

  • http://www.positivecalm.com Solvita

    It is great advise cooperation rather than control! Great article – thank you!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Denny!  Good info to remember…

  • Joanie McMahon

    Yes indeed, so true about a stubborn child is just a young one who has something deeper that is unexpressed.

  • laurabbaker

    Great ideas and very thought provoking.

  • http://www.facebook.com/denny.hagel Denny Hagel

    I appreciate your comment Laura!

  • http://www.facebook.com/denny.hagel Denny Hagel

    Thank you Solvita!

  • http://www.facebook.com/denny.hagel Denny Hagel

    Thanks AJ…same principle applies, a stubborn parent began as a stubborn child!

  • http://www.ad-virtualassistance.com Anastasiya Day

    Great article and very useful information! Thanks for sharing.

  • Donaldwells

    Hey Denny, this is a great article for community building: what are your top 5 community building strategies?

  • http://micheletremblay.com Michele M Tremblay

    Great suggestions Denny….They come from a deep wisdom in you no doubt.

  • http://www.thepictureofhealth.com Michelle Pearson

    Excellent advice for parents with a stubborn child!  Thanks!

  • Pingback: Parents: How Do You Respond to “I want…” “I want…” “I want…”?

  • Mdholiu

    Ok I’ve got one for you….our daughter who is now 8 is suddenly refusing to get a cavity filled at the dentist, she wont even get out of the car. This is a new reaction for her she has had a filling before and multiple teeth pulled, and she has braces. We have spoken with the school counselor and have implemented the some of the tools,that are discussed in this article. We have explained that she has to get this done otherwise her teeth will rot and have shown her pictures. She has lost privileges and toys and still doesnt care. We have given her options to see another dentist but she wont get out of the car. What can i do to help her through this?

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